7 Ways to Improve Your Gut Health During the Holidays
Nobody wants to contend with bloating, nausea, constipation, and other uncomfortable digestive challenges during the holidays! Yet with all the traveling, stressful gift-buying, event planning, and excessive alcohol and sugary dessert consumption, it’s not unusual to experience some unwanted changes. And nothing ruins holiday fun like feeling bloated or taking several trips to the bathroom (or feeling backed up and wishing you could go to the bathroom!).
So how can you keep your gut healthy and happy during the busy holiday season? Read on for 7 gut-supporting tips that will help keep things running smoothly all holiday long.
How the Holidays Affect Your Gut
So, why is it that the holidays throw your gut into a state of digestive discomfort? There are three major reasons why:
Holidays are a fun time of year for many people because of all the holiday parties, events, and family gatherings. But all this change to your usual routine can be not so fun for your gut.
All of a sudden you’re going to bed later, eating a ton of rich or heavy foods, and drinking far more alcohol than usual. This can throw off your digestive system, leaving you feeling bloated from carb-heavy foods or struggling to maintain regular bowel movements.
While the holidays are advertised as merry and bright, that’s not always the case. Especially when you’re making travel arrangements, anxious about family reunions, or struggling to afford all the gifts you need to buy.
Stress often goes hand in hand with the holidays. And stress seriously messes with your gut. Why? Your gut and brain are connected in what’s called the gut-brain axis.
This is an entire network of nerves and chemicals that connect your brain to your gut. And there’s mounting evidence that a healthy gut with a diverse microbiota can positively impact both normal digestive function and mental well-being.1 In other words, if you’re not mentally healthy, then your gut will experience the adverse effects.
Changes to Your Diet
It’s no secret that your diet changes during the holidays. Because what’s a holiday celebration without a festive sugary cocktail or a table of mouth-watering desserts? Unfortunately, overeating holiday sweets and fatty foods can do a number on your gut.
Your diet is one of the most important aspects of a healthy digestive system. Food is your fuel. Switching up your fuel can cause complications, especially if you find yourself trading a high-fiber diet for a high-sugar diet. And as we talk about often in our blog, fiber is crucial for a healthy and happy digestive system.
How to Keep Your Gut Healthy During the Holidays
So what can you do to prevent digestive trouble during the holidays? Here are a few tips to help:
Enjoy in Moderation
Maintaining better gut health doesn’t mean sacrificing all the fun aspects of the holidays. Rather, it means enjoying the alcohol, late nights, and heavy foods in moderation. This is especially true if you know that your gut is extra sensitive to these changes in your routine.
Here’s what we mean by that:
- Enjoy one festive cocktail at your holiday party, and then switch over to water, or OLIPOP for your next round.
- If you stay up late swapping gifts with family or caroling with friends, try and catch up on sleep the next day.
- Go ahead and enjoy a slice of your grandmother’s famous apple pie, but consider cutting back on the sugary eggnog and complimenting your dessert with a glass of milk, water, or a healthier beverage like OLIPOP instead.
- When at the buffet table, use a smaller plate so you can keep an eye on your portion size and not eat more than your body needs.
- Wait a few minutes before you go back for round two at the buffet. This gives your body time to digest, so you can confirm if it’s your eyes or your stomach that want more.
You get the idea! Sticking (as much as possible!) to your usual routine and enjoying holiday activities in moderation will keep things running on track in your digestive system.
Practice Mindful Eating
Food is half the fun during the holidays, and you shouldn’t have to miss out on all the decadent dishes and festive treats just because you’re worried about your gut. So instead, try mindful eating.
Mindful eating is all about experiencing your food instead of just mindlessly consuming it. Take a bite of your food and pause for a few seconds to notice the flavor, aroma, and texture. How does it taste? What are you enjoying about it? Can you pinpoint certain ingredients?
By savoring and experiencing every single bite, you not only enjoy your food more, but you tend to eat less (and slower!) as a result. This supports your body’s digestive processes by allowing your stomach to keep up with your mouth. It also helps you notice when you’re feeling full, so you’re less likely to overindulge.
And as part of mindful eating, be mindful of your body too. If you’re noticing subtle signs of gastrointestinal discomfort, make changes earlier rather than later before it becomes a problem.
Avoid Your Trigger Foods
You’re not likely to forget the gastrointestinal discomfort you’ve experienced in the past. Maybe the belly buster cookies that your aunt makes really did bust your belly with feelings of bloat and discomfort. Or maybe you tend to overindulge on the cheese board and creamy pasta dishes even though you’re pretty much lactose intolerant.
This year, why not skip the pain? Being mindful also means knowing your limits, and learning from previous unpleasant experiences. Let history be your guide when navigating the holidays this year. And vow to say “no thanks” to those dishes or cocktails that will only leave you with regret (no matter how delicious they might taste in the moment!).
Prioritize Stress Relief
Taking time for self-care is incredibly important during the holidays. Between all those holiday parties and family gatherings, it can feel difficult to make time for yourself.
