3 Tips for a Holiday Meal Without indigestion

By Jessica Campbell, MS, FNTP

Thanksgiving, Diwali, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Christmas, New Year; the holidays are here and I have a few tips and tricks to help you navigate these indulgent meals with the least amount of digestive pain possible.

I hear a lot of aches and pains from clients that are excited to celebrate the holidays but by the end of the day they feel bloated, gassy, or downright sick. No one deserves their holiday celebration to be ruined like that. I’m a big advocate of careful planning, preparation, and mindfulness to head off problems that could ruin your festivities. Here’s my 3 best tips for surviving without digestive pains.

Tip #1

Digestion Begins in the Brain

Digestion can only occur if the body is in a parasympathetic state, which means not reacting to any stress. In order to produce the appropriate digestive enzymes we must relax, breathe and enjoy our food. All digestion stops in a sympathetic, "fight or flight" state in order for the production of cortisol, adrenaline, or epinephrine as a priority of survival. This means your stomach knows about the stress in your mind. We need to relax and let the family disputes rest. 

Try beginning your day with a relaxing yoga session to start your day mindfully. Check out my YouTube playlist full of free yoga flows to help you begin your holiday with some juicy stretches.

Spend time in the kitchen while the food is cooking. Smell the food before you begin eating which will help get your digestive juices flowing and increase your saliva production so that your body is prepared for the meal that is coming. As I like to say, your mouth should be wet with saliva; that is your body giving consent to put the food in it. Do not eat without consent!

Finally, If you feel your pulse elevate, your eyes alert, and your breathing shallow or fast during the gathering, step away from the food and take 5 minutes to breathe deep. You may have gone too fast, and you may need a digestive enzyme to help you break down the food. Digestive enzymes speed up the process of breaking down food and can support a sluggish digestive system. 

Tip #2

Choose quality over quantity

Empty calories in soda and chips are far more harmful to the body than the calories in butter and real foods. If you’re worried about overeating on a big holiday, do not skip breakfast and wait to gorge yourself later. Make sure to eat a high protein breakfast which will keep your metabolism revving. Drink water for most of the day to make sure you’re well hydrated and avoid any unnecessary sugar or simple carbs. Make a normal sized plate for dinner and focus on eating homemade real food. I can easily pass a store bought pie, boxed mashed potatoes, canned cranberries, or stuffing from the package. But a home baked pumpkin pie or real mashed potatoes with real butter deserves a place on everyone's plate.

You can find healthier holiday recipes HERE.

One of the best features of cooking an enormous holiday meal is the amount of food leftover. You shouldn’t have to cook for the rest of the week. Many of the foods taste better once they have had a chance to allow the flavors to blend. 

If your giant dinner included real food with real healthy fats, you should be full well before the end of the meal. Simply tell your host that you would love to take some of the dish you missed home to eat for lunch the next day. The point is you do not have to eat all of the food on that one special day. The nicest part is enjoying home cooked leftovers so you don’t have to cook for a few days afterwards.

Tip #3

Have a few “just in case” resources on hand

Ok, so you overdid it and now you have a terrible belly ache. There are digestive enzymes that can help you digest the food. I hate to present these like the fix-all pill that allows you to binge inappropriately, but they will help if you eat too much. 

They will not work well with anyone taking an antacid which prevents you from digesting any food in the first place. Antacids cause inflammation along the entire digestive tract and enzymes may irritate your already irritated gut lining. Other than that, they are harmless, even beneficial to a sluggish system that suffers from bloating and gas after a meal. 

You can look for natural enzymes such as Bromelain (pineapple) or Papain (papaya) in your local health food store and take 2 of them up to 30 minutes after your meal or find them on my online dispensary and take them with your meal preventatively.

Need something a little stronger? Are you in danger of a nasty hangover? I recommend Activated Charcoal.

Activated charcoal is exactly what it sounds like, charcoal, however it's heated at extreme temperatures until it becomes extra porous. Those pores collect toxins and trap poisons, removing them from the body before they are absorbed.

Activated Charcoal has a rich history dating back to 3750BC in Ancient Egypt. In 1500 the first recorded use in medicine was documented for absorbing unpleasant odors in wounds and for troubles within the intestinal tract. Since 1550 BC, activated charcoal has been used as a poison antidote and it is still used today as a powerful detoxifier.

Today, charcoal is rated Category 1, “safe and effective”, by the American Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for acute toxic poisoning. -Buyactivatedcharcoal.com

Hospitals often give activated charcoal immediately after the stomach is pumped from ingesting poisonous substances. Whereas pumping the stomach helps if done within a 30 minute window, activated charcoal is effective up to a few hours after ingesting. It can reduce the absorption rate by an estimated 60%.

The important warning to take into consideration is that activated charcoal will prevent you from absorbing anything along with the toxins. If you took your birth control, your medication, vitamins, or herbs within a few hours of the activated charcoal, you may not absorb them properly.

This is why I claim activated charcoal is the single most important tip for "social drinkers." It's OK, 1% of the time to protect yourself from a mishap. If you drink too much on this one occasion, take 2 of these and call me in the morning.

However, activated charcoal is a little like "the morning after pill." Though probably a very good reason for those few mistakes, this is not a way to live day to day. So be responsible, but remember that activated charcoal has got your back.

Bring it with you when you eat at a not so healthy company party, and take 2 after you've drunk yourself silly. WebMD recommends 50-100g for an adult, and 10-25g for a child. In my experience, you can also continue to take a child's dose every 2 hours for 24 hours until your body is flushed clean.

Spoiler alert, taking activated charcoal will not remove your hangover. Sorry, but a hangover is most often from serious dehydration. To battle that one, be sure to drink a large glass of pure, still, non-sparkling mineral water with every alcoholic beverage and eat a well balanced meal while you drink.


Tip #1- Digestion starts in the brain. Try a yoga session to relax before the gathering.
Tip #2- Choose quality over quantity. Skip the dishes that started in a can and try some healthier holiday foods instead.
Tip #3- Keep a few "just in case" resources on hand. Order my suggestions through my online dispensary.

Bonus Tip

Start the “No More Acid Reflux” program now!

If you suffer from acid reflux regularly, it’s time to start the healing process. It’s not too late to begin feeling better in time for holiday gatherings! By following my No More Acid Reflux protocol, you should begin to see results in just 7 days. So, if you know this is something you struggle with, I recommend beginning today.

If you aren’t quite ready to jump into the whole program, I would recommend starting with some licorice tea. Not only does it ease symptoms in the moment, it also helps long-term healing of your gut lining.

I hope these tips make your holiday more comfortable!

I try to avoid the stress around big overindulgent meals for holidays. Instead I want to demonstrate to my kids that holiday gatherings are a great time to practice gratitude. We like to gather and share a few of our favorite dishes while we recognize the long line of efforts made to get the food to the table. 

I also like to share the importance of spending time with our community. This helps us remember the time off from school and work is there to spend time with people you care about, not about overeating.

If you feel like these tips resonate with you and you need a more personalized approach, I would love to help you through the holidays with my consultation services. Book a free 15 minute consultation today and let’s get to the root of your healing process.