Turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, yams, green bean casserole, cranberry sauce, dinner rolls—the Thanksgiving table is full of food! Not to mention the pumpkin pie and other desserts. Every family has their own traditions and different dishes they serve on Thanksgiving, but every Thanksgiving table has one thing in common—there’s a lot of food! Your digestive system has to do a lot of work on a daily basis, but Thanksgiving is even more taxing due to the large amounts of food being consumed. These seven strategies will help aid your digestive system so you can have a happy belly this Thanksgiving.
1. Drink Lemon Water
Drinking lemon water first thing when you wake up on Thanksgiving morning will be helpful in setting up your digestive system for the rest of the day. Your body is fasting when you’re sleeping, so drinking water upon waking will help flush your system. Adding lemon to the water will help flush toxins from the body as well. You don’t have to save lemon water for the morning only; you can drink it throughout the day because the citric acid in lemons stimulates stomach acid production, which helps digestion.
2. Eat a Fiber-Filled Breakfast
Not only does fiber fill you up, but it keeps your bowel movements regular. The last thing you want on Thanksgiving is to be backed up and constipated! That won’t be comfortable when you’re trying to eat turkey and mashed potatoes during dinner.
For breakfast, a great option would be a fiber-filled smoothie so it’s easy for the body to break down, but you’re getting lots of fiber to keep your system regular. Try this smoothie recipe on Thanksgiving morning.
Lean and Green Smoothie
- 1 head romaine lettuce
- 1 handful spinach
- 2 cups water
- 1 apple, cored
- Juice of 1/2 lemon
- 1/2 banana
- 2 tablespoons ground flaxseed
Add all ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth!
3. Focus on Probiotics
Probiotics are important for maintaining balance in your gut microbiome. When your gut microbiome is full of good bacteria, it can support optimal digestion. Probiotics can be helpful for bloating, which is a common symptom on Thanksgiving! Eat probiotic-rich foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, and kefir, or you can take a probiotic supplement.
4. Be Mindful of Snacking
Appetizer trays, chip bowls with dip, crackers—it’s easy to mindlessly snack during Thanksgiving. You’re chatting with family, drinking wine, having a good time, and before you know it, you’re full from snacks before the main meal even begins! You don’t have to skip the snacks altogether, but aim to snack on easy-to-digest foods like raw carrots or celery sticks.
5. Chew Your Food More
Have you ever scarfed down a meal in five minutes because you were in a rush? Or nearly choked on something because you didn’t chew it well enough? Chewing is an important part of digestion. Carbohydrate digestion begins in the mouth with an enzyme called salivary amylase. If you aren’t chewing your food properly, that initial step of digestion gets hindered! Because the Thanksgiving dinner is full of carbohydrates, chewing your food thoroughly is important to keep the digestive system running smoothly.
6. Don’t Overeat!
Stop eating when you’re full. It’s a pretty basic concept, right? This also relates to the chewing tip mentioned above. The more you chew your food, the slower you will eat, and the slower you eat, the greater awareness you will have when you feel full. Don’t stuff yourself to the point that you are uncomfortable. Savor every bite so you can enjoy a healthy amount. Overeating will put a lot of stress on the digestive system and make you feel uncomfortable for hours!
7. Enjoy Ginger After Your Meal
You know that feeling after a large Thanksgiving meal where it feels like you could pop? Or that burning indigestion that comes with uncomfortable burps? If you didn’t pay attention to the above tips and ate too fast, didn’t chew your food, and overate, you might be a tad uncomfortable once the meal is over. Especially if you indulged in pumpkin pie, too!
The good news is that ginger is a powerhouse for digestion. In fact, research shows that ginger can increase gastric emptying, which is the ability for the body to empty food from the stomach. This is awesome for a large meal like you have on Thanksgiving! Ginger has also been shown to be helpful for acid reflux symptoms.
There are a few different ways to consume ginger. You can take it in capsule form, eat ginger chews, or drink ginger tea (you can also grate fresh ginger into some hot water for a DIY tea)! Even if you don’t feel overly full or bloated, ginger is always a good ingredient to aid in digestion.
Enjoying the Thanksgiving holiday is important, but make sure you help out your digestive system so you can enjoy the holiday with less bloat and a happy belly.
*Editor’s Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only; does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Chopra Center's Mind-Body Medical Group; and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health program.
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