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How to avoid gut health disaster from Valentine's Day nerves

A happy young couple is on a Valentines day dinner date in a fancy restaurant.
Don't let digestive problems ruin your plans this Valentine's Day. (Getty Images)

Feeling butterflies in your stomach when you’re about to see someone you really, really like is cute - but, combined with the overindulgence of Valentine’s Day, can lead to disaster.

The big day of love is often marked by lavish romantic meals out, with many couples choosing to feast on the likes of oysters, steak, chocolate, and other foods traditionally eaten on big occasions.

But all that rich food can have an adverse effect on your digestion, which could put an abrupt end to any flirtatious conversation and longing looks over the dinner table this Valentine’s Day.

A new survey by dating app Flirtini revealed that nearly a fifth (17%) of respondents have experienced digestive problems on Valentine’s Day; with 10% even ending up in hospital!

The survey of 2,000 adults also showed that about a third (32%) of respondents ate so much during a date that they had to unzip their trousers, which is not a good look for anyone.

Other food-related mishaps that occurred on V-day included 30% of people spilling food or wine over themselves or their date during dinner.

The combination of nerves and indulgent foods during a date is what causes upset stomachs, says Walter Gjergja, chief wellness officer and co-founder of Zing Coach.

Nervous butterflies in the stomach, combined with indulgent foods could lead to disaster. (Getty Images)
Nervous butterflies in the stomach, combined with indulgent foods could lead to disaster. (Getty Images)

“The butterflies in the pit of your stomach when you head to meet your date? It isn’t just an early sign that love is in the air, but also that your body is suffering from stress and anxiety,” he explained.

“These feelings trigger the release of cortisol, a hormone that stimulates the appetite and increases cravings for high-calorie, sugary, and fatty foods. At the same time, the amygdala, the part of our brain associated with emotions, increases our desire for reward-based foods when under stress.

“Combined, they’re a toxic couple, encouraging us to overeat to cope with the emotions of dating. We spend the day worrying about how we look and the evening concerned whether we’re making a good impression, then we fill the awkward silences with another bite… until digestive issues call an early end to the date.”

To help you calm your gut this Valentine’s Day, Gjergja shared his top tips to avoid stress-induced overeating:

Mindful breathing: Take a few deep breaths before and during the date to give your mind some respite from the stress and anxiety.

Choose a comfortable setting: Opt for a familiar restaurant or somewhere with a laid-back vibe, which will help you feel at ease.

Keep the conversation light: Don’t jump straight into deep conversation. Keep it light and try to have fun. This will keep your thoughts positive and stop your heart rate from rising.

Listen to your body: Pay attention to your body’s cues while you’re eating and once you feel satisfied - not stuffed - stop.

Choose stress-relieving foods: Before you pick a restaurant, check the menu. You want plenty of omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish, flaxseeds, and walnuts; and a healthy dose of magnesium, found in leafy greens, nuts, and seeds.

Grab a tea: Not only does drinking herbal tea, such as chamomile and peppermint, help to soothe the digestive system, but it also has a calming effect on the mind.

Make a plan: If you’re a worrier, don’t just see where the night takes you. Plan an after-meal activity that aids digestion and reduces stress, such as a leisurely walk.

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