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8 ways to ease your digestion

20th December 2017 by Jess

If your gut struggles with the onslaught of rich foods over the Christmas period, this is the post for you. Our nutritionist Jess walks us through some easy ways to give your digestion some TLC this December.

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As Christmas approaches and we spend a lot more time at work functions and social get togethers, festive food and glasses of bubbles are in abundance. Nourishing food options often don't feature on menus, nor are they high up on peoples agendas. The season often leads to overindulging – but how can we stay healthy whilst enjoying all of the festivities?

With a few simple tricks and pre-soiree preparations, you can minimise those potentially harmful effects of party going.

Here are some practical tips for staying healthy during the festive season; keeping your digestion intact, whilst also making room for enjoying yourself.

Jess, graze nutritionist
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Eat in a relaxed state

With Christmas, comes all of the organising, and in turn we feel pressure and urgency. When we eat in a stressed state, there may not be an efficient blood supply supporting the digestive system.

Keeping your stress levels down, especially around meal times keeps your digestion happy. You can do this by taking just 5 deep breaths before you eat, and also taking your time whilst you eat.

When we are stressed, there may not be an efficient blood supply supporting the digestive system. Why would your body need to focus on digesting when it’s experiencing some sort of danger? Stress hormones tell your body what it should prioritise, like your arms and legs, in case a quick getaway is needed. Low stress = better digestion.

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Move your body, even when it’s cold

Christmas season is a great time to get outdoors and enjoy the crisp weather. Taking the family for walks in nature, exploring a new beach or woods, or visiting your favourite park with your pets. If there are little ones in your family, run around with them and volunteer to take part in their games. It will stop you from feeling sluggish!

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Chew well

Proper chewing is the first step to helping reduce any bloating or digestive discomfort- you might be surprised at how much of a difference this can make.

Have you ever counted how many times you chew your food? So many of us are in such a hurry with our meals or we are so excited by the flavour of our food, that we might chew each mouthful four times, if we're lucky. We live in such a fast paced, busy, no-time-to-sit-down-and-eat world that we almost inhale our meals. Do whatever it takes to slow down and chew.

Engage in conversation. Put your fork down between each mouthful. Chew your food and swallow it before you put the next mouthful in. Observe whether this improves how your tummy feels after eating.

There are no more teeth to chew your food once it has left your mouth and our digestive system is designed to breakdown our food chemically, not mechanically.

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Increase B vitamins and antioxidant rich foods

Drinking regular amounts of alcohol can flush your body of essential nutrients such as B vitamins. You might experience this dip in B vitamins through a noticeable lack of energy or vitality, so ensure you have B-vitamin rich foods such as nuts and seeds, and leafy greens in your day.

Your liver will appreciate all the support it can get to do its job of cleansing your blood. Berries, veggies, fruits and green tea all contain a bounty of antioxidants, so sip on herbal teas, enjoy stewed berries and make sure to enjoy fresh veggies alongside your Yorkshire puds.

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Apple cider vinegar or lemon or lemon water

Using lemon juice or apple cider vinegar can physically help your body produce stomach acid, which further improves your digestion of food. Stomach acid production can be compromised during stressful periods. Think of your food as a big long chain of circles. Your teeth and saliva go to work first on breaking the circles apart. Stomach acid then continues that break-down process. When food is not broken down properly, it may arrive in the intestines in a form that is still too large for it to tackle. Here the bacteria that live in your large intestine will begin to ferment whatever food is delivered to them, and produce gas leading to the bloated feeling.

Tip: If you haven't consumed either lemon or apple cider vinegar before, it might be easier to initially dilute them. You want to consume them five to 20 minutes before breakfast, or before all of your main meals, if you want to really commit. For example, you might begin with half a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar in as much water as you like. Over the coming days and weeks, gradually work up to having one tablespoon of apple cider vinegar while you gradually decrease the amount of water. If you would prefer lemon juice, start with the juice of half a lemon diluted to your tastes with warm water and gradually work up to having the juice of a whole lemon in less warm water.

Jess's miracle gut healing juice
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Blend your greens

Juicing or making smoothies is a wonderful way to increase your nutrition in a very quick, fuss free way. Blend some organic leafy greens with some good fats such as avocado, nuts or seeds and you have an easy but nourishing breakfast to begin your day.

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Hydration

It's a good idea to drink water away from meals rather than with them to maximise the action of stomach acid. Digesting food is a delicate process, and your stomach and intestines work very hard to break everything down, absorb nutrients and utilise them. Drinking liquids at least 15 minutes before eating and then up to an hour after allows your body to digest efficiently.

Having some coconut water on hand is a really simple tip to keep hydrated after a fun night. The natural electrolytes (sodium, magnesium and manganese to name a few) and sugars will keep you hydrated quickly and effectively.

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Breathe

Stress is particularly important to consider when it comes to digestive function, as too many people spend their days in the run up to Christmas in Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) dominance. This is a constant state of ‘fight or flight’, with high circulating levels of adrenalin due to the month long juggle of work deadlines, late nights, Christmas shopping and family get togethers.

From your body’s perspective if it thinks you’re preparing to fight/take flight, it diverts blood flow away from what it considers non-vital processes such as digestion. All resources go into saving your life from the danger your body perceives you are in, directed by the high levels of adrenalin. This can have a devastating effect on our ability to effectively produce stomach acid and thus can result in reflux, digestive discomfort or lethargy after eating.

To combat this, schedule in some deep breathing into your day or some quiet time where you focus on your breath and tell your nervous system that all is well.

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By Jess, graze nutritionist.

Our nutritionist extraordinaire, Jess trained at the Institute for Optimum Nutrition and is a registered practitioner with the British Association for Applied Nutrition & Nutritional Therapy. She's the creator of our health badges, to help you choose the snacks and boxes that are right for you. Check out everything from Jess on our blog, with recipes and tricks to help you keep making better choices, or go to her website at jessntom.com for even more.

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