Christmas is the time of the year where we indulge - and I'm all for that, good foods are to be enjoyed!
But it's not only on Mum's Christmas cake and roast turkey we indulge in, our alcohol consumption often goes through the roof as well. We know that alcohol is toxic in large quantities and chronic consumption plays havoc on our gut. It contributes to inflammation, leaky gut and disrupts our good gut bacteria. Which all means that your tummy won't be feeling so jolly come Boxing Day!
Knowing the challenges we are going to throw our Guts way over the silly season I thought I would put together a few tips so you don't end up feeling like you could give Santa and his belly a run for its money! 😂
1. Eat mindfully
A really simple piece of advice is to eat mindfully - so simple yet such a hard thing to do, especially when we are distracted. Chew your food properly, enjoy the conversations at the Christmas table but make sure you do pay a little attention to what you are eating. The other area that being more mindful is important is when it comes to snacking - standing around talking, with a beverage in hand can often mean we excessively snack on foods we shouldn't! (#guilty).
2. Tummy pleasing snacks
Speaking of snacks - they can be where we all fall off the wagon - so taking some time to be a little more prepared with some healthy snacks can be a lifesaver. You don't need to be Nigella and spend a lot of time creating something amazing - just a vegetable platter with cut up carrot, celery, capsicum and snowpeas alongside lightly steamed (so its still firm) broccoli and cauliflower served with some quality dips such as hummus and beetroot dips could make your tummy happy. The colour from the vegetables means you're getting a great variety of nutrients, you are getting important fibre from the vegetables and you are bypassing some of the snacks that could be around that aren't so kind to your tummy (or thighs) 🤭.
3. You're so bitter
Yes we are upping the quantity of our food so we need to make sure we are supporting the engine that is our digestive system, to let it cope with all the foods we are feeding it.
This is where bitter foods come in.
Eating bitter foods with meals, or ideally around 15 minutes before your meal, gets the stomach ready for the food you are eating, and triggers stomach acid production. We need stomach acid to create the correct pH required to trigger bile release once your partially digested food hits your small intestine to complete successful digestion of proteins, fats and carbohydrates.
Bitter foods literally kick start your engine! They include anything that would trigger a salivary response - rocket for example is quite bitter so chew on a few leaves, as is apple cider vinegar, lemons (drink through a straw if you have it in a glass of water), pickles and sauerkraut to just name a few.
I also like including good quality digestive enzymes especially this time of the year.
4. Calm AF
When we eat in a stressed state, both the physical and chemical functions aren’t occurring properly right from the start. Our body goes into a state of fight or flight. It can't distinguish that your stress is caused by relatives, it goes back to cavemen days and thinks that you are about to be eaten by a saber tooth tiger - so to cope with this it diverts energy and blood flow from your digestive system to areas in your body that will help keep you alive and alert - increased heart rate, wider eyes, better dance moves (ok, I made that one up), etc.
What ends up happening then when you eat is that you are effectively forcing food down through the digestive tract partly digested, which in the beginning will cause symptoms such as reflux and heartburn. If this continues it all start affecting your lower digestion causing issues such as irritable bowel symptoms and the inability to breakdown and absorb nutrients.
Given the huge impact that stress can play it is worthwhile having a few things up your sleeve to help manage your stress and anxiety - these include lifestyle techniques such as meditation, grounding (barefeet on the grass for 5-10 minutes) and EFT tapping are great tools.
Herbal medicine and herbal teas such as lemon balm and chamomile also work to calm down both your nervous system and calm your gut.
5. Liver lover
As I mentioned above we make our liver work overtime this time of the year - even when you are eating pavlova with a glass of champagne your liver is still doing its job and detoxing for you. But if you think about it the more work you give your liver, the more processed foods and toxins that it needs to deal with, it can make everything quite sluggish.
