The holiday season is synonymous with cozy sweaters, Hallmark channel movies, and, of course, overindulging in food and drink. Cue the shrugging emoji. Even if you read all the tips and tricks for eating healthy over the holidays, the occasional overindulgence is practically inevitable. In fact, we encourage it. However, we also recognize that sometimes it can cause you to feel really bloated—like you went from zero to Violet Beauregarde as a blueberry. And that is, to put it mildly, no fun.
The reason why we feel so bloated? "Salt attracts water ions (as does sugar, indirectly, because insulin is hydrophilic), and you're usually consuming way more salt/sugar than usual at these holiday meals," Monica Auslander Moreno, MS, RD, LD/N, nutrition consultant for RSP Nutrition says. "Portion sizes also escalate dramatically, and your stomach actually is a muscle, so stretching it will feel odd if it receives a larger amount of food. Couple that with increased intake of alcohol, which also can cause bloat (and dehydration), and you've got a perfect blimpy body storm."
While the bloat is real and inevitable during the holiday season (because who wants to skip out on the turkey, sides, and dessert?!), there are some all-natural ways to de-bloat. We asked Moreno and other experts, and here's what they had to say.
Yeah, yeah, you've heard this one before, but that's because it's easy and it works. "Water is the ultimate solvent," Moreno says. "We expect clients to reach two to three liters of fluid (milks/coffee/tea do count, though) per day, and urine should be clear or very light yellow." Plus, drinking a lot of water will help with the other unpleasant side effect of holiday dinners (namely, drinking too much wine while trying to avoid Aunt Ruth's questions about what it is you do for a living).
"Peppermint tea is one of the most prescribed herbs I use for digestion. It helps with nausea, upset stomach, and all digestive disorders," Elizabeth Trattner says. You can also pop a peppermint oil pill (Trattner likes Nature's Way Pepogest). "If I ate too much and cannot get to bed, I will take a peppermint oil capsule a half-hour before bedtime so I don't feel as full before sleeping, which can actually cause delayed onset of sleep," she adds.
"As a chef and physician, I am a huge fan of bitters, bitter foods, herbs, and aperitifs for their properties that help digestion. Bitters have been part of the Chinese Materia Medica for thousands of years," Trattner says. "Bitters are elixirs brewed from carefully selected bitter herbs have been treasured as cure-all remedies across the ages. Studies have confirmed that getting an adequate amount of bitter flavor is important for digestive balance and linked with many related health benefits."
Plus, she adds, drinking bitters can help satisfy your sugar cravings, and they increase your body's bile and hydrochloric acid (the stuff in your stomach that breaks down food) production. She says angostura bitters are the easiest to find, and we also love these wellness bitters from Urban Moonshine.
Resist the urge to go into a food coma. "After the meal, instead of plopping down on the couch, grab your family and friends and go for a walk or play a round of football. Exercise helps speed up digestion and helps keep blood sugar levels in check, meaning you'll feel a whole lot better than if you take a snooze," Megan Casper, MS, RDN, owner of Nourished Bite Nutrition, says.
This post has been updated by Sarah Yang.