Thanksgiving is a few days away. While we prepare our homes and our kitchens to embrace this time with our loved ones, we often neglect to prepare our body to handle the onslaught of deliciousness headed its way.
Taking a few simple steps to support your digestion during the holidays will help you to stay healthy overall. The reality is that those holiday treats often mean extra sugar which can lower your immune system and make you more prone to getting sick. Also, changing up the diet with rich, heavy meals can lead to bloating and digestive discomfort. I touched on this subject very briefly last year in 3 Simple Holiday Health Tips, but because healthy digestion really does set the foundation for good health, I wanted to share some more detailed information with you.
These little gems will help you break down those heavy meals. What exactly are digestive enzymes and why should you care about them? When we eat that giant leg of turkey come Thursday afternoon our bodies need to break it down in order for us to absorb the nutrients. Proteins become amino acids; fats become fatty acids; carbs become simple sugars. Plus, we absorb vitamins and minerals during this process.
Before you make that assumption that your digestion is working just fine ask your self these questions:
- Do you get bloated after meals?
- Do you get sinus congestion or excess phlegm during and/or after meals?
- Do you have acid reflux?
- Do certain foods affect your bowel movements?
- Does stress impact your bowel movements?
- Have you used antibiotics?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, then investing in enzymes may be a great idea. If you answered no to all of those questions, congrats!! You're one of the very lucky few who has a strong, healthy digestive system, but enzyme support can still help you by supporting you in keeping your system healthy.
Most of our enzymes are produced in the pancreas and small intestine. However, if our digestive system is not working at 100%, we often don't produce enough enzymes. Things like chronic stress, medications, chronic inflammation, low stomach acid, and even just natural aging can impact our enzyme output. This poses an issue because then we don't break down our food properly which means which aren't absorbing all the nutrients we need. If we aren't absorbing the nutrients we need, then our entire system (including the immune system) becomes impacted. Taking enzymes, especially when eating heavy meals can make a huge difference in your overall health.
I currently recommend Vital-Zyme Forte from Klaire Labs to my patients. Klaire sells only to health-care professionals, so unless you're under the care of a practitioner they may be difficult to find. I find that most any vitamin store or health food store carries Garden Of Life products, and their Digestive Enzyme blend is very good. I like that their products are made from whole food sources, and they often use organic ingredients--they even have a USDA organic certified line.
As a side note. Many people are deficient in stomach acid--HCL (hydrochloric acid).The lack of acid in the stomach causes food to digest slower than normal, and believe it or not, this lack of stomach acid can actually lead to issues such as acid reflux. People with sensitive stomachs, or those prone to ulcers, need to be cautious when taking HCL supplements. Talking to your holisitic heaalthcare provider who is familiar with the use of HCL supplementation can be a life changer when it comes to clearing up digestive issues.
I'm a huge fan of probiotics. While the best way to increase the amount of beneficial bacteria in your system is through your diet, the standard american diet sorely lacks probiotic rich foods. Some wonderful food sources include kimchi, sauerkraut, organic miso, kambucha, kefir. Things like antibiotic use, stress, medications, and poor dietary choices create disharmony. The lack of beneficial bacteria allows inflammation and infection to set in more easily. Once the integrity of the intestines becomes compromised, a wide array of health issues may occur. In severe cases, leaky gut occurs which can lead to allergies and autoimmune issues. If you know your diet is lacking in probiotic-rich foods, a probiotic supplement is always an option. Again, one of my favorite companies is Klaire Labs when it comes to digestion support, and I often recommend their probiotic blends to my patients. Many local health food store carry Renew Life Ultimate Flora, and I find that their blends work well for my patients. However, if my patients are new to taking a probiotic blend, I often start them with the lower strain (30 billion) and we work up to a more potent strain.
Herbal Formulas-Kang Ning Wan and Bao He Wan
These are classic Chinese Herbal Formulas that can help digestion. Bao He Wan or 'Pill to Harmonize The Stomach' helps to remove food stagnation in the stomach from overeating. As an herbalist, it's virtually impossible for me not to discuss this formula during Thanksgiving time because it is famous for reducing fullness in the stomach, abdominal distention, gas, belching, and acid reflux. Hawthorn fruit and aged tangerine peel help to give this formula its special properties. Kang Ning Wan or 'Curing Pills' also help bloating and discomfort, but this formulas is better known to help with food poisoning, stomach-flu, and wait for it.....hangovers. Of course, you never want to self-diagnose when it comes to Chinese Herbs, so be sure to make an appointment with your herbalist before trying either of these formulas. Plus, not all formulas are created equal. You want be sure the formulas you are taking come from reputable companies committed to cleanliness and effectiveness of their products.
And Because It's Impossible For Me To Leave This Subject Untouched When Discussing Digestion :-)
Don't Drink Ice Beverages With Your Meals
Anyone who has read my blog posts or who is my patient knows my feelings (and Chinese Medicine Teachings) about drinking ice water with your meals. Eliminating iced or refrigerated beverages around mealtime is a super simple, highly effective way to improve your digestion. Ideally, if you avoid drinking cold beverages in general (especially during the cold winter season) it's a wonderful way to support digestion. However, even if you continue to drink cold beverages away from food, try to avoid them with your meals. Stick with room temperature water or even warm tea.
I'm Thankful For You
I want to wish you a very happy Thanksgiving, and please know that I'm truly thankful to have you as reader and supporter of my blog.
The information on this website is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified healthcare professional. The information and opinions presented are intended for educational purposes only and they are not intended to be medical advice. It is advised you contact your healthcare provider prior to starting any type of program or protocol, starting or stopping supplements/herbs/medications, making any major dietary changes, or beginning any new form of physical activity. If you are pregnant, nursing, taking medication, or have a medical condition, consult your health care provider before using products or protocols based on this content.
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