Why is indigestion such a problem on Thanksgiving? Although recipes vary, most Thanksgiving fare isn’t noted for causing acid reflux. The real culprit: the sheer volume of food that leads to overindulging. And when we pack our stomachs with more food than they can handle, heartburn and indigestion become a real possibility, says Carol Morris, D.O., gastroenterologist with Bayhealth Medical Group in Dover.
Eating less is one option but that’s a lot easier said than done. Still, there are several other measures you can take to help avoid that post-Thanksgiving bloat and help your body break down that sumptuous meal.
Many people skip meals to build up an appetite for the Thanksgiving feast. But maintaining your regular meal schedule helps rev up your metabolism, allowing you to burn off those calories you’re sure to consume later in the day. Also, you won’t feel starved by the time the main meal rolls around and will be less likely to have low blood sugar and the need to binge.
2. Eat in courses.
Instead of eating a bunch of food at once—which is a huge burden on your digestive system—try eating half of what you really want first and the rest several hours later. “You don’t have to necessarily eat less, just space the meals out,” says Morris.
3. Eat smaller portions.
The old adage about the eyes being bigger than the stomach is true. Instead of loading up your plate with everything in sight and trying to shove it all down, try sampling a small amount of everything. Then, if you’re still hungry, go back for seconds of healthier fare like vegetables. Remember: It takes about 20 minutes for your brain to signal your stomach that it’s full.
4. Take time to chew.
Healthy digestion and nutrient absorption starts with the simple act of chewing your food. You should be chewing your food until it’s fully broken down and the textures indistinguishable, says Morris. Chewing also releases a lot of saliva, which contains digestive enzymes. Experts at Ohio State University recommend chewing softer foods 5–10 times and denser foods (meats and vegetables) 30 times before swallowing.
5. Avoid swallowing excess air.
Belching is a normal bodily function that occurs when too much air builds up in your stomach. It’s a harmless condition but can be annoying not to mention embarrassing. Save conversation for before or after the meal to reduce the chances of taking in excess air. Foods that contain air like ice cream, whipped cream or carbonated beverages can also cause you to take in excess air as can drinking through a straw.
6. Get physical.
Gravity does a lot of good for digestion. Lying down or even reclining too far back on the couch can trigger an episode of acid reflux, if you’ve overindulged. Try to remain standing or sitting upright for about three hours after eating.
If you do find yourself experiencing some post-dinner discomfort, reaching for the ginger or peppermint might be all you need to get relief. “Ginger ale is a really nice one because ginger is a natural anti-nausea remedy and the carbonation gets the air out and that helps to depress the stomach,” says Morris.