The festive season is a time to eat, drink and be merry, but for those with digestive health issues, Christmas can be more pain than pleasure. Let’s face it, eating is needed for survival, so any pain or discomfort generated by eating is not a good sign. Discomfort caused by acid reflux, wind, bloating and heartburn can be alleviated by medication, however, unless the root of the digestive problem is addressed, such discomfort is bound to persist.

Enjoy Christmas by making small changes to your menu / Photo credit: Unsplash
Enjoy Christmas by making small changes to your menu / Photo credit: Unsplash

Digestive health issues often arise due to the underproduction of digestive enzymes in the body. These enzymes are meant to break down food into small enough micro-molecules so that nutrients in food can be easily absorbed. So, when our digestion works well, we shouldn’t expect to experience any digestive discomfort.

In the same way that a person with an increased workload may benefit from a personal assistant, a functioning digestive system might need a similar type of assistance. The simplest and easiest way to support digestion is to eat at a slower pace, to chew your food well and to make use of digestive enzyme supplements.

Here are a few food swaps and tips that can help alleviate digestive discomfort:

Swap dairy for vegan alternatives

If you suffer with heartburn, try swapping animal-based milks, oils and butters for vegan alternatives, which have a lower fat content and can be easier to digest. Oat in particular, is moisturising and soothing to inflamed tissues such as the lining of a sore stomach. Heartburn is mostly associated with fats, starch and low stomach acid, and these swaps along with taking a lipase enzyme blend can really lessen discomfort. Heartburn can also be caused by the consumption of starch, so it can help to avoid starches such as white potatoes, or to switch to baby potatoes, roasted, baked or sweet potatoes.

Manage your oil intake

If oily foods trigger digestive discomfort for you, it might help if you begin meals with bitter flavours, such as rocket leaves, pomegranate, bitter orange or similar. Following your meal with aniseed tea can also help to relieve any gases that may have built up throughout the meal.

Swap sugars for sweet alternatives

Digestive issues can also arise if you are intolerant to carbohydrates and sugars. Swap your table sugars for high fibre alternatives such as honey or date syrups, and be aware of hidden sugars, such as lactose in milk, fructose in fruits or maltose in corn syrup.

Swap processed carbs for high fibre alternatives

Those who experience an intolerance to processed foods containing gluten might find that they have poor stomach acid or reduced natural digestive enzyme production. If you think this could be you, swap your processed carbs, like bread, buns and donuts for high fibre alternatives, like sourdoughs, oats and fibrous versions.

Pair proteins with enzyme rich foods

Match proteins on your plate with a protease enzyme supplement, or enzyme rich foods such as pineapple, kiwi and papaya. It can also help to pair proteins with healthy fibres, like green leafy vegetables and sweet potato. Beginning your meal with bitter flavours such as rocket leaves, pomegranate and lemon flavours will help you secrete more natural digestive juices to assist the breakdown of the proteins and fats.

Sometimes, it is not easy to avoid certain foods, particularly at Christmas time. Instead of avoiding certain foods entirely, try taking the ‘personal assistant’ approach, and assist your digestive tract with a digestive enzyme supplement. This will help reduce your digestive system’s workload, clear digestive backlogs, and check off points on your digestive system’s ‘to do’ list.

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