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Maintaining your waistline and avoiding GI Distress During the Holidays


With the holidays rapidly approaching, comes the over indulgence in both quantity of food eaten and the varied types of food. Traditional holiday fare is rich, fatty, and often spicy. If one is not used to eating this type of food or the large quantities often consumed, it can turn the holiday fun into a trip to the medicine cabinet, the bathroom, or more likely both. The culprits and the solution:

  1. The buffet or as I refer to it, the 13 course meal. If you ‘need’ to taste all of it, which you don’t, take small quantities and pace yourself. If you know certain food does not agree with you, DON’T EAT IT.
  2. If you are normally dairy/lactose intolerant – guess what? The holidays don’t change that. Ask the cook what is in the various dishes; avoid the dairy- including the cheese filled dishes, and unfortunately many desserts. Plan ahead and make a dairy-free desert or dish yourself, substitute almond or soy milk or use Lactaid.
  3. Similarly, if you are gluten intolerant, you still are during the holidays so plan ahead.
  4. Alcohol is also a culprit in both upper and lower digestive distress. Moderation is key.

If you are prone to heartburn or dyspepsia, limit fatty foods, alcohol, chocolate, mint, coffee and acidic foods. Don’t eat too close to bedtime and sleep with head of bed slightly elevated (2 pillows). Have some OTC antacids available such as Mylanta or Tums. Antacids neutralize acid and treat symptoms after the fact. Acid production reducers such as Pepcid or Zantac are best used ahead of time, as are natural remedies such as ginger, papaya and ginger ale.

Unfortunately, what goes in must come out. Diarrhea is another common occurrence during the holiday feeding fest. If this occurs, switch to a BRAT diet (banana, rice, toast and plain food) until better. Judicious use of OTC agents such as Pepto Bismol or Imodium can be helpful as well.

Alternatively, constipation may affect many during the holidays. Travel, loss of a normal high fiber diet along with the traditionally fiber poor holiday foods put a person at risk. To avoid constipation take a fiber supplement- Benfiber, Citricel or others and drink plenty of water. Exercise will also help.

Wishing you, and your stomach, a wonderful holiday season!

About Jeff Pearl, MD

Dr. Jeff is a trained general, pediatric cardiac, and transplant surgeon. Nutrition has always been an important concern for surgeons in regards to patients healing from surgery. He has had a longstanding interest in health, nutrition and supplements, and been an advocate of the use of nutrition and supplements in the hospital setting to aid in his patient’s recovery. He has a history of basic science and clinical research and a keen ability to interpret studies and statistics to determine their true significance. He is the father and step-father to several teenage athletes and knows firsthand the challenges they face in balancing their time, eating habits and use of supplements. He is adamant about trying to educate our youth about better nutrition. Dr. Jeff recognizes the challenges that healthcare faces and the need for people to take charge of their own health and disease prevention. He loves being outside and is one of those crazy few seen hiking or biking in the middle of the day in summer.

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