Digestive Holiday Health


By Henriette Alban ND

610-372-4572 – 610 781-9817


November 29, 2016

updated June 2022

Oh, how we love to celebrate holidays and special events with food and drink. Community gathers around great meals and merrymaking, peoples across the world have food traditions that evoke those special feelings we have come to love and fondly remember. With it come the near requisite lack of judgment, leading us astray to overeating, or eating too many good things at once. It comes out to the same thing. People drop into a stupor of turkey bliss at Thanksgiving, children go overboard with the crazies at Halloween, the rest of us have all experienced our share of digestive upsets and discomforts that can last for days, and once they’re over, we glibly forget the whole thing.

Learning from this experience can take years, and for the most part we have come to accept the happy anticipation of an event along with the accepted consequences. Who doesn’t know the feeling of being a bit too full or having imbibed a little too hard, collectively moaning for the next 36 hours of discomfort. If you would like to step out of the after effects of too much of a good thing, here are a few helpful suggestions that let you sail through the meals, provided you’re just a little bit conscious, to benefit your long-term wellbeing for the whole year.

Symptoms of digestive upsets are diverse: Indigestion such as acid reflux, bloating, frequent burping, bad breath, gas, stomach aches, bowels cramping, constipation, comatose sleep after a heavy meal - all uncomfortable and really not necessary, with a bit of practice and planning.

If you are familiar with overeating even outside of holidays and celebrations, you must know at least a couple of these symptoms. Your body is defending itself against what we have decided needs to be consumed and eaten. Even though our digestive organs have the capacity to expand, it’s not what our bodies would choose, but since it’s the holidays, we fully expect our digestion to man up and just do it.

Digestive upset is both common and often not taken seriously enough and can lead to much more serious illness such as the inability to property break down and absorb foods, leading to a variety of bowel issues, from IBS IBD, colitis, allergic reactions, all of which also contribute to chronic inflammation of the tender lining of our intestinal walls. The body keeps this quiet for a long time, until it’s overwhelmed and we begin to feel strong signals to change our ways.

Wether heartburn feels like too much stomach acids, as it burns so bright and painful, the reality is that we have insufficient stomach acids - too little digestive juices that help break down and liquify what we eat. Sometimes it can be due to a one time only event of too much food stuff in the stomach, too much to be processed at once, too many different items to break down. Or, if it happens more frequently, you may wish to take a closer look and work with your health care practitioner for a sensible cleans and change of diet. Stress does contribute to digestive issues, and sensitive people will tell you that stress often feels like being gut punched.

On the eating side, let me ask you this:  During holidays, or in your daily life, do you eat more than 5 different kinds of foods in one meal? Do you drink lots of water, beer, soda or wine with your meals? Do you skip meals and then plunge into a big one? Do you eat more often than every 3 hours, as in snacking? Are you a late night eater? A midnight fridge raider? Are you fond of fried or fast foods? Is drinking soda or alcohol a daily habit? Do you crave sugar or need something sweet after meals? Do you absolutely need coffee first thing in the morning? Do you need a nap after eating? Are body odors or bad breath an issue for you? Are you gassy? Do you get pimples and rashes?

If you answered yes to any of these, you may want to keep on reading. The purpose of this blog is to explain how making a few changes can help avoid long-term discomfort. And if you are dealing with these symptoms already, the following natural aids are certainly a start, available at local health food stores whose staff is trained (check that first) to advise you on their products or follow the advice of your health care practitioner.

At the end of the article, there are life style change options and you can read more in my healthy eating guidelines.

Digestive Enzymes are essential for the breakdown and absorption of anything we eat, cooked, processed or heated. Over a lifetime we’re given a finite amount of enzymes. Eating mostly cooked, man made, processed or fast foods, our body has to dig into its native stores to help break down and absorb what we eat. What you may not know is that our bodies cannot manage artificial, synthetic or man-made food, which is why when it is unable to break it down, it gets stored as residual waste in fat, in joints, in arteries and in our blood. This in turn leads to inflammation, to fatigue, low energy, and can cause tumors and other waste deposits inside both large and small intestines.

The naturally occurring enzymes found in pineapple and papaya, bromelaine and papain respectively assist in the breakdown and assimilation of proteins, mostly from animal sources. You can choose to eat the fruits, or take these enzymes in capsule form. They are also helpful should you wish to engage in a post holiday cleanse from heavy meals over the holidays. At that point, you would take digestive enzymes before your meals and take these two enzymes between meals.

