It’s the best part of the holidays, all of the sugary treats, the big meals with family and friends and maybe drink or a few at those gatherings. The only problem is the after, and if you suffer from Gastroparesis, then the after can be debilitating.
So, being that this is my 4th holiday season being officially diagnosed with Gastro-you ruin everything-paresis, I have decided to compile a list of 10 tips to help you get through with a little less pain, while still being able to enjoy yourself and not feel deprived of the fun.
*A quick note for those of you unfamiliar with Gastroparesis; in simple terms, it means that your vagus nerve isn’t fire correctly to your stomach muscles to say “move food on through”, so digesting take double to triple the amount of time it might a normal person. It causes a host of other issues like food fermenting in the body, acid reflux, bloating, issues with bowel movements, fatigue, cravings, blood sugar drops and spikes and more.
10 Tips on How to Survive the Holidays Without Feeling Like Crap:
Walk or Sit, DO NOT LAY DOWN. You just had that huge meal, and now all you want to do is go lay down on the couch and maybe have dessert. Don’t do that. Either stay sitting up at the table and chat with those around you, or take a walk for 20 minutes around the neighborhood(your dog will love you more). This helps keep digestion moving from north to south and gets those nerves fired up.
Chew every bite thoroughly. Try this by chewing every bite 15+ times, but if you don’t want to count then try putting your fork down between each bite until your food is completely chewed and swallowed. This will allow the enzymes in your saliva to start breaking down your food into more manageable pieces for your stomach. It also allows you to be more present with those at the table, instead of stuffing your face constantly.
Try foods without skins or foods cooked through. If you’re like me and love potatoes with skins on them, this will be challenging. It does help keep the fiber content down and makes it easier to digest. Try a new recipe for the table this year with cooked veggies instead of raw ones for appetizers. Maybe even blend them into a hummus, which is a great snack for when you’re hosting that party.
Keep the fat down. Now if this was a normal person, I would never suggest this, but Gastroparesis sufferers are not normal. That means less oils, less full-fat milks, yogurts, etc. Be careful with products labeled “low-fat”, because that usually means “more sugar”, which is also hard on us, so just read your ingredients. Try switching the milk in your gravy with skim or even unflavored almond milk. Little switches allow better digestion, but still let you enjoy the yummy foods around the holidays.
Lose the Sparkles. No, I don’t mean the holiday lights. If you are one that likes sodas, champagne, sparkling wines or even sparkling water. The carbonation is SO HARD for us. In general, try to keep down the alcoholic drinks, but if you decide to go for it, try to avoid the bubbles!
Be prepared before the big meal. I know a lot of people won’t eat the morning of the Christmas dinner, because they are “saving their appetite”, but that does you more harm than good. You end up gorging yourself and it will make you feel AWFUL. Nourish yourself throughout the day. Start the day with a green smoothie (post with ideas to come soon), have a light lunch of a broth-based soup and then a small snack if needed. What this does is allow your digestive system to get going and keeps you from filling up so quickly at dinner. Plus, they are easily digested meals, so you shouldn’t feel bloated or too full.
The Sweets. To me, this is the hardest part of the holidays. I LOVE LOVE LOVE baking and eating and giving sweet treats to those around me, so how do I manage? I eat them. I allow myself to have them, sometimes even daily, BUT I do it at lunch, so it has time to digest, and I restrain myself to just 1 small cookie or just 1/2 the slice of cake or whatever it may be. Now some secrets I do to help me out, switch sugars to a coconut sugar, dates, honey, agave, or any other non-processed, natural sweetener. These seem to go over better with my tummy and don’t make me feel too terrible.
Laugh, A LOT. The holidays are a time for gathering with those you love, so enjoy the moments you spend together laughing. Laughing is not only good for your mental health, but it actually aids in digestion!!!!! WIN! It can also act as a pain reliever, so when those tummy aches set in, get to laughing.
Shop in the stores! We all know you will be doing all kinds of present shopping, so instead of sitting on your couch, online shopping, get out and head to the stores. This seems weird, but stay with me. It’s not as crowded as the media makes it, being out and active (walking around the stores) aids in digestion and the joy you get from buying things for others will help with your mental health and clarity. Start early in the month. Plus side, you don’t have to worry about packages arriving late or getting stolen, which adds stress and is a detriment to digestion.
Don’t overwhelm yourself. Constantly worrying about whether something will trigger your symptoms will actually make your symptoms flare up. Relax. Enjoy the time. If you eat the cookie, okay, go for a walk. If you drink the champagne, cool sit at the table and chat. The main thing, is know that tomorrow is another day to reset yourself. If nothing else, there’s always a juice cleanse to do that for you. (jk, but only sorta)
Now, I said these were for Gastroparesis patients, but a few of these can definitely benefit those of you who digest normally or even those of you who have a slightly harder time.
The big picture here over the holidays is to enjoy the time with the ones you love. It’s not an excuse to throw out all cares about your body, but to allow those one-time-a-year treats.
Have the happiest of Holidays!