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          Dr. Strom's Monthly Newsletter

"Digest This"

December/January 2013

Christmas tummy trouble: How to avoid 'jingle bowels'

Bloating, heartburn, constipation, food poisoning, IBS... Here's how to stop over-indulgence wrecking your Christmas.

This Christmas, ­two-thirds of us will suffer from ‘jingle ­bowels’ – a range of stomach ­problems caused by a toxic combo of rich food, excess booze and stress.

“The festive season puts a huge strain on our digestive system, and when you combine the high stress levels at this time of year with excess consumption it’s a recipe for tummy trouble,” says gastroenterologist Dr Nick Read.


What is it? An uncomfortable ­bloated feeling after eating, with wind.

Christmas causes: Treats such as dried fruit, sprouts and bread sauce are common culprits.

But any food that contains yeast, sugar or ­alcohol can be a trigger as they’re hard to digest, causing gas-producing ­fermentation in your tum.

Prevent it: Keep a food diary and note which foods make you uncomfortable.

“Fizzy drinks are worth avoiding,” says Dr Read, “And say no to seconds.”

Treat it: A daily probiotic containlng ‘friendly’ stomach bacteria such as Actimel, £2.58, from supermarkets, or Super 20 Probiotic 60 ­capsules £15.95,, can ease bloating by boosting digestion.


What is it? When excess stomach acid flows back up the oesophagus, causing an uncomfortable burning feeling and bitter taste.

Christmas causes: If you’re already prone, this condition is exacerbated by booze and rich food – and according to the National Obesity Forum, we eat up to four times more than normal at Christmas!

Prevent it: “You don’t have to stuff yourself like a turkey,” says Dr Read.

“Avoiding large portions and limiting alcohol will help.”

Sit quietly for 30 minutes after meals to aid digestion, and avoid eating late at night.

Treat it: Sleep with an extra pillow to help reduce the backflow of acid.

Try Setlers Mintees, £1.29, from pharmacies, or an over-the-counter medication such as Zantac to help neutralise any stomach acid.


What is it? Difficulty emptying your bowels or not going for several days.

Christmas causes: Stodgy food, lack of fruit and veg and lazing on the sofa, can make your bowels feel sluggish.

Prevent it: “It’s all about getting enough fluids and fibre, so make sure you drink plenty of water and eat five portions of fruit and veg every day,” says Dr Read. Instead of slouching in front of the TV, aim for a brisk 30-minute daily walk to keep things moving.

Treat it: Prunes are an effective quick fix. Failing that, try an over-the-counter remedy such as Senokot Max Strength, £3.70, Boots, which contains natural plant laxative, senna.


What is it? Vomiting, diarrhoea and stomach cramps caused by eating food contaminated with bugs such as campylobacter and salmonella.

Christmas causes: According to the Food Standards Agency, December has the highest incidences of food ­poisoning. The main culprit? Improperly cooked turkey, along with poorly stored ­leftovers and buffet food.

Prevent it: Don’t wash your turkey before cooking – it’s a common cause of contamination. Only the heat from the oven will kill germs.

Allow ample cooking time, and cut into the thickest part of the meat to check it isn’t pink and that juices run clear.

Use leftovers within 48 hours and don’t leave food outside a fridge for over an hour.

Treat it: “If you succumb to food poisoning, it’s important to keep ­hydrated, so drink plenty of water mixed with some sugar and salt, or use rehydration sachets,” says Dr Read.

Try Dioralyte, £3.75, Boots). If ­symptoms are severe, call your GP.


What is it? Constipation or ­diarrhoea, or alternating bouts of each, with bloating and cramps.

Christmas causes: Rich foods and stress make IBS sufferers at risk of festive flare-ups.

Prevent it: Research has found a daily prebiotic, which feeds the healthy bacteria in your tum, may help. Try Bimuno Prebiotic ­Powder, £9.99, Boots. “Christmas is stressful, so get help to ease your load and avoid known food triggers,” says Dr Read.

Treat it: Speak to a ­pharmacist about an antispasmodic – peppermint is great. Try Holland & Barrett Extra Strength Oil of Peppermint Capsules, £4.89 for 60 –



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Carey B. Strom MD
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Beverly Hills, 90211

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