How to Optimize Gut Health Over the HolidaysWednesday Dec 21, 2022
The holidays are almost here, which means it's time to come together with family and friends. But at the center of every holiday celebration might just be the food and drinks. Does your aunt make the best and richest ooey gooey double chocolate brownies you've ever had? Or maybe you have a cousin whose mac and cheese is to die for!
The thing is, you want to be a part of all the festivities and celebrations but at the same time, you don't want to fall off track with your gut health. There's absolutely no reason at all to stress because we have you covered.
In this post, we'll be going over 8 tips that'll keep your gut health intact while still helping you enjoy the holidays and have plenty of fun.
1. Make sure your plate has plenty of fiber
Fiber is a prebiotic that the microbes in your gut love. It keeps your digestive system running like a well-oiled machine and prevents constipation (so you can actually enjoy the time you get to spend with loved ones instead of worrying about how backed up you are).
Not only is fiber a digestive lifesaver but it keeps you fuller for longer. So if weight loss is a goal of yours, it can prevent overeating during the holidays and keep you on track with your diet goals. Foods high in fiber include grains, fruits, and veggies. So fill up on foods like oats, squash, Brussels sprouts, bananas, and berries.
2. Have probiotics on hand
Probiotics are tiny microorganisms known as the “good guy” bacteria in your gut that keep your colon healthy and provide relief from gut-related conditions like IBS, SIBO, and IBD.
Not only that but a healthy gut can be a representation of your health overall, so getting plenty of probiotics is super important for your general well-being—from preventing skin issues like acne to supporting immune health, heart health, and even mental health.
Here are some great probiotic-rich foods to include in your holiday diet to keep your gut health high:
3. Fill up on resistant starches
Resistant starches are fuel for the beneficial bacteria in your gut, which means they play a major part in maintaining good gut health.
Resistant starches are made by cooking and then letting the food cool (i.e. cooked and cooled potatoes, sweet potatoes, rice, and legumes are some examples). Green (or ripe) bananas are also a good source of resistant starch. Include foods like these in your diet for a healthy gut during the holidays.
4. Go for a walk
As tempting as the post-meal nap might be, try getting up and going for a walk instead. Simply walking gets the gears in motion and initiates your digestive system. It moves food along through your digestive tract and facilitates regular bowel movements, which can help keep things like gas and bloating to a minimum. Take your family out for the Turkey Trot or Santa Run/Walk for a fun, healthy outing in holiday gear!
5. Drink your H2O
Being even slightly dehydrated can lead to digestive problems like constipation and low energy levels. With all the good food and drinks during the holidays that bring on dehydration, it's important to make sure you're drinking enough water. Staying hydrated will keep your digestive system working properly and cut down on any problems.
Drinking water doesn't have to be boring though either. You can spice things up with your water using ingredients like lemon, kiwi slices, or grapefruit that'll not only give it more flavor but enhance your gut health too. Mulling spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, clove) are also a great tasting and healthy option for switching things up with your water. They're high in antioxidants and help support your immune system during winter months.
6. Get plenty of sleep
Did you know that sleep can impact your gut health and vice versa? That's because your gut and brain share a special relationship through something known as the gut-brain connection, which basically says that the two have an impact on each other.
So while the health of your gut has a hand in your mood and sleep patterns, the reverse is also true. Sleep (or lack thereof) can impact gut health. Insufficient sleep causes stress, which can lead to inflammation that wreaks havoc on your gut.
Definitely still enjoy time with your family and friends but know when to call it a night and aim for between 7-9 hours of sleep each night.
7. Find time to relax and ease stress
Let's be honest, the holidays can be a stressful time. You're running around, planning this, coordinating that, and sometimes, it can get overwhelming. If you plan on hosting this holiday season, that can add an entirely new dimension to your responsibilities and stress levels, which can have a negative impact on your health.
When you're stressed, your body releases cortisol, which is a hormone that can hinder digestion and other gut-related processes. It's not uncommon for stress to be a trigger for symptom flare-ups in those with conditions like ulcerative colitis, for example.
To combat the stress and pressure that comes with the holidays, take some time for yourself to decompress each day. That might look like 15-20 minutes of mindfulness meditation to center yourself and calm your mind. Or maybe you de-stress by practicing yoga. If that's the case, check out these 13 yoga poses for better digestion and gut health.
8. Have fun over the holidays
At the end of the day, the holidays are about coming together and enjoying your time with family and friends. So enjoy it! Don't stress too much about overindulging or being 100% perfect with everything. Have fun and focus on making lasting memories!
We've gone over 8 tips to help you stay on track with your gut health during the holidays but still enjoy your time with family and friends. At the end of the day, remember that the holidays are about relaxing and having fun.
However, that definitely doesn't mean you have to go off the rails with your gut health. Keep the following tips in mind as you head into the holidays:
- Make sure your plate has plenty of fiber
- Have probiotics handy
- Add some resistant starches to the mix
- Get up and go for a walk
- Drink your H2O
- Prioritize sleep
- Make time to relax and decompress
- Have fun over the holidays!
About the Author
Chad Richardson is a freelance writer from Cincinnati, OH who also enjoys going to the gym and doing his best Arnold Schwarzenegger impersonation, scrolling through Netflix trying to find a new binge-worthy show, and catching a game to root on his hometown sports teams.