The festive period may feel a little different for all of us this year, but no doubt that won’t stop us indulging in the joy of food and drink that comes hand in hand with Christmas. With a change in diet and lifestyle, you are likely to notice changes to your bowel movements and digestion, but fear not, there are simple ways to support your gut health while still enjoying the festivities in full.
In the gut we have bacteria that exists in a perfect balance to support our digestion, immune system, hormones, skin and more. This can become imbalanced through diet, lifestyle and medication factors, and the result can affect both our mental and physical wellbeing. Adding “good” bacteria into the diet can support this balance, it can be found in fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi and tempeh but also in supplement form to ensure a consistent intake.
Once our gut has the “good” bacteria it needs we must ensure it thrives, so it’s key that this bacteria is fed with prebiotics, found in a range of plant foods, such as chicory root, leeks and oats. Our gut loves variety and Christmas is a great time to eat foods that you wouldn’t usually have throughout the year, so whatever your choice of Christmas lunch don’t shy away from the veg!
Tis’ the season to be merry after all! A glass of fizz, a cosy mulled wine, many of us tend to overdo it a little during the festive season and unfortunately this does influence our gut health. Excessive alcohol consumption may cause inflammation in the gut, leading to possible symptoms including bloating, and directly links to an imbalance in gut bacteria as mentioned above. When it comes to gut health not all alcohol was made equal, in fact red wine may be the best option, thanks to it’s polyphenol content it appears to have the ability to support the presence of beneficial bacteria in the gut. In addition to this, the spices used in mulled wine may support the normal function of the digestive system. That’s not to say you should drink your body weight in mulled wine, it is recommended to follow each alcoholic drink with a glass of water, or better yet try some of the fantastic alcohol free options!
We might not be able to get to the gym or dance the night away at a Christmas party, but maintaining regular exercise during this period may support the motility of the digestive system and normal transit time. A simple daily walk in nature would be perfect or there are an abundance of online classes, such as yoga to provide gentle movement.
This year has been a testing time for many, so whatever you are getting up to this Christmas, try to find some time to relax and switch off from work and the stresses around you. Stress has a close relationship with our gut health, which in turn has an influence on mental health. Try mindful eating, being present while eating rather than staring at a screen can support our digestion as the brain signals that the body should prepare itself for food. Away from the dinner table, you can take a few minutes each morning to find whatever form of meditation works for you, that could be a seated meditation, a walk with the dog or journaling.
Our gut is covered in a protective mucosal lining that is made up of over 98% water, therefore it’s vital that we keep hydrated. Aiming for 2 litres of water a day is a great target, but remember that this does not include caffeinated drinks or alcoholic beverages.
These are some small tweaks you can make to your day to support your gut health over this festive period. Consuming high amounts of sugar and luxurious foods will have an impact on your gut but you can certainly lessen the effects and add that extra support while enjoying yourself.