CHRISTMAS is a time many us allow ourselves to eat to our heart’s content.
Our day of indulgence might leave us in some discomfort.
With a rich array of treats and sweets to chose from, you might have eaten a bit more than your stomach could take, and who can blame you?
But that feeling of your waistband cutting into your middle could also be caused by gas and bloating.
One component of our Christmas lunch is often vilified as the cause of this – this is none other than humble sprout.
It’s easy to blame the pungent little vegetable for our stomach troubles, but consultant dietitian Kirsten Jackson told Sun Health there could be more to your Christmas bloat.
Read more on festive health
“The main issues with Christmas foods and and digestive health is the sheer volume of food,” she said.
“Often we want to blame a specific food but actually we have just overindulged.”
Overeating aside, Kirsten – known as the IBS Dietitian on socials – said it’s also worth looking at what’s on our plate to explain our discomfort.
She acknowledged that Brussels sprouts can in fact leave some of us feeling gassy, as they contain a lot of fructans.
This “is a type of carbohydrate that is broken down by our gut bacteria,” the dietitian explained.
“This process is actually very beneficial for our overall health but it does involve a lot of gas products,” Kirsten noted.
“Everyone has different tolerance levels to fructans, so some people may not have any issues at all whilst others could be quite sensitive.”
Here are five other festive foods that could leave you feeling gassy.
1. Yorkshire puddings
Kirsten’s first addition to the list of foods that could leave your tummy swollen is the beloved Yorkshire pud.
A roast dinner staple outside of Christmas, these crispy little gravy boats could be causing you some discomfort, the dietitian said.
Like sprouts, Yorkshires also contain fructans.
This is due to their wheat content, as they tend to be made with flour.
Speaking of gravy, the thick sauce that brings our roast together could also be the culprit behind your Christmas bloat, Kirsten added.
It’s yet another food that contains fructans, according to the dietitian, due to its onion and garlic content.
3. Honey glazed parsnips
A Christmas roast never feels complete without a vegetable accompaniment and many people choose parsnips as theirs.
But if you’re glazing your parsnips with honey, Kirsten warned that they could be causing your stomach to bloat.
That’s because honey is high in fructose, “a type of sugar you would typically associate with being in fruit”, the dietitian said.
Fructose won’t cause problems for everyone.
But “if your tolerance level is lower then the fructose overwhelms your small bowel and goes undigested into your large bowel, which again can create gas”, the dietitian explained.
4. Christmas pudding
Many families will draw their feast to a close with a gooey Christmas pudding.
But this is yet another festive staple that’s high in carbohydrates, which can create more gas, Kirsten went on.
5. Chocolate and cream
If you’re more of the type to indulge in deserts with chocolate and cream, the badis these can also fill your stomach with gas.
This unpleasant side effect is due to the foods’ lactose content.
As Kirsten explained: “Lactose intolerance is very common, but even someone with a lactose intolerance can usually tolerate a small amount of lactose with no issues – such as some cream on a pudding or a scoop of ice-cream.
“But at Christmas we can sometimes have lots of high lactose which can overwhelm some people’s guts.”
HOW TO BEAT YOUR CHRISTMAS BLOAT
It turns out, our Christmas feasts are littered with foods that could be leaving us bloated and uncomfortable.
But according to Kirsten, there are a few ways feel less bloated when indulging in all the rich foods customary for this time of year.
Stick to 3 meals a day
It can be be easy to keep grazing on treats and chocolates between meals during Christmastime.
Others “will not eat for longof time and then overindulge in a Christmas dinner because they are so hungry,” the dietitian noted.
But Kirsten recommended you “try and stick to a routine of having three main meals per day, with a reasonable snack if needed”.
Portion size is key
Kirsten recommended: “If you know particular foods cause issues, try having them but in smaller portions.
“My clients are often surprised by how many foods they can tolerate when they take this approach,” she added.
Use digestive enzymes
The dietitian suggested using specific digestive enzymes to ease your bloat.
“Lactase is useful to break down the lactose in dairy products for you if you have an intolerance and alpha-galactosidase is useful for those foods which contain onion and garlic,” she said.
Lay off the alliums
“Try reducing your intake of onion and garlic,” Kirsten recommended.
“These foods are difficult to digestive for most people so simple swaps like making your own gravy to avoid these ingredients could help.”
Don’t forget fibre
“Many festive foods contain little to no fibre,” Kirsten pointed out.
Leaving this key nutrient out of our diets can have more of an effect than you think.
“This can cause our gut to slow down causing us to be more uncomfortable,” the dietitian explained.
“Good sources of fibre include vegetables and whole-grains like oats and brown rice.
“So you could think of easy wins like eating oats cakes with cheese rather than white crackers or simply having half or a third of your plate made up with vegetables during your main meals.”
Move between meals
How many of us have spent most of Christmas lounging on the couch?
It’s easier than you think to forget to exercise during the holidays.
But being less active can actually slow your gut down and make you feel even more uncomfortable, Kirsten told Sun Health.
“Instead consider going for a gentle winter walk or taking 20 mins out for yourself to practise some yoga,” she suggested.
Limit your alcohol intake
It’s no secret that the festive season can get pretty boozy.
As Kirsten said: “It’s very common in British culture to start drinking at breakfast with the bucks fizz.
“I hate to play scrooge here but alcohol is a drug which can cause digestive symptoms.”
That doesn’t mean you can indulge in drinks at all though.
“You don’t need to be t-total but do consider drinking later in the day, switching between alcohol and non alcoholic drinks and having a supply of appetising non-alcoholic alternatives,” Kirsten recommended.
WHEN SHOULD I BE WORRIED ABOUT MY BLOATING?
While bloating over the holidays is super common, but it’s worth talking to a doctor about if it’s persistent.
As Kirsten explained, “bloating now and again is pretty normal”.
“If bloating is regular then someone should go to the doctors to be checked,” she explained.
“Bloating can be a symptom of coeliac disease, irritable bowel syndrome and even some cancers.”
The NHS advises you see a GP if:
- You’ve been feeling bloated for three weeks or more
- You feel bloated regularly – it gave the estimate of more than 12 times a month
- You’ve tried changing your diet but keep feeling bloated
- You have a swelling or lump in your tummy
- You’re bloated along with being sick, having diarrhoea, feeling constipated, experiencing weight loss or noticing blood in your poo
- You find it difficult to move or do daily activities because you’re bloated
Sarah Carter is a health and wellness expert residing in the UK. With a background in healthcare, she offers evidence-based advice on fitness, nutrition, and mental well-being, promoting healthier living for readers.