Did you have an overly indulgent weekend? Are you feeling bloated this week?
Do you feel like your stomach is churning? With the holidays in less than a month (yikes!) it’s time to start thinking about how you’re going to fit all of these hearty meals in while wearing your holiday outfits!
Post-meal discomfort can be a huge barrier to enjoying the holidays both before and after meal time, and that’s why there’s a need for quick remedies. Sufferers of bloating, cramping, and constipation usually gravitate to over the counter digestive aids, peppermint tea, ginger, and supplements.
However, there is another fix that may provide quick relief of gastrointestinal discomfort: physical positioning of the body. With digestion being quite physical in nature with both breaking down and moving the food, gasses, and waste through our body, physical movement is an convenient and helpful solution.
Digestion has a two components: mechanical and chemical. Mechanical is where actual movement of the teeth or stomach breaks down our food; and chemical, being stomach acid or saliva breaking down foods, and both of these happen all along the digestive tract from start to finish.
Typically through a variety of positions, we can use gravity, and our body tissues, to our advantage, aid in digestion. This is actually commonly seen in infants where “the bicycle” is recommended to relieve stomach discomfort and constipation.
Our stomachs lie on the left side of our abdomen, just under our ribs, and empty downward towards the right side. Lying on the right side is said to promote “gastric emptying”, where the food exits the stomach for the small intestine, by using gravity as a guide. The orientation of the organs is also key for abdominal self massage after a meal. Rubbing the stomach in a clockwise (on yourself/left to right) circles over the entire abdomen, can help with early digestion, while due to the opposing direction of the large intestine, rubbing counter clockwise aids in waste removal and gas discomfort.
Here are some recommended yoga based poses that can help relieve post meal discomfort.
Wind Relieving Pose: It’s all in the name! Lying on your back, bring your knee to your chest, and hug it. Add in a gentle rock from side to side for extra massage. Pull your extended thigh into the ground and point your toes to the ceiling. This pose is similar to “the bicycle” that new parents are told to do with their little ones for constipation.
Burrito Pose: Lying on your belly, on the floor, with a pillow or rolled towel (about five inches) under your abdomen. Place a yoga block or pillow under your forehead to keep your weight on your abdomen. The pressure on the stomach is the key. This pose works by adding weight to the pressure already being created by the muscle of the digestive tract.
Child’s Pose: Starting on your hands and knees, lower your bum to your heels. If you’re tight, you can spread your knees a little for more comfort. This pose again puts pressure on the abdomen and promotes digestion. It’s actually a great way to get some relief if you have a stomach ache!
Twist: Twists increase digestion by increasing blood flow and stretching by getting things moving! Start in wind relieving pose, but instead of hugging your right knee, guide it towards the floor on the left side of your body. Extend the right arm out to the right side across the floor, and encourage the right knee to the floor on your left side.
Cat/Cow: Start on all fours, hands under shoulders, knees under hips. Exhale and bring your back to the ceiling in a dome shape. Draw your belly button towards your spine. As you inhale, drop your belly to the floor in an exaggerated movement, curving your spine downward. This breathing sequence can be done 10-15 times to create some movement in the belly.
For more positions of relief or help with post meal bloating and discomfort, a manual therapist, naturopath, or dietician can provide positions and supplementation, or guidance for ease in digestion.