Despite our best intentions during the holidays, our careful eating patterns might fly out the window while we’re living it up with friends and family. Before we know it, we’re leaving the gathering and our digestive system is complaining. Here’s how to avoid overdoing it and prevent upsetting the careful balance of healthy micro-organisms that live in our digestive tracts.
Catch up on sleep
Preliminary research shows sleep deprivation can affect gut microbes in a way that might influence food cravings, increasing our drive to consume higher-fat foods and put on weight. If you’re well rested before a treat-filled event, you might enable yourself to choose wisely.
Snack on fiber
Fiber is well known for making us feel fuller. Also, an interesting new line of study showed that a type of fiber called a prebiotic ended up reducing activity in brain regions associated with reward processing—in essence, reducing the appeal of high-calorie foods. Both serve as good arguments for munching on a handful of nuts or a few carrot sticks before arriving at an event.
Dilute your alcohol
High alcohol consumption is linked to increased intestinal permeability, which may result in possible liver dysfunction. If you’re going to have multiple drinks at a party, dilute flavorful spirits with soda water or a natural juice.
Put your guilt behind you
When we’re worried or stressed, the brain notifies the gut to divert from its normal routine and stimulates excessive production of cortisol, so forget the post-party wallowing. Focus on being thankful you’re surrounded by beautiful food and people at this time of year.
Ingest live bacteria
Probiotics (live micro-organisms that confer a health benefit) are known to affect the immune system and also relieve digestive symptoms. They come in food form, including yogurt and kefir; live cultures can also be found in traditional fermented sauerkraut or kimchi, and in kombucha, a tart fermented beverage. Supplements are also a good option in some cases, as they provide a higher dose of beneficial bacteria.
Help the beneficial bacteria grow
Certain high-fiber foods containing prebiotics can act like fertilizer to foster the growth of beneficial bacteria in your gut. Foods containing the prebiotic inulin, like bananas, asparagus and garlic, are especially beneficial; however, any fruit or vegetable will boost your fiber consumption and help nurture the diversity of micro-organisms in your digestive tract.
Physical exercise and fitness are associated with greater gut microbial diversity. A brisk walk or brief round of stress-relieving exercises can serve as a fun way to help you feel more energized, and it might also change your gut bacteria for the better.
Putting all of this into practice will help keep you on friendly terms with your gut micro-organisms during the holiday season. After all, December is not the time to let digestive issues hold us back: tomorrow brings another party.