One of the best things about this time of year is the holidays! But what happens when the weeks leading up to the holidays result in stress? A result of stress can be overeating as well as indigestion.
Not only does overeating result in unwanted calories and weight gain but it can wreak havoc on your gut. You know it when you feel it: that full, uncomfortable sensation in your belly during or after a meal. You might have burning or pain in the upper part of your stomach, too. It’s indigestion, also called dyspepsia.
How can I minimize the likelihood I’ll experience stress-induced indigestion?
Indigestion can happen simply from being stressed and not paying attention to our diet. Simple ways to reduce stress during the holidays include:
- Find stress reducing exercise; take a long walk, ride a bike, even a massage or taking time for a manicure-pedicure can relieve stress.
- Engage your brain! Crossword puzzles, watching a movie or even puttering around in a workshop can take your mind off your stress and away from food.
- Eat healthy foods and stay on schedule! Skipping meals triggers your brain that you are hungry and may cause you to binge on your next meal.
- Avoiding smoking and excessive alcohol, eating slower and chewing your meal thoroughly, avoiding spicy and greasy foods as well as waiting until after you are finished eating to drink, rather than drinking with your meal may help too.
So what can we eat to help us cope with holiday stress and reduce indigestion?
Blood oranges are a great source of Vitamin C. Research has found that those who eat high doses of vitamin C before the stress-fest had lower blood pressure levels and concentrations of the stress hormone cortisol.
Oatmeal is a great option instead of reaching for empty carbs. Serotonin, your brain’s primary mood-boosting neurotransmitter, needs carbohydrates to reach the brain. Reach for warm and gooey oatmeal; it contains the healthy carbohydrates and fiber needed to boost your serotonin levels for a full three hours.
Chamomile tea can be used to help alleviate stress. Adults with mild to moderate generalized anxiety disorder who drink chamomile for 8 weeks saw greater reductions in anxiety than those who drank another tea. Chamomile also promotes sleep so that your body can get the rest it needs to deal with stressors.
Turkey contains high concentrations of tryptophan, which is broken down to form serotonin to induce feelings of calm and even help your body make drowse-inducing melatonin.
Almonds are brimming with vitamin E and B vitamins, which may protect both your immune system and mood. A handful of almonds packs about 20% of your daily-recommended intake of magnesium. Not getting enough magnesium can even cause fatigue and trigger migraine headaches.
Sweet potatoes are an excellent source of the antioxidant lycopene, which improves mood by preventing the formation of pro-inflammatory compounds, like interleukin-6, that are linked to depression.
Salmon and other fatty fishes not only contain omega-3 fatty acids that are good for you, but also DHA and EPA which can be helpful when battling holiday stress. They support healthy brain cell function, endorphin levels, and positive moods by keeping cortisol and adrenaline levels in check.
Lentils are the perfect comfort food—and not just because they’re hearty, filling, and perfectly warm on cold winter days. They are also packed with depression-fighting folate, which helps make serotonin and dopamine. Lentils are also a great source of fiber, which can help stabilize blood sugar levels and keep you from snapping under stress.
Tips for reducing stress
Whenever possible, try to build in a brisk 15-minute stroll after meals. Can’t fit in 15 minutes? Go for 10, even five. Just breaking a sitting pattern and getting your blood pumping can shift your metabolism. A post-meal walk can also serve as a little you time to unwind, clear your head, connect with nature, or catch up with a walking buddy, all of which can help reduce feelings of stress and promote healthy digestion.
Indigestion, WebMD, 2017
5 Ways to Beat Stress Induced Weight Gain, Health, Oct. 2017
5 Ways You Can Avoid Emotional Eating During the Holidays, Cleveland Clinic, 2017
10 Foods that Fight Holiday Stress, Health A-Z, Oct. 2016