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Probiotics are beneficial, friendly bacteria that protect our digestive tract, keep blood healthy, actively supporting our immune system, ridding us of opportunistic pathogens and aid in the absorption of nutrients. Probiotics are the helpful cleaners and defender of our small and large intestines and blood stream. Eliminating parasites, worms and other pathogens, these friendly bacteria go to town to keep our immune system strong. For the purpose of this topic of holiday cleansing and also for longer terms digestive wellbeing, I recommend the Garden of Life probiotics, well balanced and with plenty of beneficial ingredients to help you feel better. Especially when you take them daily over months. Highly beneficial friendly bacteria containing foods are the old standbys of raw sauerkraut, kimchi, beet kvass, but never the store bought vinegar brined pickled foods.

Probiotics are of great importance to our survival and strongly influence our quality of life. They are essential after a course of antibiotics, which have now wiped out your friendly bacteria population along with the bad guys. Get two or three different brands to round out the repopulation of your gut: Garden of Life, Dr. Axe, Optima, Prescript Assist. Eat lots of naturally fermented raw foods: Kimchi, Sauerkraut, Kvass among others, inquire at your local health food store or farmer’s market.

Remember: When we get sick, with recurring digestive issues due to poor diet, insufficient chewing, stressed eating, or inflammation, food allergies, aches and pains, recurring colds, hard to get rid of infections, it is truly time to listen up.  Probiotics are essential to our wellbeing at any stage of life. We can find them in capsule form and even better in raw fermented foods like kimchee, raw sauerkraut, pickled beets and home made kombucha.

Fiber – soluble and insoluble – both kinds are needed for a healthy gut, absorption of nutrients, blood sugar metabolism and healthy bowels. Fiber bulks up digestive waste for elimination and acts like a broom taking waste matter out of the body. You may have heard of fiber in regard to heart health, but the intake of dietary fiber in the form of grains and complex carbohydrate vegetables, as well as raw Flax seeds or Psyllium husks greatly benefits the entire body.

Omega 3 fatty acids – nature’s anti inflammatory.

When we overeat, when our elimination is less than once or twice a day, when we are dehydrated, when we don’t sleep well, have chronic pains and aches, recurring infections and feel run down, we are looking at a chronically inflamed system. To bring the body back into balance by following the above suggestions, you will also be helped by Omega Fatty Acids, which are most effectively drawn from fatty cold water fish, mackerel, krill, sardines, wild salmon. When taken regularly either as food, which tend to be better balanced for all Omega fatty acids, or in cod liver oil or capsules, your body will find ease during the process of cleaning up your system to tone down the inflammatory responses.

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Combining these natural foods and supplements on a daily basis leads to better health and a deeper appreciation of how hard your body has to work to keep up with a less than healthy lifestyle. Wouldn’t you like to feel more alive and radiant?

Nothing can take the place of your body awareness, the learning and change that is inevitable if you want to have a high quality of life in this physical form. Our body is our temple, gifted to us by Creation to move around in this reality - how about we honor it as such.

Change just one thing a week and learn how you feel: increase your water intake; decrease your coffee intake by half for a week, then half again, until you only drink a small cup. Then choose again how you feel. Do the same with daily alcohol intake. Avoid dairy for one month, milk, yogurt, cheese, pizza, and see how you feel in one month. Do the same with breads, cakes, refined carbs an sugars, see how you feel in a month.  I recommend that you write down all the things that don’t feel good, occasional and constant aches, pains, weakness, tired ness etc and after spending a few months cleaning up your habits, see what has changed. This, if it were possible to do, is your money back guarantee from nature. Give it a shot.

Raw apple cider vinegar, a healthy alternative to commercial vinegar and a powerful support of your digestive system. Take one teaspoon in 8 ounces of water before meals, always on am empty stomach.

Eat only healthy fats, raw butter from pasture raised cows, ghee, coconut butter cold pressed, extra virgin olive oil, always raw. After a week of this changed diet, your taste buds, will have adjusted to new delights and you are bound to feel more energy and stamina. Increase walking, and deep breathing outdoors, walk on the earth, barefoot or place your hands and arms on a tree - get connected to and grounded by the Earth.

Eat fewer meats and choose complex vegetable carbs, avoid grains; if you need dessert, eat it by itself, never after a meal especially one with animal protein. Eat vegetables with meats, eat grains with vegetables and raw salads. Use fresh herbs to spice your foods, use clean celtic or himalayan salts, avoid processed foods, fast foods, sugary drinks, carbonated and soft drinks, commercial milk and see if you can stop overeating or snacking, giving your beautiful body a chance to rest between digestive work. It’s a start, and you can do it.

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