After eating that enormous Thanksgiving meal, you may want to curl up on the couch (or a stretcher) and moan in belly agony while half-watching football on TV.
Experts estimate the average American consumes upwards of 4,500 calories on Thanksgiving, so it's no wonder a lot of us experience pain after the culinary pleasure. But be grateful for this: There are ways to abate the stomach misery without skimping on any of your favorite Thanksgiving foods. A lot of the discomfort will subside with time and patience (and stomach-settling foods on Black Friday), but certain activities and strategies -- like walking after dinner -- can speed up the process.
Meet this year's Thanksgiving with a plan of attack on bloat, so you can enjoy food, friends and family without any bellyaches to cloud your memories. We've designed your action plan below:
Before and during the meal:
Water can fill you up, and drinking a glass before you dig into the meal will help you pace yourself. The Mayo Clinic says water will also keep things moving, adding fluids to the colon and preventing any foods from, err, getting stuck. Keep refilling your cup throughout the meal.
Of course you want to get to the candied yams before Uncle Bert devours them all, but rushing won't be helpful in the end. Think about all of the work that went in to preparing the meal and savor it with gratitude. Eating too fast can lead to over-consumption and digestive problems like bloating. To slow it down, serve yourself smaller portions of your favorite dishes -- you can always go back for seconds (unless Bert gets to 'em).
Skip the soda.
Carbonated drinks are hardly the best thing on the table, so don't bother your tastebuds with them. Health.com reports the bubbles fill your stomach with air and can make you gassy and uncomfortable -- yes, diet sodas, too. Stick to still water and let the food be the star of the Thanksgiving show.
Don't add salt.
Keep the salt shaker far, far away. Chances are the food on the table has enough (if not too much) as is -- especially when you consider you may be ingesting close to 4,500 calories altogether. Consuming excess sodium will make you feel bloated because it causes fluid retention in the body.
Go light on certain foods...
Thanksgiving only comes once a year, so you should eat everything you want to eat on this day. But if you're particularly concerned about stomach aches and pains, there are specific culprits you may want to keep off your plate. These include cruciferous veggies like broccoli, cabbage and kale, beans (duh) and dairy products.
...And go heavy on others.
Foods like cucumbers, bananas, avocado, white rice, asparagus and ginger are bloat-busters, says registered dietician Helen Agresti. If any of these are part of your Thanksgiving fare, eat up!
After you eat:
Go for a short walk.
You probably want to curl up on the couch without moving. But a little physical activity can effect your post-meal blood sugar levels and aid digestion. Researchers say that an after-dinner walk can help remove glucose from the bloodstream in part because more of it is taken up by the muscles. Rally your friends and family to join you -- you'll all benefit from the stroll. The goal here is not to burn off all those Thanksgiving calories (that'd be pretty rough), but to inspire the body to do its digestive job.
Sip on some peppermint and chamomile tea.
Peppermint and chamomile can calm stomach muscles and support the flow of bile the body uses to digest fat, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Drinking such tea helps make it easier for food to pass through the stomach.
Try some simple yoga poses.
You don't have to go to an actual studio to practice a couple of poses that'll soothe your busting belly. Little movements like bridge pose and knees to chest can help your stomach release gas and move the food along, and they won't make you work up a sweat. Check out some of the simple poses here.
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