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How to Protect Your Gut Health (and Sanity) Over the Holidays

November 16, 2018

How to Protect Your Gut Health (and Sanity) Over the Holidays

In the past, while you might have been exhausted by the end of the holiday season, it's likely that your gut was in much worse condition. Stress, processed and sugary foods, larger portions, and too much merriment are a recipe for poor gut health. 

Your gut microbiome is often called the "second brain" because research has shown a direct correlation between it and your brain. So keeping it in good health is nearly as essential to your mental and emotional health as physical.

Make this the year that you break the pattern and put your digestive system and sanity first. By integrating the habits below, you may find yourself less stressed, and much more capable of embracing the spirit of the season.  

1. Make a Health Resolution

Rather than waiting until New Year's to make a resolution to diet and exercise, resolve to treat your digestive system kindly this season. We're not suggesting that you go crazy and deprive yourself of partaking in holiday food festivities, but instead to use moderation and think about trying out some of the following tips. 

  • Instead of piling on your plate, opt for smaller portions spaced out by an hour or two. Better yet, try to skip the second serving (at least once in a while). 
  • Try practicing some mindful eating. Put the phone down, ignore the television, and just chew slowly. Take notice of all the flavors and consistencies of the food you're eating. This may seem ridiculously obvious, but you'd be surprised at how often we eat mindlessly, often leading to undigested food. Which in turn, can lead to a myriad of digestive issues. 
  • Think about putting some perimeters on your holiday indulgences. Maybe you decide to have certain "treat days," or put a cap on alcohol intake.  Planning will usually increase your follow-through success. 
  • Make an effort to moveon a daily basis. While we’re not suggesting you run a marathon–regular, non-stressful movement (e.g., something you don’t hate doing), is highly recommended to help repair and restore your gut.

2. Rest Your Body

We know that late-night gift wrapping or holiday gatherings are sometimes unavoidable. But as much as possible, take the time to get some proper sleep. 

Not only will rest help you avoid fatigue and restore your energy levels, but it will also give your digestive system a much-deserved break. 

3. Hydrate

Between hot chocolate, specialty coffee drinks, holiday cocktails, and more, the tastiest beverages all seem to surface at this time of year. Add to this the fact that most of us are busier than ever, and drinking water becomes the last thing on our mind. 

Staying hydrated will not only reduce high blood pressure, help dispel unwanted bacteria, and keep our digestive system humming along, but will also help you feel fuller, discouraging over-eating. 

4. Nourish Your Gut Microbiome

Fortify your digestive system with plenty of prebiotics and probiotics. Probiotics are beneficial gut bacteria, and prebiotics are the food for these good gut bugs.

Here are some of the foods these two gut-healthy compounds are found in:

Powerhouse Probiotic Foods

  • Sauerkraut
  • Kimchi
  • Kefir
  • Tempeh
  • Miso
  • Pickles
  • Raw apple cider vinegar
  • Yogurt


Powerhouse Prebiotic Foods

  • Cruciferous vegetables (like broccoli and cabbage)
  • Green bananas
  • Apples
  • Berries
  • Jerusalem artichoke
  • Asparagus
  • Seaweed
  • Sweet potatoes

5. De-Stress 

Emerging science has discovered a direct link between your gut and your brain, meaning that what's going on in your gut may influence weight gain/loss, anxiety, depression, and so much more.

When you’re under stress, your microbiome is thrown into disarray and begins to act erratically. Ongoing stress has been shown to reduce microbial diversity and lower numbers of healthy gut bacteria. 

To keep your sanity and microbiome intact, there are many steps you can take to alleviate stress.

Over the holidays, we're often so concerned about making sure our house is perfect, the meal is ready on time, and everyone is kept happy, that we don't embrace the present moment, and allow stress to take over.

Give yourself a break from being sucked into the chaos and change things up this year. You'll be ahead of the game and off to a great start to kick off the New Year. 


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