It’s fair to say that the average person is more bloated at Christmas than at other times of the year. You don’t hear many people complaining to their private doctor london of Easter bloat! It’s obvious that all the alcohol, sugary drinks, sugary foods and rich fatty foods we overindulge in are part of the problem. According to Addaction (2013), our alcohol consumption increases by 40% in December, with British people consuming greater than 600 million units of alcohol during December! Our eating fares no better it seems. The average person, in the UK, will gain 5lbs (2kg) over the festive period; the British Nutrition Foundation has found (NHS live well, 2013). That’s probably aided by the 7000 calories that the average Brit consumes on Christmas day itself!
What are the health effects of being bloated and how can we prevent these effects?
When you’re bloated you will likely feel tired and sluggish; your stomach will feel full and perhaps sore. You may even find that your clothes don’t fit properly. This is partly due to the amount of food eaten, but it’s also to do with the type of foods and drinks ingested. Bacteria in the gut have an essential role in digestion and one of digestion’s by-products is gas; hydrogen and carbon dioxide to be precise. Some of the hydrogen is subsequently utilised by different bacteria and converted into methane and sulphurous gases, which are responsible for the embarrassing odours gas is renowned for. When we consume large amounts of sugary food, it results in a large amount of gas produced. One of the healthier foods we consume at Christmas is the Brussels sprout, but this can also contribute to the bloating experienced by many. The reason is that sprouts contain a complex carbohydrate called raffinose and the human small intestine doesn’t have enough of the required enzyme to break it down. Therefore, raffinose is digested in the large intestine by the resident bacteria and this process produces a large amount of gas.
All the excess gas production and energy spent on digestion leads to an overworked system and a tired, uncomfortable individual.
So, how can we prevent that bloated feeling over Christmas?
Here are six ideas to get you started:
1) Stick to the recommended alcohol intake (4 units a day for men; 3 units a day for women)
2) Alternate your alcoholic drinks with water
3) Resist the temptation to nibble on sweets or chocolate between meals – endless snacking on rich food doesn’t allow your system to rest and piles on the pounds.
4) Substitute your regular black tea for peppermint or fennel tea
5) Have a high fibre breakfast
6) Chew your food slowly and listen to your body: stop eating when you are full!