Consider this your "cheat sheet" for alleviating holiday-related tummy troubles-whether you ate one too many slices of pie or got a little too adventurous at the office potluck.
Good digestion is vital at any time, but it's especially important during the holidays, when travelling, unfamiliar foods, and stress can cause a host of tummy troubles. And since the gut represents about 60 percent of the immune system, good digestion plays a key role in our ability to defend against seasonal bugs and other invaders.
Eating fresh, wholesome foods enables the digestive tract to deal with demanding encounters more easily, but it isn't always enough. These supplements can help keep your tummy and internal defenses in good shape.
Digest More with Enzymes
In their natural state, live foods contain enzymes that help the human body break down and use nutrients, and we make enzymes, in our mouth-if we chew food sufficiently-and digestive system. Processed foods and eating on-the-go interfere with the natural process, but enzyme supplements can help. They may contain a variety of enzymes or a specific one, such as lactase for digesting lactose in dairy foods; protease, bromelain (from pineapple), and papain (from papaya) for digesting protein; amylase for starch; cellulase for fiber; invertase for sugar; and lipase for fat.
Improve Digestion & Immunity with Probiotics
To relieve digestive problems, especially after antibiotic use, yogurt may not be enough. More concentrated probiotic formulas are available in pills, powders, liquids, or chews. Research shows that by restoring and maintaining a healthy balance of bacteria in the gut, probiotics can help relieve diarrhea, eczema, respiratory infections, stomach infections, and inflammatory bowel disease. They may also help prevent tooth decay. Some formulas contain proprietary strains of probiotics that have been studied for digestive and/or immune health, and describe these on labels or company Web sites. Prebiotics-food for friendly bacteria-are also included in some probiotic formulas.
Restore Stomach Acid with Betaine Hydrochloride
Betaine HCl, short for hydrochloride, boosts hydrochloric (stomach) acid. Although common wisdom views too much acidity as the cause of heartburn and other digestive discomforts, the reverse may actually be true. Lack of stomach acid can cause partially digested food to linger in the stomach, leading to reflux-food moving in the wrong direction, upward into the esophagus. The ability to produce stomach acid tends to decline with age and with frequent use of antacids. Betaine HCl supplements can help restore healthy levels, enabling food to move downward through the rest of the digestive tract.
Prevent Indigestion with Apple Cider Vinegar
A long-standing tummy soother, apple cider vinegar contains enzymes and stimulates the release of digestive juices, including stomach acid. It helps to break down food and prevent or relieve gas, indigestion, heartburn, and constipation. Mix a tablespoon with water or tea and drink it before a meal, or whenever trouble strikes. Or try Gutsy Chewy, a chewable tablet that combines apple cider vinegar with papaya enzymes and licorice, another digestive aid.
Healthy-but Hard to Digest
Even healthy foods can be tough on the tummy, but there are ways to avoid distress.
- Fiber: Found in all plant foods and necessary for regularity, it can be difficult to digest. Start with steamed, non-starchy vegetables, which are easy to break down, and gradually add raw vegetables and whole grains to your diet.
- Cruciferous vegetables: They help us eliminate toxins and protect against cancer, but when raw, they can upset stomachs. Try them steamed or fermented. Cabbage may give you gas, but sauerkraut is a rich source of probiotics.
- Coconut and almond flours: A healthy alternative to grains, both are high in fiber. Enjoy them in moderation.
- Gluten: Problems with gluten make many people shy away from healthy whole grains. Depending on the degree of gluten intolerance, avoiding it may not be the only solution. An enzyme known as DPP-IV (short for dipeptidyl peptidase IV) helps to break down gluten, and is usually found in combination enzyme formulas designed to improve gluten digestion.
American HealthEnzyme Probiotic Complex works in two ways to support digestive health, with the help of nine enzymes and 2 billion bio-active probiotics.
Enzymedica GlutenEase, shown here in new packaging, helps the body digest gluten and casein with the help of specific enzymes not typically found in regular enzyme formulas.
Twinlab Betaine HCl Caps are designed to be taken after meals, up to three times daily. The enzyme pepsin has been added for its ability to help digest proteins more fully.