It takes nearly a week to recover from festive overindulgence - how to manage Christmas bloat

Mid adult black man with beard smiling and holding serving dish with sprouts, table set with roast dinner, traditional family Christmas at home
You can still enjoy the Christmas feast, but a few small changes will make you feel less bloated and uncomfortable for days afterwards. (Getty Images)

One of the things we look forward to the most on Christmas is all the wonderful food and treats that deck the dinner table. But that familiar feeling of needing to unbutton your trousers after a bit too much stuffing can indicate your digestive system needs a break.

In fact, new research suggests it might take days to recover from overindulging at Christmas, with nearly half (48%) of Britons admitting they need between 24 to 96 hours to recover from the main meal of the season.

After gorging on roast turkey, a nut roast or wellington, glazed ham, crispy roasties, brussel sprouts, cheese, and more – not to mention all the glasses of fizz, red wine, Christmas pudding and chocolates in between – our stomachs might struggle to break it all down.

According to research by prebiotic supplement Bimuno, around 5% say it takes between five to six days to recover from the feast, while an additional 4% say they don’t feel like their usual self for an entire week after the big Christmas blowout.

The survey found that 25 to 34-year-olds and 35 to 44-year-olds were most likely to need a week to recover from the most ambitious roast of the year. However, older people above the age of 45 were more likely to feel like themselves again within 48 hours, which could suggest that the older you are, the wiser you get about just how many roasties you can handle.

Mature man serving roast turkey on Christmas day at home
Mature man serving roast turkey on Christmas day at home

It was also revealed which regions in the UK tend to bite off more than they can chew on Christmas Day. The North West of England, Wales, London and the South East of England had the highest number of people who needed seven days to recover from overindulging.

Meanwhile, Northern Ireland, the West Midlands and the East Midlands were the best at bouncing back within 48 hours, the survey found.

Merry Bloat-mas

Though it might be tempting to throw caution to the wind and guzzle all the Christmas treats, our guts will likely thank us if we show a little bit more mindfulness.

Nutritional therapist Farzanah Nasser says: “It’s the one day of the year, or a week, where we just need to be sensible by making certain choices and by doing particular things. Mindful eating is great for improving digestion and reducing any gut-related symptoms you can experience after a meal.

Another tip is to take your time at the dinner table - it’s a marathon, not a race. “Chewing properly can be hugely beneficial in managing bloating and gas, since it is an important first step in digestion. Fast-paced eating doesn’t necessarily allow the gut ample time to break down food as efficiently, which can result in increased bloating.”

Holidays overeating concept. Close up photo of men in red winter sweater with deers holding his big tummy isolated on red background
Ever had to unbutton your jeans at Christmas dinner? (Getty Images)

Nasser adds: “If you’re eating a lot of excess fat and carbs, you’ll struggle. You’ll feel more nauseous. You’ll feel more tired and sluggish and may have more gut issues, endure bloating or feel uncomfortable in yourself.

“The kind of calorific load we’re talking about here can affect a lot of different systems. That said, it’s also important to enjoy Christmas. I don’t think it’s ever about, ‘no, you can’t have that’, it’s about reaching for the healthy options when they are available.”

Start prepping your stomach now

During Christmas, we tend to eat a lot more than we would on a normal day. Even before we sit down to the big roast, many of us will already have had a substantially indulgent breakfast, several alcoholic drinks, maybe a few mince pies and other sweet treats… It’s a lot to expect your body to adjust to suddenly.

But that’s not to say you need to start eating way more now to prepare for the big day. Instead, consider taking prebiotic and probiotic supplements to give your gut health the support it needs, suggests performance nutritionist Ed Tooley.

“Along with a healthy and balanced diet, supporting your gut health going into the Christmas period with some quality prebiotic and probiotic support is definitely the way to go,” he says.

“And we should be looking at weeks before Christmas for the best effect. We should consider it for our daily lives, even away from Christmas.”

On Christmas Day itself, it’s a good idea to exercise a bit of self discipline that will allow you to enjoy every bite without feeling overly stuffed.

“Try to be sensible about portion sizes,” Tooley advises. “Still, enjoy your food, but not every plate needs piling high or each meal turning into a three-course meal. Try not to move too far away from normal routines and amounts around eating; try to keep some balance with your food and drink. Enjoy yourself, but think of moderating some of the more triggering foods.”

Nasser’s tips for beating the festive bloat:

Rest and digest: Take time over your meals and take one forkful at a time. It’s easier said than done at the family Christmas lunch but try your best!

Practice mindfulness: Stress can be a big trigger for digestive discomfort, so practicing daily mindfulness can be incredibly effective.

Factor in fibre: Between festive gatherings, put together a few concerted veggie-based meals to help you get enough fibre, which is essential for regular bowel movements.

Drink moderately: Alcohol can lead to heightened inflammation and irritation to the gut, so never drink on an empty stomach and stick to two glasses for moderation.

Post-dinner walk: A gentle, stress-reducing walk after a meal can have a positive impact on digestion as well as our wellbeing.

Watch: "I’m making my entire Christmas dinner in an air fryer"

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