Festive digestives

Do you dread Christmas, with its endless feasts of over-rich food? In times past, having some treats at Christmas would have meant a lot more, but now you’re likely to have several Christmas dinners for one reason or another, endless mince pies and chocolates, and not enough fresh air and exercise to counterbalance them. It’s hard to say no, unless you have an intolerance to wheat, for example – and if you’re going to suffer digestive torment after yet another roast dinner with all the trimmings, it’s almost worth inventing one.
Taking Rennies, or prescription medication like Zantac or Omeprazole, is not really the answer. They will cut down on heartburn, but they do it by blocking the nervous stimulation to your stomach that leads you to produce acid. That means that you’ll be less able to digest effectively in your stomach, and food will pass into your small intestine incompletely broken down. You’re more likely to suffer from wind and cramps, and your bowel action may be disturbed. It can lead to poor assimilation of nutrients, or – conversely – there may be damage to the gut wall, allowing absorption of things that shouldn’t get through.
It sounds alarmist, but years of popping antacids, and problems with inflammation in the gut, or rheumatic trouble, or even more serious auto-immune conditions, in later life are not unconnected. If your stomach rebels at dealing with rich food, you need to listen. Have smaller portions, leave out some of the more difficult things, and counterbalance the feast with light, nutritious food the rest of the time. And use the lovely digestive herbs like thyme, sage, cinnamon and nutmeg; they’re not just there for flavour. You’ll enjoy Christmas a lot more, and not give yourself worse problems to deal with in the future.

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