Don’t let stomach cramps or an upset tummy get in the way of your celebrations.
Having problems with your digestion is uncomfortable and painful even more so when you want to relax and socialise with loved ones.
The best way to minimise gut problems during the festive season is to be on the defense and take good care of your gut flora.
Gear up your gut so that you can truly enjoy the food, good company and time off.
7 ways to take care of your gut during the festive season
- Start your festive days with a punch – stock up on probiotics
Begin your day by eating foods with probiotics. Good choices include kefir or Greek yogurt, as these dairy products are full of essential nutrients and healthy bacteria that promote gut balance.
By starting your day with probiotics, you are providing your gut with beneficial bacteria that can help with digestion. This is especially beneficial on a day filled with festive eating.
- Know your trigger foods
Many of the most popular holiday foods (and drinks) are packed with fat and sugar and can trigger gut problems.
Think about which foods have affected your gut health in a negative way in the past. Make a list of these items and try to avoid or minimise eating them.
Opt for nutrient-rich and tasty alternatives this season to avoid gut damage.
- Don’t eat too much
Rather than piling your plate with big servings, follow the plate method.
This method of dishing food does not only promote portion control but also helps you to eat less trigger foods and more gut-friendly foods.
How to follow the plate method:
- Fill half your plate with fruit and vegetables
- Fill one-quarter with protein
- Fill one-quarter with carbohydrates
The best way to eat healthy during the holidays is to practice self-control. It’s okay to indulge but do so in moderation as overeating can lead to digestive issues like gas, bloating, and heartburn. Eating too many trigger foods, such as saturated fats and sugar, can also worsen these problems.
It takes about 20 minutes for your brain to register that you feel full. Practicing mindfulness while eating can help you to not overeat.
How do I eat more mindfully?
- Put your utensils down between bites
- Sip water between bites
- Chew your food thoroughly before swallowing (this helps improve digestion)
- Move your body
Regular exercise can assist in maintaining efficient digestion.
By simply walking, nutrients and acids will move through your intestines quicker than if you were sitting still. This reduces the likelihood of heartburn, acid reflux, and bloating.
If you don’t have time for your usual exercise routine, try to incorporate some movement into your day with loved ones.
You could go for a post-meal walk, dance, swim or do some gardening.
- Spend time with people who make you feel relaxed
A 2019 study focussed on the effect of visiting in-laws on gut health.
Interestingly, the study found that dinner with the in-laws resulted in a decrease in a bacteria called Ruminococcus.
Having less of these bacteria is associated with psychological stress and depression. This suggests that stress associated with visiting in-laws during the holidays can change the gut microbiome.
More research needs to be done on this topic and how stressful relationships affect your gut.
Most importantly, it is best to spend time with people in whose presence you feel comfortable, whether that is your in-laws or not.
These findings suggest that being social and spending more time with loved ones may have a beneficial impact on gut health and the diversity of your gut microbiome.
- Drink water
Drinking water offers numerous advantages, such as flushing out bodily waste and regulating blood pressure.
Water is also essential for a healthy gut and good digestion.
Drink a glass of water before your big, festive meal and take sips of water during the meal.
This will help keep you hydrated and can also help that you don’t overeat.
If you don’t like to drink water, try adding some natural flavours, like mint or slices of lemon, to your water.
You can also drink hot water after your meal. Some people believe that drinking hot water can greatly help with digestion. This is because hot water has the ability to break down food that the body may have struggled to digest.
- Limit alcohol
During the holiday season, it is common for people to drink wine or cocktails at social events and with family.
But excessive alcohol consumption can negatively impact our digestive system. It may lead to issues such as diarrhoea, gas, and bloating.
Studies have also found that persistent and heavy alcohol intake can disrupt the balance of beneficial and harmful bacteria in the gut.
Never drink alcohol on an empty stomach
Consuming alcohol without eating food can intensify its impact on the body. What you may be unaware of is that it also weakens your intestinal lining, making it more susceptible to damage. To safeguard both your intestinal lining and microbiome, be sure to have a complete meal before indulging in a glass of wine.
Opt for gin or red wine
High-quality tequila is actually a prebiotic drink, made from fermented agave. It has a few other health benefits, too, including blood sugar-balancing properties. Switch out your sugary mixer for sparkling mineral water and a splash of citrus.
Red wine contains antioxidants and polyphenols (which help diversify your microbiome). Although red wine is sweet, the sugar is natural, and it’s typically less than liquors like rum or sugary mixed drinks.
The rich and sugary festive food can be tough on your tummy. Take good care of your gut health during the holidays so that you don’t have to experience pain and discomfort due to problems with your digestion.
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