The 10 Step Guide to Gut Health for the Holidays
How to avoid bloating this holiday
‘Tis the season to be jolly. And while eating, drinking and being merry are all on our list of things to do this Christmas, it’s important to think ahead so you don’t experience the post-Christmas slump that is bloating.
I mean, we have all seen what milk and cookies have done to Santa’s belly. Yes, we love that generous, jolly guy, but he’s not exactly a vision of health. I know, I know, gut health is probably the last thing you’re thinking about at this time of year. After all, you’ve got Christmas parties to attend, gifts to buy and distant family members to make small talk with. We all know alcohol makes these interactions with estranged family members much more bearable!
But, here at Kean Health, we know how important your gut health is to your overall health. Your gut is a key influencer in every area of your life and health, so we are here to help you ensure that you are holly & jolly from the inside, out.
If you think we are just going to say “eat healthy and avoid the booze”, you’d be wrong. Gut health is not just about the food we eat. From gift-prep, parties, crowds, and sweet treats, this “wonderful” time of year can trigger chaos and stress which impacts your body’s ability to function at an optimal level.
The Kean Team has 10 quick tips for a holistic approach to the holidays in order to keep your gut health, microbiome, & overall wellbeing on track throughout the chaos and business of the season. It doesn’t have to be the most bloated time of the year and we are going to show you how to avoid bloating this season.
10 quick tips for gut health during the holidays
Establish & maintain routines: You know that period between Christmas and New Year where nobody knows what day it is? In between all the parties, cocktails, and Christmas Turkey, it’s easy to experience brain fog which is a common side effect of poor gut health. To avoid this feeling, we recommend that you establish and maintain healthy routines. By maintaining your regular routines, you allow your body to continue its natural rhythm. Everything from sleeping habits, working out to the amount of water you drink. Try to keep some semblance of a routine during the holidays, even if it’s a “lite” version of your usual routine. That way, even if you do drink a little more or go too hard on the Christmas pudding, at least your habits are still there to help your body process all the extra goodies you’re having.
Try to eat well: I know, I know, that’s kind of like telling a kid at a candy store to quit sugar but if you can consciously try to incorporate whole foods, vegetables, and fiber into your diet through the holidays, you’ll feel a lot better. If you’re prone to bloating, we recommend that you avoid excess dairy, red meat, and refined sugars. Your microbiome feeds off the remnants in the colon after the amino acids, and other nutrients are digested, so it’s important to consume enough complex fiber instead of processed foods. Think: whole grains, broccoli, apples, berries, bananas, leafy greens.
Get Sunshine: Sunshine is essential for our overall health and wellbeing. It generates Vitamin D, produces melatonin, reduces stress, strengthens your immune system, and improves your mental health. Studies also show that sunlight boosts good gut health, especially for those who are vitamin D deficient. During Winter, it’s even more important to take any opportunity to get out in the sun. Take a stroll, drink a coffee in your garden or go for a picnic with some friends because the health benefits alone are worth it!
Avoid excessive alcohol & medications: Yes, the holidays mean more parties which generally means more cocktails, beer, and wine. While we believe in having a balanced diet (and are definitely not against having a glass of wine), we also know that pretty much anything in excess isn’t good for your gut. Alcohol and prescription medications can be inflammatory which can hurt your microbiome and impact your digestive system which can lead to bloating & brain fog and more serious, chronic illnesses like leaky gut syndrome. Talk to your doctor if you feel that your medication schedule needs to be reevaluated.
Sleep: They say a good night’s sleep can cure almost anything. Sleep can boost your immune system, improve your mood, reduce stress, prevent weight gain, improve your memory, and more. When you don’t get enough sleep, you experience more than just tiredness. Lack of sleep can also increase cortisol which can lead to inflammation, bloating, leaky gut syndrome, and food sensitivities. Even with a full social calendar during holidays, it’s important to get your 8 hours of sleep and to drink plenty of water if you’ve consumed alcohol.
Practice stress relief techniques: The busy social calendar, extra travel, and even different relationship dynamics can cause additional stress in your body. Increased stress leads to a release of cortisol which directly impacts your gut health. Find and create stress relief techniques that work for you. You can try things like meditation, breathing exercises, and journaling to alleviate the stress on your body and protect your microbiome by taking time to relax and destress. Remember to take some time to recharge during the holidays!
Exercise outside: Being outdoors is so important. Where possible, try to exercise outside. Go for a walk in nature, or set up your gym equipment outside so that you enrich your gut microbiome by increasing your exposure to sunlight and outdoor bacteria. Not to mention the endorphins your body releases when you exercise! You’ll thank yourself later!
Disconnect - put your phone down. Remember that holidays are about taking a break and recharging, not Instagramming and binge-watching tv shows (even if we are addicted to Yellowstone). Consciously take time away from your devices and screens to disconnect and recharge. All those tv shows, DMs, and funny memes will be waiting for you when you return, we promise.
Take a probiotic: Your gut microbiome is made up of good and bad bacteria. So how do you boost the good bacteria? That’s where probiotics swoop in to save the day. Probiotics are made up of good bacteria that keep your body and your gut working as they should. Probiotic supplements and food sources with beneficial bacteria will improve the number of good bacteria in your gut. We recommend adding probiotic rich foods and/or a probiotic supplement to your daily routine. Yogurt, kimchi, and sauerkraut are all good food sources of probiotics but you can also find some great probiotic supplements too!
Keep a journal: If you broke your arm, you’d know it right? It’s much easier to solve a health issue when you can see the problem clearly. But how do you measure your gut health when so much of it is unseen? Well, that’s why we recommend taking a Kean Health Gut or Gut+ test so you can know exactly where your gut health is at (and the areas you can improve) We also recommend keeping a journal to record any changes or reactions you may be experiencing and to pay attention to your habits and record how they make you feel. According to the Harvard Health Blog, recording where, when, and what you’re eating can help you understand your diet habits. This can help you figure out which of your habits are hurting or helping your gut.)