During the Holidays we may induldge and eat too many carbs, rich sauces, and irresistible treats. As good as they taste, they can also cause some kind of digestive discomfort – gas, bloating, acid reflux, constipation, diarrhea, or abdominal pain. If Holiday foods usually leave you feeling this way, here’s 3 easy things you can do to help support digestion and reduce your symptoms*.
1. Digestive enzyme Especially when we eat a big meal, it can be a lot for our gut to break down. A lot of people forget to slow down and chew. The first step of digestion starts in the mouth with chewing and mixing in enzymes from our saliva to break down food. When food enters the stomach and intestines, more enzymes are released to aid digestion. Taking an enzyme supplement before a meal can supply your gut with extra enzymes to properly digest and absorb the nutrients from a big meal.
Look for a multi-enzyme supplement – these have many different enzymes to break down fats, proteins, carbs, etc. I recommend Plant Enzymes SAP by NFH (capsule), or Bio Enzymes by Genestra (chewable tablet). Take it 10 minutes before eating.
2. Probiotic Our gut contains trillions of bacteria that play a role in digesting and absorbing food. We use a probiotic to supply more good bacteria to the gut, and by taking the probiotic with a meal we can help alleviate digestive symptoms. There are a few things to look for in a probiotic – form, strains, and dose.
Refrigerated probiotics are often the best form, but if you will be traveling a lot, a shelf stable probiotic can be used. The type of bacteria we want in a probiotic are from the bacteria families Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. Look for a probiotic with multiple strains of each (ie. Bifidobacterium infantis, Lactobacillus acidophilus). Lastly, pick a probiotic delivering between 12–50 Billion cfu (the number of bacteria in 1 capsule). Note that higher cfu (ie. 50 billion) may typically be used for more significant symptoms of digestive upset, and can sometimes cause bloating when first introducing them. I recommend taking 1 capsule of HMF Forte by Genestra with your meal.
3. DGL ** (see below if you have blood pressure issues) DGL stands for Deglycyrrhizinated licorice. Licorice is a popular plant used in Chinese Medicine to soothe the stomach from acid reflux. It has demulcent properties, which in botanical medicine means it creates a protective layer of mucous in the stomach and esophagus. This mucous layer protects those tissues from acid, therefore reducing the sensation of acid reflux. I recommend DGL by BioClinic, 1 chewable tablet 20 minutes before a meal that you suspect will cause acid reflux.
* If you have any concerns about whether digestive supplements are right for you, talk to your family doctor, pharmacist, or naturopathic doctor.
** Glycyrrhizin is a compound found in the Licorice plant. The DGL form (Deglycyrrhizinated licorice) means the glycyrrhizin has been removed from the product. DGL is a safe form of Licorice for those experiencing high blood pressure, since the glycyrrhizin has been removed. When glycyrrhizin is present in a Licorice supplement, it can increase blood pressure. People who have high blood pressure should avoid supplements that contain Licorice which have not removed glycyrrhizin. If you have any concerns about whether DGL is safe for you, first speak to your family doctor, pharmacist, or naturopathic doctor before consuming.
Dr. Stephanie Liebrecht, BSc, ND Naturopathic Doctor