5 Tips for Taking Care of Your Gut During the Holidays

The holiday season is upon us, and amongst the busy schedules, parties, and festive treats, holiday stress is often included in the mix. There is no doubt that holiday celebrations are fun. However during this time gut health is often neglected.

Stress, lack of exercise, and poor nutrition can greatly affect the dynamics of the gut flora. This disruption can lead to unfortunate consequences such as diarrhea, bloating, upset stomach, and constipation. The holiday season should be spent enjoying time with family, and friends, not worrying about your upset stomach.

THE BENEFITS OF MICROBIOTA

The microbiota in your gut plays an important role in your overall health. Microbiota stimulates the immune system by breaking down toxic food compounds, and it synthesizes key vitamins and amino acids for the body. If that wasn’t enough, gut microbiota also ferments indigestible fibers, which leads to the production of short chain fatty acids (SCFA). These fatty acids are used as nutrient sources, and play a role in muscle function [1]. The microbiota in your gut is invaluable. It not only stimulates the immune system, but it also protects against pathogenic organisms that enter the body, and helps with overall muscle function.

On the flip side, an unhealthy gut can cause a number of negative symptoms. An unhealthy gut can manifest itself in several ways. Here are the top symptoms of an unhealthy gut:

  • Upset stomach- gas, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, and difficulty-processing foods can be a result of an unhealthy gut.
  • Increased sugar cravings- added sugar decreases the amount of healthy bacteria in the gut, and can lead to increased inflammation in the body.
  • Food intolerances- poor gut quality may be the cause of food tolerances and other food digestion problems.
  • Fatigue- serotonin, the hormone that affects mood and sleep is produced in the gut. An unhealthy gut can impair the production of serotonin.
  • Unintentional weight changes- microbiota imbalances in the gut can disrupt the body’s ability to absorb nutrients, regulate blood sugar, and process fat.

The benefits of having a healthy gut full of microbiota is convincing enough to make sure that maintaining a healthy gut is a top priority. The holidays are a busy time in the year, so we have 5 tips that will help you maintain a healthy gut!

Here are 5 tips to keep your gut healthy during the holidays:

1. REMEMBER TO HYDRATE

Staying hydrated is a very simple and easy way to maintain gut health. Drinking plenty of water has shown to be beneficial for the mucosal lining of the intestines. Remaining hydrated has also shown to help balance the amount of healthy bacteria in the gut. It is also important to note that alcoholic beverages should be enjoyed in moderation. Studies have shown that excessive alcohol consumption can cause gut microbial imbalance and impair microbiota leading to nausea, upset stomach, bloating, and diarrhea [2].

2. DON'T OVER DO IT, REDUCE YOUR STRESS

Excessive stress has also shown to decrease gut flora diversity, as well as alter gut profiles by increasing harmful bacteria and reducing beneficial bacteria. The holiday season can be demanding. High levels of stress can increase gut sensitivity, alter gut bacteria, and reduce blood flow. When holiday planning, include time to reduce your stress level through regular exercise, meditation, or deep breathing exercises.

3. EAT FERMENTED FOODS

Include fermented foods regularly into your diet during the holidays. What makes fermented foods so unique? Naturally fermented foods contain special microbes, which produce fermented foods. These foods contain a number of healthy bacteria strains for the gut. Fermented foods contain a number of healthy bacterial species including Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria, [3]. Frequently eating these types of foods can help restore the amount of healthy microbiota in your gut and prevent harmful side effects.

Fermented foods include yogurt (containing live cultures), kefir, kimchi, fermented soybean milk, tempeh, miso, soy beverages, sauerkraut, kombucha, and some pickles. It is important to note that not all fermented foods are created equally. To ensure that you are choosing fermented foods that contain probiotics, look for the words “naturally fermented” on the label. Another good way to tell if your jarred products contain probiotics is if there are bubbles in the liquid when you open it. Bubbles indicate that the product used live organisms for fermentation [4].

4. DON'T FORGET ABOUT THE PREBIOTICS

You’ve heard of probiotics, but have you heard of prebiotics? Prebiotics are just as important as probiotics when it comes to supporting your gut health. Prebiotics are indigestible carbohydrates, fibers, and resistant starches. These foods feed the healthy bacteria in the gut. Generally foods that are high in prebiotic fibers include fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains such as oats, wheat, and barley. However the highest amounts of prebiotic fibers are found in the raw versions of garlic, leeks, onions, asparagus, bananas, and seaweed [1].

5. TAKE A PROBIOTIC SUPPLEMENT

During the holiday season high sugar and processed foods are all around. Unfortunately high amounts of these foods can decrease the amount of healthy bacteria in the gut. Probiotic supplements can help to restore the healthy bacteria in your gut. Probiotics not only improve digestion and absorption of food and nutrients, they also improve immune function, and protect against harmful bacteria to prevent infection. Additionally, probiotics enhance the friendly flora in the gut, helping to create a physical barrier against unfriendly bacteria.

When choosing a probiotic supplement, it is best to choose one that contains a mixture of different probiotic species, rather than just one. A mixture of probiotic species helps maintain a diverse gut flora, which is optimal for gut health. Our probiotic supplement, Gut Health, contains 7 different strains of probiotics in just one capsule, providing you everything you need to ensure optimal gut health over the holidays.

A NOTE ABOUT ANTIBIOTICS 

The holiday season is unfortunately also cold, flu, and overall sick season. Remaining healthy, and avoiding the use of antibiotics unless absolutely necessary is also important. Antibiotics are medications used to treat bacteria causing infections. Unfortunately, the use of antibiotics can also potentially cause a decrease in the amount of beneficial bacteria and increase harmful bacteria in the gut. Taking a probiotic supplement is especially important during this time to enhance the amount of beneficial microbiota in the gut. Taking a probiotics supplement, before and after a course of antibiotics can reduce antibiotic-associated diarrhea, as well as restore beneficial gut flora [3].

We know this time of year can be eventful, and sometimes it is easy to put your own health on the back burner. This holiday season make your health a priority. These 5 tips will ensure that your gut is healthy, strong, and working synergistically so that you can enjoy the holiday season without missing a beat.

References:

  1. The Microbiome. (2017, August 24). Retrieved November 6, 2018, from https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/microbiome/
  2. Mutlu, E. A., Gillevet, P. M., Rangwala, H., Sikaroodi, M., Naqvi, A., Engen, P. A., . . . Keshavarzian, A. (2012). Colonic microbiome is altered in alcoholism. American Journal of Physiology-Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology,302(9). doi:10.1152/ajpgi.00380.2011
  3. What You Should Eat During And After Antibiotics. (2017, October 19). Retrieved November 5, 2018, from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/what-to-eat-antibiotics#section3
  4. Bilodeau, K. (2018, May 16). Fermented foods for better gut health. Retrieved November 6, 2018, from https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/fermented-foods-for-better-gut-health-2018051613841

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