The holidays are here, and along with all the glory comes stressors, colds, and unsound dietary choices. This post will discuss reminders on how to navigate the holiday dinner table. Refer to the previous blog post by my colleague Dr. Craig Fasullo to learn about the benefits of elderberry for those pesky colds.
Hydration and its timing
Naturopathic philosophy states that you should NOT drink water with your meal. Water can dilute the digestive fire, which is comprised of digestive enzymes, bile, hydrochloric acid, and heat. It is best to drink a glass of water 15 minutes before your meal, and not again until 30 minutes after your meal. This simple rule of thumb can decrease bloating and indigestion. Also, optimum hydration throughout the day can help curb cravings.
*Although alcohol is not mandatory to enjoy a social gathering, it is quite common. Pinot Noir is the naturopaths drink of choice as it is lowest in sugar (dryness), and highest in resveratrol content (an antioxidant for the cardiovascular system). Enjoy in moderation.
The more mechanical digestion we allow our teeth to do, the less work we demand from our digestive organs. Try to get to at least 20 chews (depending on the food of course). You may even unlock some new flavors in your favorite meals. Again, this may reduce indigestion symptoms.
Stop eating before you feel full
There is a 5-10 minute lag period between your stomach expanding to fullness and the signal reaching your brain. It’s the holidays, there will be dessert, save some room.
If you know you are going to take a dietary strike at a social gathering, plan some activity earlier in the day, and/or the next day. Walking, running, hiking, the gym, etc. Stay moving at the party, or at least stand, let someone else sit.
Also, did you know 60-90 seconds of exercise before eating can increase the amount of GLUT4 (Glucose Transporter Channel Type 4) in our cell membranes, which means we can clear glucose out of the blood and into the cell more quickly while eating (PMID: 8182045). Good luck getting your family to do air squats with you prior to eating! You can try isometric contractions (flexing and holding) of your leg muscles, but you run the risk of then looking constipated.
Eating under stress is detrimental for many reasons. The stress hormone, cortisol, inhibits the ability to burn fat. Cortisol also shunts blood flow to the skeletal muscles for a fight or flight response, as oppose to blood flow to the digestive organs for a rest and digest response. So, make sure you are in a comfortable environment when eating.
The holidays are a time for relaxing, spending time with loved ones, and being grateful for who you have around you. As a physician, I witness this time of the year being the most stressful time. Most commonly, finances and family relations being the culprit. Rather than a financially stressful gift card, consider offering the memory of having a cup of tea with a family member or going for a walk or a handmade token.
Happy Holidays 🙂
Dr. Nick Edgerton