Having a few alcohol free days each week is important to try and incorporate (tricky when every day seems to be a celebration of something). Also paying attention to what you are drinking as well - when we talk we drink faster and before we know it we may have had a little bit too much holiday cheer. I'm not expecting you to sit and meditate on your glass of egg nog, but try to pay a little more attention when you have a drink can help manage how much you're drinking. Also make sure you are staying hydrated - have a glass of water in between each alcoholic drink for example.
It is also really important to increase liver loving foods such as coriander, parsley, green leafy vegetables, chlorophyl, spirulina, beetroot and dandelion leaves are good. Roasted dandelion tea is also a great drink to include in your day that is going to support your digestive system (it's bitter) and your liver - an easy brand to get is Bonvit from the supermarkets.
6. Soothe your gut
What happens when we have celebrated a little too hard and our whole gut feels like it's on fire?? It doesn't need to be as bad as that but I think doing some things each day to help support your gut integrity and soothe any inflammation is really important.
Three foods that I love to use for this are:
Slippery elm powder: Available from health food stores this powder is made from tree bark and is amazingly soothing and protective to your digestive track - I like to imagine it as a nice cooling gel you are gently putting on sunburn. You can do this once or twice a day - I like to do it before breakfast and before bed for example. To use it place 1 heaped teaspoon of the powder into a dry glass, add a little bit of water to make a paste (if you don't do this you will get floaties) and then top with around 200ml of water and stir. You can get capsules but the powder is my favourite. (NB: If you are on medications please check with your health professional first as it may impact absorption of the drug).
Gelatin: Gelatin works on supporting your gut integrity. It's important that you buy good quality gelatin from the health food shop - I like NutraOrganics or Great Lakes gelatin. It can be made into gummies, made as part of treats such as tapioca pudding or put into smoothies.
Bone broth: For it's wonderful healing properties as well as being nutrient dense (whilst these are awesome they are not good for everyone, especially those with high levels of histamine). Making your own bone broth isn't difficult but we are all time poor - especially over Christmas! Never fear - there are some great dehydrated bone broths around - go into stores like The Source Bulk Food where you can try different types in a small quantity to see what you like. I also enjoy the NutraOrganics range again - the flavours are good and they dissolve easily. Bone broth can be enjoyed on its own, adding something like miso to it to make it really gut loving, put into cooking and again even frozen into ice cube trays and used in smoothies
7. Encourage good bacteria (& make sure they're fed!)
To have a happy microbiome we need to be constantly looking at ways to bring in good gut bacteria and to keep them happy and fed.
A PROBIOTIC promotes "LIFE" and are friendly bacteria found in foods (or supplements). When starting to introduce these foods into your diet start low and slow. Try including a small amount daily with one meal then work up to having a little with all meals. They do not need to be large serves. A tablespoon with each meal will do the job - too much too soon can upset sensitive tummies.
Some probiotic foods to enjoy include: Fermented vegetables, Kvass, Water or milk kefir, Kombucha, Tempeh, Miso, Kimchi, Yoghurt (without sugar) including non-dairy coconut yogurt and Cheese made from raw milk.
A PREBIOTIC stimulates the GROWTH of good bacteria. They are only found in plants, mostly vegetables. These plant fibres, especially the inulin, are not digested by us and make their way through our small intestine to our colon relatively unchanged. When they get to the colon they act as food that can stimulate the bacteria.
To get the happiest and most beneficial bacteria diversity is key! Prebiotic foods to enjoy include asparagus, artichoke, fennel, dandelion greens, chicory, garlic and broccoli. Resistant starch found in sweet potato, brown rice and unripe bananas promotes the production of butyrate, a substance that is the preferred fuel source for gut repair, improving metabolism, reducing inflammation and nourishing the gut lining.
We have so much stress is our life, we often complicate what we eat and then get afraid of foods.
ENJOY what you are eating, be kind to yourself, nourish yourself with good foods when you can. Rest when you can to allow your body to repair itself.
Merry Christmas! 🎅🏻💩