8 Tips to Get Through the Holidays With Your Gut Health Intact

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From our friends at Hey, Pumpkin:

Let’s face it. It might not be the reason for the season, but the best part of the holidays is the food. And whether it’s due to nostalgia, stress, or the fact that everything is just so damn delicious, we’re more prone to overeat right now than at just about any time of year.

Holiday Food
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Ultimately, that can wreak havoc on your digestive system. But you don’t have to give up everything you love in the name of your gut. Today we’ve got some simple tips to help you survive this holiday season without undue digestive distress. You’re welcome.

Ready? Let’s dig in.

1. Get Creative With Your Baking

Are you making cookies, cakes, or pies this year? Consider cutting the sugar in them by a third or a half, and adding in more spices like nutmeg, cinnamon, clove, allspice, or vanilla. Same goes for sugary beverages.

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The holidays are jam-packed with sugar, which can lead to heartburn and acid reflux later on if you’re not careful. It can also throw off the flora in your gut, making you more prone to gas and bloating. This is especially true if you don’t usually partake in too much sweet stuff during the rest of the year.

2. Embrace the Greenery

And no, we’re not talking garlands here (though they are beautiful). Just because it’s the holidays, don’t skip the veggies. In order to keep things moving properly through our systems, we ideally need five or more servings of veggies (and fruits) a day.

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There are a plethora of delicious holiday veggie side dishes out there. If you’re with family or friends this holiday season (be careful, please!!) make sure to fill up most of your plate with those. If you’re putting together the menu, you can definitely get enough variety in there for yourself. And if there’s a crudités platter involved, station yourself near it. (After all, dips are life.)

If all else fails, try to sneak in a green juice or smoothie where you can. Your gut will thank you.

3. Slow Down

Everything may look delicious, but eating all the things will not be pleasurable for long. Shoveling the food in and not chewing properly will cause indigestion and bloating. And have you ever noticed that when you get a heaping portion of any one food, after a few bites it all just starts tasting kind of meh?

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Get small amounts of the foods you want, chew everything well, and eat slowly enough to give your body time to send out the requisite “I’m full now, thanks” signals.

4. Ferments Are Your Friends

When it comes to tummy distress, probiotics are powerhouses to get things back in order (or to ward off problems to begin with). And one of the best ways to get probiotics? Fermented foods.

(And no, sorry, wine and beer don’t count in this case.)

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If the thought of holiday turkey with a side of sauerkraut, kimchi, or miso doesn’t do it for you, opt for some yogurt for dessert, or get in some kefir or kombucha in between the mugs of cocoa and egg nog. Or just make sure you’re taking a high-quality probiotics supplement.

5. Get You Some Peppermint

Even though your grandpa might have sworn by peppermint candies for his digestion, we’re not talking about the sugary variety here. Instead, opt for some peppermint tea after a big meal. It’s delicious, refreshing, and easily fits into the holiday theme.

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Peppermint calms and soothes your stomach muscles, which helps your food pass and can ward off gas, bloating, and indigestion. Ginger, chamomile, and fennel tea are also great choices.

6. Don’t Skip the Exercise

Yes, it’s a holiday, and you don’t want to think about regular life if you don’t have to. But aside from cardio health, did you know that exercise actually works wonders for your digestion, too?

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You might not be able to get in a HIIT session, but a walk after dinner is enjoyable for just about anyone. And you’ll feel better than if you just waddled from the table to the couch to sit in front of the TV, like the rest of us do.

7. Stay Upright

This one might sound silly, but if you’re from the type of family that likes to lounge around on the couch after dinner, rethink your posture. You need to let gravity do its thing right after you eat, and that’s not so easy if you’re horizontal. Lying down with a full stomach makes things like acid reflux much more likely.

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On that same note, even though turkey makes you sleepy, try to finish up your meal well before heading to bed.

8. Plan a Detox in the New Year

We all overdo it during the holidays. But that doesn’t mean we can’t get back on track. If you go a little heavy on the meat, or the dairy, or the gluten, sugar, alcohol, or everything, there’s no better time like the new year to recalibrate.

Unless you’re feeling hardcore, don’t try to cut everything out all at once. And if so, talk to a nutritionist or dietitian about it before you do anything drastic. (I’m side-eyeing you, Master Cleanse.) But a week or two of lots of water, veggies, and lean protein – and minimal if any dairy, sugar, caffeine, or alcohol – should get you feeling like yourself again.

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Just don’t forget that discomfort too quickly, and try to keep these tips locked and loaded for the 2021 holidays as well.