Americans enjoy a bit of excess on Thanksgiving. Intermittent excess is important for maintaining a dynamic balance, especially if followed by deep rest. To paraphrase some sage Chinese Medicine wisdom, “Things are bound to get out of balance once in a while, might as well enjoy it.” 

Thanksgiving is a day for all kinds of excesses. The traditional foods of the day are so delicious and yet so disastrous from a food combination perspective. Amylase a digestive enzyme in the saliva begins the process to break down starches – sweet yams, and mashed potatoes. This breakdown first begins in the mouth but inhibits the hydrochloric acids in the stomach that break down proteins in the turkey.   

Then there is overeating. Eating too much complex food can release a spike of chemicals in the blood and the brain that make a person feel ‘drunk’ on the food.  In fact, alcohol is a natural byproduct of the breakdown of many foods.

What are you going to do? The relatives are here

It would be easier to hold back the ocean than to change the family tradition of the Thanksgiving Feast. Every year I feel obliged to taste my Granny’s candied yam dish and my Dad’s favorite creamed peas.  Then I remember those dishes are more than just complex carbs and proteins. I rarely see my family all together and each dish is like a piece of each of them, I think about how I will miss them when they are gone. 

Here are some ways to balance the excess a bit.

1) Take Enzymes Before and Herbs After the Big Meal

A digestive enzyme blend can be found at most grocery stores. Look for one that includes all three enzymes: amylase, protease and lactase. Amylase breaks down starches, protease breaks down proteins, and lactase breaks down dairy products. These enzymes are extra helpful 20 minutes before the first serving to help the body break down all the yummy food and fixings.

The Chinese formula – Bao He Wan is the classic formula in Chinese medicine for what is termed Food Stagnation. It is a formula that consists mainly of aromatic herbs that spark up the digestive flames to enhance metabolism. You can take them after the meal especially if you are too full. 

2) Eat Until You Are 60% Full Then Take a Walk

Just like professional athletes need to pace themselves on their athletic performance, it is important to pace your overeating. Maybe a waddle around the block could become a new family tradition. Or maybe taking a quiet solitary stroll is just the thing to air yourself out after spending so much time with family in tight quarters all day.

Move the body, swing the arms and legs. The Chinese meridians that help promote digestion are located on the front of the thighs and arms. As you walk, make sure you walk slowly and move the four limbs. This is another way to help promote the digestive process.

3) Have a Chai with the Pie

If you take a break before the pie you are in good standing for this grand finale. It’s best to wait 40 minutes between dinner and dessert — the perfect amount of time to simmer up a savory Chai. A typical Chai blend includes Cinnamon, Clove, Dried Ginger, and Cardamom (see my Superior Chai Blend). These herbs help promote digestive fire and are actually a very nice complement to the pie.     

It’s Holiday Time

It’s been a busy year for most of us. Classically this is the time to store up and conserve the body’s internal energies. Now after the Big Day it is an ideal time to take a real break. Skip the battle at the mall and instead take time to assimilate all the good food and memories, be nourished by them, enjoy the holiday and get enough rest over the weekend. Cheers!

Photo Credit: Andrea Goh