Help for Holiday Tummy Troubles

Dec 14, 09:59 PM

by Katharine Koeppen, RA

It's that wonderful time of the year... for holiday parties, family reunions, festive lunches, corporate dinners and gifts of food and drink. Whether we're tempted by once-a-year delicacies at the family dinner table or a constant round of Christmas parties, the result is the same. We often overeat or indulge in too many alcoholic beverages. The consequences are bloating, gas, irritable bowel, constipation, heartburn, reflux, a general feeling of fogginess, or a host of other short-lived but unpleasant symptoms.

Aromatherapy can provide easy and fast relief for many types of digestive upset. In particular, essential oils from seeds or citrus fruits can be particularly helpful for stomach and intestinal problems due to irregular digestion or gastronomic overindulgence. Many of these oils have a regulating or antispasmodic effect on the smooth muscle tissue that lines the gastrointestinal tract.

Sweet orange (Citrus sinensis) is a gentle essential oil that is well tolerated by persons of all ages for a wide variety of digestive maladies: bloating, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), constipation, flatulence, diarrhea and stress-related digestive upset. I often combine it with Roman chamomile, a powerful analgesic and antispasmodic, when gastrointestinal upset is particularly painful (such as chronic IBS).

Sweet fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) has long been recognized as a cure for poor digestion and constipation, and is also effective for abdominal bloating. In several cultures, fennel seeds are offered to dinner guests, who chew them before or after a meal as a digestive aid. I've found fennel to be especially useful for rapidly eliminating hangovers, particularly when combined with sweet orange or lemon essential oil. I often use a few drops of these oils mixed with lubricant during a massage session on clients whose livers are congested and sluggish from too much drinking... the results are amazing!

Another excellent oil with a long history of use for gastrointestinal issues is peppermint (Mentha piperita). Peppermint is effective for nausea, and a drop or two will quickly bring an upset stomach back to normal, even via simple inhalation. It is a nice oil for children who become carsick or suffer motion sickness during holiday travel. This pungent oil is clearing to both the liver and gallbladder, and can be useful for persons who break their usual diets to overindulge in fatty foods. I do not recommend peppermint for those who have gastrointestinal reflux (GERD) or heartburn, as it can increase burning sensation in the throat if reflux occurs.

Other common essential oils which can be helpful for gastrointestinal discomfort include black pepper, cardamon seed, mandarin (good for kids), ginger and spearmint. As with the previously mentioned essential oils, these can be applied well diluted to the abdominal area in a clockwise fashion, following the direction of peristaltic movement.

If you are planning holiday travel, it's wise to include one or two of these digestive oils in an aromatherapy e-kit (My personal favorites are fennel and peppermint). A little planning can ward off a lot of potential discomfort and allow you to enjoy the Christmas spirit even if you slip up on a normally sensible diet.

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