Digestive bitters help acid reflux

Holiday Meals Have You Bloated? Here is what to do

The holidays are here, and that means our calendars are full of festivals, food is plentiful, and it is easy to let our eating habits run free. And while we want to enjoy all of the seasonal delights, we know that the food we eat is directly related to the strength of our digestive health and our immune system's ability to protect us. As a naturopathic doctor, it is my job to help my patients find their balance.

Moderation is always key to digestive health, but avoiding key foods can also help. Gluten, dairy products, and sugar are the most common foods that cause intestinal problems for my patients - from acid reflux to gas and indigestion.

Prepare for the big feasts.

If you eat some of these common inflammatory foods or if you overindulge yourself, don't be afraid. Here are some recommendations to help you prevent digestive problems and relieve any symptoms you may experience.

1. Apple cider vinegar

Raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar is great the first time you eat as it will add a little more acid to your stomach to help break down the food. Most people actually make less stomach acid as they age, so the ACV helps increase acidity and stimulate the closing of the lower esophageal sphincter (the valve between the stomach and esophagus). This can prevent stomach acid from flowing back into our esophagus, which is the main cause of acid reflux.

2. Probiotics

Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that act as the first defenders of our gut and immune systems. These insects help break down food into small particles so that we can utilize the nutrients and also protect ourselves from harmful bacteria, viruses and fungi. I always recommend taking probiotics at the end of a meal on a full stomach.

Bloated and uncomfortable? Here is what to do.

If you haven't had time to take the preventive measures above and have grabbed a second piece of fruit cake, here are some examples of acid reflux, gas, and bloating.

1. Activated charcoal for stomach upsets.

Activated charcoal is usually made from coconut shells and acts like a sponge, attracting the nasty effects (like puffing) from over indulgence. It's available as a capsule and is often even added to drinks at your favorite juice bar or healthy grocery store.

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2. Smooth elm, marshmallow root or chamomile to calm the intestines.

Any of these teas can be very helpful in relieving stomach discomfort. The slippery elm and marshmallow root relieve inflammation in the intestines and can soothe the intestinal mucous membranes. This can provide much-needed relief from painful acid reflux or uncomfortable bloating.

3. Herbal bitters to support the body's digestive processes.

Herbal digestive bitters are very helpful before or after a meal to improve digestion. Some common digestive bitters are fennel, anise, ginger, milk thistle, cardamom, and turmeric. The goal of bitters is to support the body's own production of enzymes and bile, which are used to break down food and absorb nutrients more efficiently. A good complex of bitter substances can also help calm the tissues in the intestines. All herbs have unique functions in the gastrointestinal tract, but together they create a synergistic effect that is great for many people.

The holidays are a wonderful time of year, but they can easily disrupt our normal routine and present us with a lot of foods that we would not normally eat. By taking a few simple extra steps to prevent indigestion and calm our tummies, we can smile, relax, and enjoy this time to the full.