Whether the temptation was a family holiday meal, the dinner special at your favorite restaurant or an extra helping of your own delicious cooking, an overstuffed stomach makes for a miserable few hours.
While you wait for your gastrointestinal system to work its magic and digest the food, you can take some simple steps to ease your stomach discomfort.
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Loosen Things Up
When your stomach is stretched from an overabundance of food and drink, you can ease the pressure by removing anything constricting your belly from the outside. Remove anything that is squeezing you around your middle, such as a belt, tight-fitting trousers or shapewear. If possible, change into some comfy pants, a nightshirt or other loose-fitting clothing until your stomach feels better.
Let the Gas Out
When you eat a super-sized meal, you typically swallow quite a bit of air as well. So if you feel the urge to belch, go ahead and do it — assuming you're in a situation wherein doing so wouldn't be an embarrassing social faux pas.
Allowing gas to escape your stomach helps reduce the internal pressure and uncomfortable stretching. It's easiest to belch when you're in an upright position as the gas tends to rise to the top of your stomach where you can then easily expel it through your esophagus.
Go for a Walk
While you likely feel like parking yourself on the couch or taking a nap after eating too much, you will likely feel much better if you go for a nice long walk instead. Walking helps move food out of your stomach and through your intestines more quickly. It also helps relieve heartburn, which frequently accompanies stomach discomfort when you have overeaten. Walking offers the bonus benefit of helping reduce the expected rise in blood sugar and triglycerides that occurs after a meal.
Take a Break From Feasting
When you've stuffed yourself to the point of stomach discomfort, it is time to take a break from eating and drinking for at least a few hours. This gives your stomach a chance to empty. The amount of time needed to completely empty your stomach significantly increases if you have eaten a large amount of high-fat foods.
It's best to also eschew smoking and chewing gum to avoid swallowing air, further distending your already bloated stomach. When you feel up to eating again, try sticking to light low-fat fare, such a small bowl of clear soup and a cup of tea or coffee.
Consider a Digestive Aid
You might consider an over-the-counter digestive aid if your discomfort persists despite trying other measures. Chewing a couple of antacid tablets can help, especially if you are experiencing heartburn as well as stomach discomfort.
Products containing bismuth subsalicylate (Kaopectate, Pepto-Bismol) claim to relieve a variety of digestive symptoms that might plague you after eating too much, including indigestion, heartburn and stomach upset. Anti-gas products that contain simethicone (Gas-X, Mylanta Gas) are particularly helpful if you are suffering with a lot of gas and belching along with your stomach discomfort.
Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.