Ask the Pro: Overindulging this Festive Season

Holiday stuffing!

by SHFamily | Thu, December 21, 2017

Dr Akiko Tomonari, Internist and Gastroenterologist at ParkwayHealth, talks about overindulging this festive season.

Why do people overindulge in food and drink in December?

There are mainly two reasons. Firstly, you get to see so many friends and relatives you might not usually see, so what better reason is there to eat, drink, and celebrate? Everyone will be in high spirits, and this can lead to drinking and eating more than usual, so it’s very easy to overindulge due to the atmosphere. Secondly, people tend to consume more when it’s right in front of them. During the festive time, foods are often not served per person, but rather in family-style buffets which everyone shares. This means you can take as much as you want, and it’s harder to keep track of how much you have already consumed.

Christmas Turkey

What health issues could arise from overeating?

A large amount of food and drink at once can increase the pressure in your stomach, and this means that the foods and acid are more easily re fluxed into the esophagus. This can lead to gastroesophageal reflux, an inflammatory condition of the esophagus which can show as heartburn. The stomach itself will need to work overtime to digest all of the food, and this may also lead to upper abdominal discomfort or pain. Food during the holiday season tends to be very rich. Eating too much of these foods can lead to many diseases, such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, and gout.

Family Christmas Meal

Should people keep an eye on their drink intake?

If so, why? Too much alcohol can lead to liver problems, which can be acute or chronic. Acute alcoholic hepatitis can be life-threatening, and alcohol intake should be closely watched during the holiday season. Drinking alcohol inhibits decision making, so drinking more may lead to drinking more. Also, alcohol is absorbed by simple diffusion in the stomach, leading to a “thinning” of the stomach wall. This can lead to gastritis and bleeding or ulcers in the stomach, if exposed to a substantial amount of alcohol for a long time. Long term effects of alcohol include vitamin deficiency, mineral imbalance, and even brain damage.

Christmas Drinks

How do you know when enough is enough?

In Japan, there is a saying “Eat until you are 80 percent full.” Japan is usually always in the top three in the world for longevity, so we should probably listen to their advice. If you think you want one more piece of turkey, one more mouthful of cake, or one more ladle of gravy, you should stop. That “one more” is the borderline between too much and just right. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) in the United States has estimated consumption amounts of alcohol that increase health risks. Men under age 65 should not drink more than 14 standard drinks per week on average, or more than four drinks on any day. Women (and men 65 years and older) should not drink more than seven standard drinks per week on average, or more than three drinks in any one day.

Christmas Dinner

How can people keep a track of their F&B consumption?

Serving food per-person will help track intake; when you finish your serving, it means that you have had enough. Having your own bottle, or can, of drinks will make it easier to count how many glasses you’ve had as well. Monitoring how long you’ve been eating or drinking throughout the day will also help in limiting intake. You can set your own rules; for example, no eating after 9pm, and no drinking alcohol after 10pm. During the festive season, everyone is happy, and good food and alcohol are flowing. Eating and drinking slowly will help in preventing you from overindulging. Though, limiting too much will limit the fun. The key is to find a healthy balance, where you can draw the line between too much and too little.