Thanksgiving dinners are notoriously heavy, with oversized portions, plenty of second helpings and an all-too-familiar post-dinner stomachache.
In the spirit of employing a little pre-holiday damage control, Dr. Robynne Chutkan, nationally renowned gastroenterologist and author of "Gutbliss," shares tips on how we can feel better as we go big on Thanksgiving.
Have Thanksgiving lunch instead of Thanksgiving dinner. "Your stomach has a bedtime," Chutkan says. "Our digestive emptying is tied to our circadian rhythm, so our stomach is most active in the morning when the sun rises ... and they're least active when the sun sets. In the summertime, at a July Fourth picnic you can probably eat a ton at 8 p.m. and be fine. At Thanksgiving, you can't eat a big meal at 8 p.m. because you're stomach's already gone to bed. Eat your big meal at 1 or 2 p.m. Nobody needs to eat 2,000 calories before they hop into bed."
Eat early and in shifts. "As you go to make your plate, hold up your fist. That's the size of your stomach. It takes about an hour and a half minimum for your stomach to empty. So if you split your meal in two, you'll be a lot more comfortable," according to Chutkan. "Slow it down so you really realize you're full." If you keep eating when you're full, food can start to come back up your esophagus because there's no room in your stomach.
Fennel. "It's a great post-Thanksgiving bloat buster. Fennel helps to increase the production of digestive enzymes and gastric juices. It's a better alternative to antacids. You can take fennel seeds and boil them to make some tea."
Keep moving. "The goal with digestion is to get things from start to finish -- from your mouth out the other end. Gravity helps with that. So just being upright helps. Walking around. A leisurely, constitutional stroll in the evening can really help," Chutkan said.
Happy abs. "If you're really bloated, I recommend 'happy abs.' Lie on your back, get a heating pad under your back to relax the muscles of your GI tract, and take a light dumbbell (1 or 2 pounds) and circumnavigate your belly button. Apply gentle pressure and go in a big circle clockwise, because that's the way the products of digestion move. However, you don't want to do it right after you've eaten."