Digestive Health and the Holidays

Food is a big part of the holidays for many families. Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day is typically a series of social events marked by an abundance of rich and creamy sauces, savory meats, decadent desserts, and celebratory eggnog or champagne. As scrumptious as the holiday season may be, the holidays can be a season of digestive problems for those with GI health issues.

Don’t assume that digestive problems are just a regular part of the holidays, however. If you’ve looked towards a bottle of antacid for relief in the past, consider taking some measures to promote good digestive health over the holidays this year.

What causes digestive health problems?


A number of different things can cause digestive health issues.

For some it’s acidic foods like tomatoes. Others can’t drink alcohol or coffee without having digestive problems. Maybe for you it’s the lactose in dairy – or some other food sensitivity – that you have to stay away from.

Certain combinations of food might not sit well with you. Crème fraîche, turkey gravy, red wine, and some figgy pudding, for example, may cause indigestion.

Overeating – which is easy to do around the holidays – may cause digestive problems.

Tobacco use, both smoking and chewing tobacco, is associated with digestive problems such as GERD.

Even stress and travel involved with the holidays can cause digestive problems for some people.

Ways to promote good digestive health

Identify the things that cause your digestive health problems. This can help you avoid or manage them in an appropriate way and promote good GI digestive health. It’s best to try to prevent your digestive problems rather than treat them once they occur, whenever possible.

Avoid the foods that you’re aware cause your digestive problems.

Don’t overeat, and choose healthier food options. Eat steamed green beans instead of green beans with heavy cream and Parmesan cheese… at least some of the time. Try choosing one or two rich dishes and balancing them with plenty of high fiber fruits and veggies.

Physical activity may help relieve indigestion. Instead of sitting after your holiday meal, go for a walk.

Stay hydrated and drink plenty of water instead of drinking alcohol.

When should I seek help for digestive problems?


Symptoms that may indicate a problem in the digestive tract include:

  • heartburn
  • indigestion
  • bloating
  • flatulence – or gas
  • diarrhea
  • constipation
  • stomach pain
  • stomach cramps

Digestive diseases or symptoms can be acute or chronic. If your digestive issues do not go away, you should talk to your primary care doctor or a medical professional.

Your primary care physician may refer you to a specialist in gastroenterology. A gastroenterologist is a doctor that specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of conditions and diseases of the digestive system. Schedule your appointment with a MANA gastroenterologist in Northwest Arkansas at Fayetteville Diagnostic Clinic or Bentonville Specialty Health Clinic.