How to Conquer Your Food Hangover

‘Tis the season for excess—and we’re not just referring to eggnog. If you overdid it at dinner, we’ve got your recovery plan.

After overindulging in rich holiday fare (or simply eating too much), you wake up bloated and sluggish. “You’ve basically exceeded the capacity of your gastrointestinal [GI] tract to digest food,” says Dawn Wiese Adams, M.D., an assistant professor of medicine of gastroenterology at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, in Nashville. The food just sits there until it can be digested and transported through the GI tract, which can leave your stomach and small intestine distended and your belly aching.

1

Eat!

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Photo by Devonyu/Getty Images

“People often undereat or avoid food completely to make up for overeating the day before,” says Keri Gans, R.D., a dietitian in New York City and the author of The Small Change Diet. But fasting can backfire. “By the end of the day, you’re so hungry, you could easily end up overeating again.” Instead, have a meal high in fiber and low in salt, and drink plenty of water.

2

Get moving.

“Cardio exercise—a brisk walk or a bike ride—speeds up gastrointestinal motility,” says Adams. And the endorphins released by the activity will boost your mood, making you feel less crummy overall.

3

Try ginger and mint.

Numerous studies have shown that ginger can relieve mild to moderate nausea. Have some ginger tea, or just grate fresh ginger into warm water. And peppermint oil has been found to ease symptoms such as bloating, gas, and abdominal cramps by calming the GI tract (in a study of people with IBS). One note: Peppermint can exacerbate reflux, so if you’re prone to heartburn, skip the mint and neutralize stomach acid with an antacid instead.