For those who celebrate Thanksgiving, you know what’s in store later this week; a whole lotta food.  Which is great! It’s a time to celebrate the abundance of fall, spend time with family, watch some football and whatever else you like to do this holiday. However, there is one common danger for a holiday like this, that is over-eating.

When we temporarily over-tax our digestive system with high quantities of dense, fatty, greasy, processed foods and alcohol, we shock our bodies and run the risk of developing what we refer to in East Asian Medicine as food stagnation. It’s similar to when you force too much food into the garbage disposal and it stalls. If you keep adding more, it’s going to back up and you have no chance of getting the disposal to perform again until you fix the blockage.

For us, the disposal is the stomach and spleen and the “stall” is food stagnation, presenting with symptoms like abdominal distention, belching, flatulence, nausea, constipation, fatigue (food coma!) low appetite and even vomiting or diarrhea. This is because the digestive system is temporarily unable to do its job of receiving, transforming and transporting nutrients because it is overwhelmed. Ideally, we should have a mindful, balanced and moderate approach to eating and try not to over consume in the first place.  However, stress and obligations sometimes get in the way of even the best laid plans.

Thanksgiving tends to be a time of overindulgence for food and It’s pretty common to experience digestive disorders during this time. But there are some things you can do to help prevent the common symptoms of food stagnation.

1. Eat light a few days before the feast – Bloating usually happens when you’re filling up on a stomach that is still digesting and processing food from meals before. Eat light so that your stomach feels light. You don’t want to already be sluggish when sitting down to eat thanksgiving meal.

2. Don’t fast the day of feast – Fasting the day of never seems to be a good idea. Feeling starved by the time dinner comes around is a recipe for eating a lot really quickly. If you’re feeling hungry but not starving, you’ll be able to pace yourself and spread things out a bit. This helps your digestive system work more fluidly.

3. Take your probiotics – To aid in the digestive process, double up on your probiotics or throw in some digestive enzymes before a meal. That will help everything break down a little easier and negate any side effects of gluttonous eating.  Eating hawthorne berries before and after the meal can aid your digestion tremendously.

4. Take bitters – Take a dropperful of bitters before or after the meal. Mix it in with water or sparkling water. The bitters helps help to promote digestive juices such as stomach acid, bile and enzymes to break down food and absorb nutrients.  Bitters can be found at most health food stores.

5. Break down stagnation with tea – Boil water with equal parts cinnamon, ginger and lemon peel. Add a small amount of honey and drink up. This blend is warming, flushing and great for breaking down things in the digestive tract.

6. Gently move after the meal – The instinct after a big holiday meal is to get horizontal, rest and be stagnant. Well, when dealing with food stagnation, you want to counterbalance it with some movement. Rally the troops and go for a little walk after the meal. Do some light stretching. Do some active breathing. The body will feel lighter as things start to move in the body.

7. Engage your core – Give your digestive system 5-6 hours post meal and then consider doing some exercises that activate your core. Try postures that stimulate gastric juices and help your digestive system move along.  Yoga is full of gentle poses that can be beneficial.

8. Drink lots of water – Literally flush out that stagnation and clog from the feast.  Drink lots and lots of water the day after Thanksgiving. This cannot be emphasized enough.

9. Get acupuncture – After the family and visitors have left, practice some self care and come in for an acupuncture appointment.  Acupuncture can target points that promote more stagnation relief.

Wherever and however you are spending Thanksgiving, I hope you can utilize this info and not feel like an Oompa Loompa after it’s all said and done.  And if you still need help dealing with your digestive issues, please don’t hesitate to make an appointment.

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