It is hard to avoid food during the Chinese New Year, not that many of us will want to. From reunion dinners to the food served to guests during house visits, not to mention the side trips to the mamak stall to catch up with friends or detours to various restaurants marked on blogs or Foursquare as “must try or die!” during the balik kampung trip ... Chinese New Year is a time when one is practically deluged with food!
For people whose stomachs are prone to indigestion and other tummy problems, enjoying all that food can cause more than just eater’s remorse – it can lead to a degree of discomfort and even pain.
The indigestible truth
Indigestion (or dyspepsia) differs from one person to another.
Some symptoms of indigestion to watch out for
- An uncomfortable bloated or full feeling
- Nausea, vomiting
- Growling stomach, gas, belching
- Burning feeling in your stomach or upper belly
- Belly pain
- Acidic taste in the mouth
Just like its symptoms, the causes of indigestion may differ from person to person.
- It may be caused by an underlying medical condition, such as ulcers in the stomach lining, gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD), stomach infections and more. If you experience constant indigestion over a long period of time, or the symptoms are particularly painful, you should consult a doctor.
- Certain medications may cause indigestion too. Pain relievers such as aspirins, birth control pills, and certain antibiotics are just some examples. If you notice that you experience symptoms after taking certain medications, discuss with your doctor or pharmacist about switching to a less irritable brand or type of medication.
- Even your eating habits or diet may be the cause. Indigestion may occur when you eat too fast or too much, or when you eat while feeling stressed. Fatty food, alcohol and smoking may contribute to indigestion too.
Fortunately, indigestion often goes away on its own after a while. If you wish for the symptoms to go away a little quicker, there are always antacids that can be found over the counter in pharmacies.
Tips for the tender tummy
Try these tips this Chinese New Year, so that you can enjoy all the yummy food without having to deal with indigestion:
- If you anticipate being served a lot of food, and you know that you are a quick eater by habit, have a light snack first so that you won’t be so hungry when the food is served.
- Try to eat slowly. Chew your food a little longer, take sips of water or talk to the people around you in between swallows, take smaller portions each time – these are just some things you can try.
- Don’t get tempted by the alcohol – cut back or abstain. Your stomach will thank you for it!
- Wear something loose and comfortable. Tight clothing can put pressure on your stomach and hamper the smooth ‘going down’ of food into that part of your body.
- Avoid vigorous physical activity until after at least 1 hour after a full meal. Relax, sit back, and catch up with people at the dining table!
- Wait at least 3 hours after a full meal before you go to bed.
Foods to watch out for
- Milk and dairy products. Milk sugar (lactose) is hard to digest, and can cause gas or bloating especially in people who are lactose-intolerant. Choose instead lactose-free alternatives (yoghurt, cheese, etc).
- Spicy foods such as curries. They can stimulate the digestive system, possibly causing indigestion as a result.
- Acidic foods such as Mandarin oranges and soft drinks. Just like spicy foods, they may irritate the digestive system.
- Fatty and fried foods. All the excess oil and fat can cause your stomach to empty slower, leading to indigestion, diarrhoea and more. You can enjoy these foods, of course, but eat slowly and in small portions. Choose the less fatty or oily dishes whenever possible.
- Chocolates. They can cause heartburn and indigestion when eaten in excess, so enjoy yours in moderate portions and space your ‘chocolate time’ over a few hours in a day.
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