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Eat what you want and still be merry this Christmas; 'Tis the season of excess, but festive overindulgence can come at a cost. NEL STAVELEY dishes up tips for keeping any uncomfortable side-effects at bay.

ATING your bodyweight in turkey and chocolate is part of the joy of Christmas, right? EThere's nothing wrong with loosening the belt a little and enjoying the treats on offer - it is just once a year, after all.

However, with estimates totting our average Christmas Day calorie intake to around 6,000, according to the British Dietetic Association, it's little wonder many of us are left lolling on the sofa, groaning in discomfort come the EastEnders special (not to mention kicking ourselves when we step onto the scales come January).

Want to crunch your way through Christmas without all the overindulgence-induced punishment? Tuck into this guide for starters...

INDIGESTION AND HEARBURN HERE we go, second helping of turkey in and suddenly there's the genuine panic that your stomach lining is about to explode, soon followed by pain, belching and acid reflux/heartburn. Yes, we have all been there.

"Occasional indigestion linked with stress or overeating is common," says GP and nutritionist Dr Sarah Brewer. "If simple antacids aren't strong enough, tablets that switch off acid production are available over the counter."

Milk Thistle, a traditional herbal medicine, may also help ease over-indulgence, indigestion and an upset stomach.

| PREVENT IT: You might not want to hear it, but Rob Hobson, head of nutrition for Healthspan, says: "Try eating smaller meals and waiting a short time before you decide to eat a second helping of food. Eating slowly can also help, as you stimulate the enzymes required for digestion.

"Go easy on fatty, rich foods, as these take the longest to digest and so aggravate indigestion and heartburn. Try to choose more of the starchy carbohydrates and lean proteins on offer, as they can help to stimulate more bile and improve digestion."

Rob also stresses: "Mint tea is useful to relieve bloating but not heartburn, as it relaxes the gut wall which may encourage reflux."

CONSTIPATION NEVER ideal, but certainly not when there's a houseful of guests waiting for the bathroom...

"Constipation is an embarrassing condition that can be due to not eating enough fibre (from fruit, vegetables, wholegrain cereals) and not drinking sufficient fluids," explains Dr Brewer.

Use an over-the-counter remedy, or go old-school and just up your quota of fruit and veg (no, another roast potato doesn't count, sadly).

Be sure to drink enough water too.

| PREVENT IT: "Taking fibre supplements can help to maintain healthy bowels," says Dr Brewer. Or, in the shortterm, you can just balance out your piles of rich turkey/sausages with fibre-heavy vegetables - the BDA advises that a third of your plate should be veggies (and again, roast potatoes don't count).

BLOATING OH THE joy of the sprout: looks horrible, tastes horrible, then leads to even more horrible gas (due to tiny sugars that are hard for the body to digest). Combine that with general overstuffing of other foods, and it's no wonder things get a little 'windy' after the festive feast.

Dr Brewer recommends artichoke supplements "as one of the best supplements for feeling bloated", and explains: "It rapidly increases liver production of bile to improve digestion and can be taken before or after a party."

Rob adds: "Try soothing teas such as chamomile, ginger and peppermint after your meals."

| PREVENT IT: Go easy on the sprouts, obviously, and also go easy on the speed you devour your grub.

When you wolf down food, you let too much air into your digestive tract and also fail to chew properly, meaning larger pieces of food will be trapped in your stomach, and your digestive system has to work harder to break everything down.

This all contributes to that uncomfortable feeling of bloating.

HANGOVERS A HEALTHSPAN poll revealed that most women rate their stress levels as seven out of 10 during Christmas - and one in 20 said they tended to drink more alcohol as a result. They are not the only ones; apparently the average festive season booze consumption in the UK is a hangover-fromhell-inducing 62 units.

Everyone has their own views on what constitutes a good hangover cure, but nutritionists suggest hot water with lemon, ginger to ease nausea, and low GI foods like porridge to up your blood sugar levels slowly. And drink a lot of water to rehydrate yourself too.

| PREVENT IT: The old ones are the best: be mindful of how many units you're consuming, alternate alcoholic drinks with water, don't drink on an empty stomach, and drink a pint of water before you go to bed.

CAPTION(S):

| Experts... Dr Sarah Brewer and Rob Hobson from Healthspan

| Go easy on the sprouts to avoid bloating

"Occasional indigestion linked with stress or overeating is common
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Birmingham Mail (England)
Date:Dec 15, 2015
Words:773
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