While I don’t assume you’ll be taking part in Saturnalia on December 25th, let’s be honest… you may be asked to visit with family you haven’t seen in a while at this time of year.

And you’ll likely be eating a meal or two together… food that is contrary to your regular diet (albeit clean food, that is), which means your tummy is likely to be a little irregular.

That can lead to gastrointestinal problems.

So, to make sure you don’t spend a lot of time in the restroom, let’s talk about how your gut works and how to keep it happy.

You can probably remember a nerve-wracking situation that made you sick to your stomach — there’s actually a scientific reason for that. In fact, it can happen the other way around, too. If your gut doesn’t feel good, it can in turn, affect your emotions. Here’s why…

Your brain and your gut are connected by a separate nervous system all their own called the enteric nervous system. Some people call it the second brain.

The second brain takes care of all of the business of digestion so that your primary brain doesn’t have to think about it. It’s automatic, which explains why it’s part of a larger nervous system called the autonomic nervous system that also regulates your heartbeat, breathing, etc.

Without getting too complicated, here’s how the whole brain-gut nervous system can get out of whack…

Let’s say you’re getting ready to eat a meal with relatives you haven’t seen in a while. Apprehension about the visit will slow down your digestion. That’s because things like emotions or even physical exertion take your body’s focus away from digestion, causing upset stomach, gas and all the rest of it.

It’s like a see-saw action: if emotions are high, digestion is slow.

It can happen the other way around, too. If you’ve eaten too much for your body to handle all at once, bacteria begins to grow, which creates discomfort, which then affects your mood — causing you to be grumpy, which could ruin the whole family get-together.

So what’s the solution? Chill out.

According to ancient medicine, you should rest for at least 30 minutes after the meal, preferably in the reclining position. It’s also important to pay attention to which side you recline on; it actually makes a difference in how well your body digests.

Lying on your left side helps your body use gravity to help the flow of the digestive process. Reclining, of course, helps you relax, too, so that your emotions do not interfere with digestion.

Finally, it’s best to avoid snacking a couple of hours before and after a big meal. You’ll be able to digest a big meal better and ensure that emotions are kept in check with all those outlaws… I mean “in-laws”… until you can convince them to give up the yuletide nonsense and adopt the Feasts of the LORD.

Shalom.

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