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UPMC Physician: Don’t Let Stomach Pain Ruin Your Holiday

The holiday season can provide stress on our bodies, especially the stomach. Holiday meals, lots of cookies, traveling, and stress can all cause pain in our gut. But don’t let that keep you away from your family and the dinner table. There are ways to keep you jolly and jovial into the new year.
Preventing Stomach Pain

No one knows your body like you. It’s important not to go overboard on sweets or a holiday feast. Stay away from foods that typically give you problems, such as rich or buttery dishes, fatty meats, sauces, and high-fat desserts. Pace yourself, put some leftovers in the refrigerator and live to eat another day.

Don’t forget to eat slowly, too. This can help your stomach communicate to your brain that you are full and will keep you from reaching for an antacid. Food isn’t the only thing that can cause your stomach problems. Holiday drinks that are sugary or creamy can also cause indigestion.

It’s always smart to prepare for a large meal as well. Drinking plenty of water and eating fiber-rich foods such as whole grains, beans, fruits, vegetables, and nuts can help keep your digestive system running smoothly.

Dealing With Stomach Pain

It’s easy to get overexcited when a whole holiday spread is laid out in front of you. Ham, prime rib, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, stuffing, cookies, pies, cakes, it’s easy to get excited. We’ve all been there at one point where we overindulge, eat enough for three people, loosen our belts, and pass out on the couch. If you do overeat this holiday season — and it’s certainly not a requirement — there are ways to mitigate the effects of a food coma and to keep yourself going.
– Take a walk – A relaxing stroll with family can help stimulate your digestive system and even out your blood sugar levels.
– Drink water – Don’t chug until you feel sicker. Take sips after a big meal. It can help your body rid itself of excess salt. It can also help prevent constipation. Continue to drink water throughout the day to help keep you hydrated.
– Don’t lie down – This one may be hard to do but it’s very important. Stay busy by doing the dishes or going for a walk. When you lie down with a full stomach, food can work its way back up. This can slow digestion and worsen acid reflux.
– Medicine – Over the counter medications such as antiacids and upset stomach reliever are good ways to help with stomach and digestive issues.

Don’t Forget to Relax

With all the hustle and bustle, travel plans, accommodating family, cleaning, cooking, gift-wrapping, it’s easy to get stressed out. Do your best to stay calm, cool, and collected while the holiday ham burns in the oven.

Many people with chronic stomach issues report that stress makes their symptoms worse. Relaxation techniques and mind/body exercises, such as yoga and meditation may help, especially when combined with other forms of treatment.

If traveling increases your stress level, plan out your holiday, and pack for peace of mind. Consider your destination and what you need to make the trip enjoyable. Make sure you pack everything you need in advance if you are staying at a hotel with family, including healthy beverages and snacks to ease stress and minimize your chances of digestive symptoms.

by Marcus Powers, M.D.
UPMC Primary Care

Marcus Powers, M.D. is with UPMC Primary Care and sees patients at UPMC Family Medicine at Lock Haven, 610 High St., Lock Haven. To schedule an appointment with Dr. Powers, call 570-748-1250. For more information, visit