Maintaining gut health during the holidays is all about balance and mindfulness. By staying hydrated, prioritizing fiber-rich foods, incorporating probiotics, practicing mindful eating, engaging in regular exercise, being aware of trigger foods, and managing stress, you can enjoy the festive season while keeping your digestive system happy and regular. Remember, it’s not about deprivation but about making conscious choices that support your overall well-being. Cheers to a happy and healthy holiday season!
How to Keep Your Gut Happy (and Regular) Over the Holidays
Yes, you can drink the eggnog and eat the cookie, but follow these tips to avoid stressing out your gut.
And so it begins: Thanksgiving recipes online and Christmas decorations in the stores. It’s the season for entertaining and eating. When I think about this time of the year, visions of family, feasts and fun come to mind, but holiday meals can be fraught with stress and excess due to overeating, minimal exercise, extra calories from booze and sweets and a lesser intake of healthy produce and fluids.
The end result of all the festivities can be a GI tract under duress. So here are some tips to help your gut thrive, not just survive the holidays.
Try sticking to a regular schedule when it comes to:
- When you eat.
- How much you eat.
For many people, holidays signal a vacation from routine when it comes to eating, exercise and sleep. More parties, more entertaining and more goodies in the office may sound delightful but can be frightful when it comes to good gut health.
I have many patients who find that they are more bloated, gassy, constipated or making more frequent trips to the bathroom at this time of the year. Our gut is a creature of habit and likes consistency, so when the routine is interrupted, good gut health is disrupted.
To keep your gut health in check, try to be consistent with sleep, meal timing and food volume. Also take the time to sit down to eat instead of grab and go.
Sleep is a time for the body to rest, restore and recover. If you overeat too close to bedtime, your gut is busy digesting instead of resting, and you may experience indigestion or reflux. Try to cut off eating about 90 minutes before bed. This isn’t limited to only food, but also includes beverages with calories, such as hot cocoa, eggnog, a night cap or smoothie. That Irish coffee may be delicious, but if you want sound sleep, a decaffeinated beverage may be a better option.
Another challenge to good gut health over the holidays is meal consistency. Your regular eating routine may be challenged by impromptu get-togethers or entertaining extravaganzas. Control what you can by starting the day with a healthy breakfast and make an effort to not go too many hours without eating or hydrating.
I’m a big fan of the saying “never eat anything larger than your head!” So maybe not the entire tray of cookies, pitcher of eggnog, turkey or pumpkin pie.
Yes, you may overindulge on the delicious eats that you only have once a year, but that doesn’t mean you have to eat to the point that you feel you’re going to burst.
Ways you can minimize overeating:
- Portion your plate.
- Sit down.
- Take your time, enjoying every bite.
If you’re still hungry, you can always have more. But rather than tucking into a plate that’s overflowing, try small servings first. Your gut will thank you.
This time of the year is all about the rush – to the mall, the grocery store, family dinners and holiday events. All that dashing around isn’t good for your gut. So build in some digestion time after meals. No need to rush through a Thanksgiving meal to hurry and get the dessert on the table. Take a breather, sit and chat or get outside for some fresh air. This helps you to better digest and then have some room for the rest of your meal too.
The hallmark of the holiday season is the food. Tables laden with meats, sides and delicious sweets may be a recipe for overconsumption. An abundance of treats at the office, food gifts and special holiday dishes can do number on your gut.
So think about the composition of your plate: Try for one third of the plate as produce, one third as protein and a third as carbs, which would include pasta, rolls, rice, potatoes, desserts and caloric-containing beverages such as alcohol.
To keep your digestive health in line, think about what you include on your plate over the holidays. For example, making sure you get enough fiber can help to keep you regular and minimize GI distress.
Keep the fiber on your plate with fruits, vegetables, beans and high-fiber cereals to provide the fill up, not fill out factor. A higher fiber appetizer, such as veggies and bean dip, bean soups, salad, or even an apple or pear with a spread of nut butter takes up some stomach share, leaving less room, so you may not be as inclined to overeat.
In addition, it’s a good idea to have a good gut survival kit handy. This could include:
- Prunes, which work as effectively as a natural fiber supplement to help with regularity.
- Chamomile tea, which functions as an antispasmodic. In other words, it helps to relax the gut so you may feel less uncomfortable after meals.
- Ginger, which helps settle an upset stomach.