But that stress can add up—and this impacts your gut! When the body experiences stress, it switches off or slows down regular bodily functions to dedicate more energy to your “fight or flight” systems.2 This means that if you’re feeling stressed or anxious, it’s going to be a lot harder to have regular bowel movements.
To keep things moving as they should, try building de-stressing activities into your holiday routine. Even if it’s only for a few minutes, you’ll still experience a ton of stress-relieving benefits.
Here are some ideas:
- Read a book or listen to your favorite podcast
- Enjoy a glass of wine in a bubble bath
- Wrap and give yourself a gift
- Plan an outing just for fun with friends or family
- Sign up for a yoga or meditation class
- Go for a walk outside
- Schedule a massage
- Say no to an event you don’t want to attend and cuddle up with a movie instead
- Take a nap and make sure you’re getting enough sleep every night
Eat Healthy, Gut-Supporting Foods
To help keep your digestive system on track throughout the holidays, make sure you’re getting enough healthy, gut-supporting foods that contain fiber and probiotics.
Since most holiday dishes are short on these food groups, it’s common to experience a bit of a deficiency. This means it’s more important than ever during the holidays to make sure you’re supplementing these areas! This will help keep your gut in check, so you can continue to enjoy all that the season has to offer.
Here’s why they’re important:
- Fiber: A high-fiber diet can help your digestive health by moving things along and feeding the live and beneficial bacteria in your gut. A diet low in fiber can cause digestive trouble like constipation or bloating. So don’t overlook the salad, vegetables, fruit, and grains during the holiday celebrations. Need more recommendations? Here are some great high-fiber food options.
- Probiotics: Probiotics are living organisms that benefit and balance your gut health when you consume them. Some great probiotic-rich foods include yogurt, kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir, and miso. These are great to enjoy in the build up to your holiday celebrations so your gut is ready for the action!
Water isn’t always the priority during the holiday season. But it should be! Alcoholic and caffeinated beverages, two popular holiday drinks, can contribute to dehydration.
Dehydration creates problems for your gut because this condition is a common cause of gastrointestinal complaints, like constipation. Water helps make your stool soft and easy to pass, while also helping flush out toxins from your body. So if you’re not getting enough H2O, you might feel nauseated or bloated. Plus, going number two will be more difficult or painful.3 And no one wants that during the holidays (or ever really)!
Try to keep things moving smoothly in the body by staying hydrated throughout the holiday season.
Here are a few ideas for incorporating more water:
- Drink a bottle of water before you arrive at the holiday party
- Enjoy a glass of water between alcoholic drinks
- Drink regularly throughout your holiday travels by bringing a water bottle with you on the plane, train, or car ride
- Before you go to bed, pour yourself a glass of water to enjoy right before you fall asleep
Build Movement Into Your Routine
The colder winter months feel like a time of hibernation and rest, making exercise unappealing for many people. Especially when the holidays roll around, there’s even less time or reason to get out for exercise. But a sedentary lifestyle can slow down or disrupt your usual digestive processes.4 That’s because it’s not just your body that gets moving with exercise, but also your bowel movements.
So if you’re feeling blocked up during the holidays, it might be time to squeeze in some exercise. Whether that’s a walk around the block or an at-home workout routine, chances are you’ll feel better after building some movement into your day.
The Holidays & Your Gut: The Takeaway
Supporting your digestive health during the holidays doesn’t have to be complicated. By enjoying activities in moderation, practicing mindful eating, building in exercise and de-stressing activities, staying hydrated, and avoiding trigger foods you can help keep your gut healthy and happy.
Another extremely simple (and delicious) way to maintain your gut health during the holidays is to pop open a can of OLIPOP. OLIPOP contains prebiotic fibers that help maintain healthy bowel movements and support a healthy microbiome. Plus, each can is free from unsavory ingredients that can potentially work against your healthy holiday goals.
But if you’re regularly experiencing constipation, diarrhea, or other digestive problems, it might be time to consult with your doctor for medication to help keep things on track.
For more information on how to maintain a healthy digestive system, head to our blog posts for 5 Tips to Support Digestive Health and How to Keep Your Digestion Regular While Traveling. Plus, make sure to check out our other digestive health articles on OLIPOP Digest!
- Suganya, K., & Koo, B. S. (2020). Gut-Brain Axis: Role of Gut Microbiota on Neurological Disorders and How Probiotics/Prebiotics Beneficially Modulate Microbial and Immune Pathways to Improve Brain Functions. International journal of molecular sciences, 21(20), 7551.
- Miller, A. M. (2018, April 9). Frequent Travelers Share 11 Secrets for Staying Regular on Vacation. U.S. News. https://health.usnews.com/wellness/slideshows/frequent-travelers-share-11-secrets-for-staying-regular-on-vacation
- Constipation. (n.d.).Johns Hopkins Medicine. Retrieved May 26, 2022, from https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/constipation
- Bolen, B. (2020, January 21). 11 Tips for Avoiding Constipation When Traveling. Verywell Health. https://www.verywellhealth.com/tips-for-avoiding-constipation-when-traveling-4062491
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