- Discover what happens to your body when you overindulge on holidays
- Find out which enzymes can be beneficial to your year-round and holiday diets
- Learn how to supplement with enzymes to help manage your holiday eating habits
There’s no better reason to cheat on your diet – or go on a diet holiday, so to speak – than to enjoy a holiday feast! We have all done it and suffered the guilt afterward. Indulging in sinfully delicious foods during holiday gatherings is, after all, one of the main events of any holiday or holiday season!
Feeling bad after eating sumptuously can happen both figuratively and literally – figuratively because you fell off the healthy eating bandwagon, and literally because overeating can actually make you feel physically sick to your stomach. But if you have digestive enzymes at the ready, you can minimize your feelings of post-binge misery.
What happens when you overeat?
In general, the recommended daily calorie intake is 2,000 calories for women and 2,500 calories for men. But according to one report, consumption by a single adult during Thanksgiving celebrations, for example, skyrockets to 3,000 to 4,500 calories. If you’re going to blow your diet, you might as well go all out, right? After all, the holidays are supposed to be enjoyed.
All of those extra calories do not make you feel more energized, however. Too many calories actually have the opposite effect – they will make you feel sluggish and also often cause brain fog. Why? Because your body diverts blood and oxygen away from your brain, heart, and lungs and toward your stomach, which is working extra hard to digest the high amounts of food.
Understandably, you can’t have a genuine holiday feast without a cornucopia of sugary and fatty foods – and it’s the carbohydrate and fat overload that causes your holiday digestive distress.
You’re probably already more than acquainted with the many long-term effects of overconsuming carbs. Binging on your favorite carb-laden foods during the holidays is generally okay, as long as you’ll be getting back on track with your healthy diet efforts once the season of feasting is over. However, there are also short-term issues you’ll have to deal with, as well.
One of the immediate and most common aftereffects of eating all those creamy and sweet goodies is bloating. When you stuff yourself with too many carbs, you’re also giving your good gut bacteria a feast. The result? Gas and bloating. These microbes release a lot of gas as they also digest all of those extra carbs and as they proliferate.
Too many carbs also lead to spikes in your blood sugar, which, in turn, make you feel overstimulated one moment and crash soon after. The crash causes grogginess, headache, and fatigue.
Fats stay in the stomach the longest, compared to carbohydrates and protein. Fats are water-insoluble, so they require more complicated processes to be broken down and absorbed. As a result, too many fats slow down the emptying of your stomach into the small intestine, making you feel bloated and sluggish until the next day.
Indulging in an extra fatty feast can also cause or aggravate acid reflux or GERD.
Supplementing with digestive enzymes can facilitate easier holiday digestion
Your body naturally produces digestive enzymes to facilitate the breakdown, transport, and absorption of nutrients from the food you eat. They are secreted by the salivary glands in the mouth, the cells lining the stomach, the pancreas, and the small intestine. But when you overeat, your body may not be able to produce enough enzymes to facilitate efficient digestion.
Take note that supplementing with digestive enzymes will not prevent weight gain and other health conditions associated with the overeating of anything. But these enzymes can give your stomach an easier time digesting all that extra food and help minimize short-term tummy troubles.
Types of Digestive Enzymes
Digestive enzymes are involved throughout the digestive process – from the breakdown of foods into smaller molecules to the transport and absorption of nutrients and the excretion of waste. There are different digestive enzymes for different types of nutrients. The most important ones are below:
- Amylase, for the digestion of carbohydrates into sugar/glycogen.
- Maltase, for the digestion of maltose (a complex sugar) into glucose (a simple sugar).
- Lactase, for the breakdown of lactose, which is found in dairy products.
- Lipase, which is responsible for the breakdown of fats into fatty acids and glycerol.
- Proteases (peptidases, proteolytic enzymes, or proteinases), which break down protein into amino acids.
- Sucrase, which breaks down sucrose into fructose and glucose.
Supplementing with digestive enzymes
Digestive enzymes from whole foods and nutritional supplements can help support healthy digestion. During the holidays, a boost in digestive enzymes is undoubtedly beneficial.
Tropical fruits and fermented vegetables are a great source of naturally occurring digestive enzymes. Make sure to have some of these foods readily available during the holidays to help you speed up your digestion.
- Proteases from ginger, kefir, kimchi, kiwi, miso, papaya, pineapple, raw honey, and sauerkraut
- Amylase from banana, mango, miso, and raw honey
- Lipase from avocado, kefir, kimchi, miso, and sauerkraut
- Lactase from kefir and miso
Over-the-counter digestive enzyme supplements are available as liquids, pills, powders, capsules, or tablets. These are derived from animals, plants, or microbes. Be sure to choose high-quality supplements, such as organic, plant-based supplements that are manufactured with a quality seal, and that are free from fillers, dairy, gluten, and are non-GMO.
- Lactase supplements to help digest dairy products; these are especially beneficial for lactose-intolerant individuals.
- Bromelain is a protease derived from pineapples.
- Papain is a protease derived from papayas.
- You can also look for digestive enzyme supplements, and metabolic (also know as proteolytic) enzyme supplements to maximize digestion and absorption as well as optimize workout recovery.
Digestive enzymes for the holidays - Final Thoughts
Your body produces digestive enzymes to break down foods into nutrients and to facilitate efficient nutrient absorption. You also derive enzymes from some of the foods you eat, particularly raw, whole foods.
Under normal circumstances, your body can produce sufficient enzymes to digest the food you eat properly. But the holidays are far from normal circumstances when it comes to food consumption, however, and you can use all the help you can get in breaking down the high amounts of carbohydrates, fats, and protein you eat.
With digestive enzymes supporting healthy digestive function, you’ll be able to enjoy the holidays even better.
- Holiday eating calories: https://www.consumerreports.org/diet-nutrition/calories-in-your-thanksgiving-dinner/
- Overeating carbs: https://healthyeating.sfgate.com/recover-carbohydrate-binge-5696.html
- Overeating fatty foods: https://www.womenshealthmag.com/food/a19913093/five-days-of-fatty-foods/
- Types of digestive enzymes: https://www.webmd.com/diet/what-are-digestive-enzymes#1
- Foods that contain digestive enzymes: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/natural-digestive-enzymes