Holidays are infamous for expansive dinner menus, catching up with family over glasses of wine, indulging in decadent desserts, and days of overeating resulting in long naps on the couch. Saying the holidays are tough on your digestive system is an understatement. November through January are known for high stress, activities and travel, and indulgent food and alcohol … which all take a serious toll on your gut health.
Why is your gut health important?
The digestive system plays a crucial role in our overall immune health and gastrointestinal (GI) problems can hurt your entire body and can lead to everything from allergies and acne to arthritis and cancer.
The gut is a huge chemical factory that helps you digest your food, regulate hormones, get rid of toxins and produce healing compounds that keep you healthy. Too many of the wrong ones ... or not enough of the good ones ... can lead to serious damage. Your gut guides your overall well-being.
Tips for keeping your gut healthy during the holidays:
- Don’t overdo it. Portion control is key. Overeating or drinking too much alcohol can create stomach distress, causing your gut to become imbalanced and upset. Remember, your body likes predictability. Eating smaller portions that your gut is used to and taking time to chew and eat your food slowly will help digestion and allow you to try more things. Remember, your eyes may be bigger than your stomach.
- Hydrate. With all the excitement for festive holiday drinks and dishes, drinking water is the last thing on most people’s minds. However, drinking water is essential to keeping your digestive system well-lubricated and moving, helping to avoid constipation from dehydration and stress. When you start to feel those hunger pangs, drink water.
- Stay active. It’s hard to stick to your regular exercise routine during the holidays, but maintaining your active lifestyle is very important to your body functioning at its norm. Increased metabolism, protective effects on the GI tract, and decreased risk of disease are just a few benefits of exercise. Make an effort to stay active this holiday season, whether it’s going for a walk around the neighborhood, doing a quick at-home workout before guests arrive, or taking the dog to the park.
- Get your beauty sleep. Eight hours is the recommended amount of time for a healthy night’s sleep. When your body is at rest, it has a chance to reset itself. Lack of sleep leads to decreased overall functionality and puts extra stress on our digestive systems. It’s easy to stay up late at family parties and wake up early for special sales, but maintaining a consistent sleep routine is important for gut health. Your body likes predictability. Plus, being awake for those extra hours might lead you to take a few unnecessary trips to the fridge.
- Know your “no no” foods. It’s very easy to succumb to all the starch, sugar and alcohol loaded options at the dinner table. Trust your gut. If you have identified the types of foods you are sensitive to, there shouldn’t be an “only on holidays” rule. Have a back-up plan. Bring a dish that you love and know has ingredients you can eat. Or pack some extra snacks like veggies or nuts that will keep you full if your options are limited.