As November arrives, we all know the holiday season is just around the corner, whether we are prepared for it or not! With the holidays come various stressors, late-night festivities, indulgent eating, and perhaps a bit too much drinking. All of these can leave us feeling less than our best. By implementing some straightforward practices, you can keep your gut in top shape and truly savor this special time of year!
Stress is no friend to your gut, wreaking havoc in more ways than one. It can reshape the gut microbiome through hormonal, inflammatory, and nervous system changes, ultimately hindering digestion amongst other things. Since everyone has their own way of dealing with stress, it’s essential to find what works for you. Here are some of my favorite methods to reduce stress and its impact:
- Prayer, meditation, counseling or journaling
- Deep breathing techniques
- A leisurely walk outside in fresh air and sunshine (bonus if you can be barefoot in grass or sand)
- Gentle movements such as mobility flows, yoga, pilates
- A relaxing magnesium detox bath
- Utilizing an infrared sauna
During sleep, our bodies enter their most restorative state, engaging in deep detoxification. Optimal sleep is associated with a rich and diverse microbiome, whereas poor sleep can have the opposite effect. To enhance your sleep quality during the holidays, try the following tips:
- Stick to a consistent bedtime and wake-up schedule
- Power down screens 1-2 hours before bed
- Allow 2-3 hours for digestion by eating a few hours before bed
- Expose your eyes to natural sunlight during sunrise and sunset
- Supplement with magnesium before bed
While this may not be the time to start a serious and restrictive elimination diet, being mindful about what and how you eat during the holidays can spare you a lot of tummy troubles. Here’s how you can achieve that:
- Embrace whole foods, prioritizing high-quality organic proteins, fruits and vegetables. As convenient as it is to buy a pre-prepared meal, the more you can prepare your dishes the more you can control the ingredients that are used.
- Diversify your diet by consuming a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables. This enriches your gut microbiome and provides antioxidants to counter the effects of free radicals.
- Slow down while eating, chew your food thoroughly to minimize air intake, and pay attention to your fullness cues. This will help prevent overeating and bloating. Additionally, eat without distractions like watching TV or using your phone.
Proper hydration supports the digestive process and can alleviate bloating or constipation that may arise from deviating from your usual eating habits. Consider the following tips:
- Drink a glass of water after consuming beer, wine or alcohol to reduce the risk of overindulging. Alcohol and the gut don’t always get along.
- Opt for purified, filtered water.
- Aim to consume half your body weight in ounces of water daily.
Remember, health isn't just about eating well, getting quality sleep, and staying active. Laughter, enjoyment, and spending time with loved ones play a significant role too. Strive to find balance during this holiday season, and if you feel the need for a health tune-up in the new year, don’t hesitate to schedule a functional medicine visit with me! Also check out my weekly Functional Medicine Class.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this post are based on the opinion of the author, unless otherwise noted, and should not be taken as personal medical advice. The information provided is intended to help readers make their own informed health and wellness decisions.