5 tips to keep your gut healthy over Christmas
Often, the disruptions that Christmas brings to our normal routine - diet, exercise, hydration, and sleeping patterns - can upset our gut health. Here's 5 top tips to keep your gut healthy over Christmas.
Christmas is a time to connect with friends and families, surrounded by good food and wine. But often the disruptions that Christmas brings to our normal routine - diet, exercise, hydration, and sleeping patterns - can really upset our gut health.
Good gut health means taking care of your gut microbiome. The gut microbiome is made up of trillions of bacteria, archaea, and fungi that reside throughout our digestive tract. The microbiome plays a key role in regulating immunity, digestion, vitamin production, nutrient absorption, and maintaining the integrity of the gut lining.
Here are 5 top tips to keep your microbial friends healthy over Christmas.
🫐 Feast for your microbes
Staying healthy over Christmas should never be about excluding or restricting foods. Instead, it’s about what you can add to your diet to support the diversity and growth of beneficial bacteria. And your gut bacteria’s favourite food? Fibre.
Load up on high-fibre festive foods, including carrots, parsnips, cabbage, brussel sprouts, and potatoes (tip: cooking and cooling potatoes or pasta increases resistant starch, a specific type of fibre that boosts beneficial bacteria).
🍷 Enjoy alcohol in moderation
While it is the season to be merry, too much alcohol can disrupt the diversity of the gut microbiome, and promote the growth of pro-inflammatory microbes. But it’s not all bad news. Research suggests that moderate red wine intake can have beneficial effects on microbial diversity, owing to its polyphenol content. The take-home message is alcohol in moderation.
🧘♀️ Practice mindful indulging
Indulging in your favourite Christmas dessert should not make you feel guilty. Just make sure that when you do, you take the time to eat with intent and purpose. In practice, this could mean chewing every mouthful slowly, putting your fork down between each bite, and paying attention to the food’s colour, smell, texture, temperature, and flavour. Do not let the eating habits of others around you influence the speed at which you choose to enjoy your food.
🏃🏽♀️ Move your body
One of the best known benefits of physical activity is that it promotes gut motility (the stretching and contractions of gut muscles). This helps us to stay regular, avoiding constipation and bloating. Recent studies suggest that physical activity may also have benefits for our gut microbes by enriching anti-inflammatory short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs). A simple way to stay active this Christmas may be to encourage the family to get out for a walk after lunch.
🛁 Take time to relax
Disruptions to our routine over Christmas can often leave us feeling stressed and overwhelmed. What we know is that when we are anxious or stressed, this can lead to gut-related symptoms like stomach pain, diarrhoea, bloating, and constipation. Instead of stressing about what you may have overindulged in over the Christmas period, try to look upon this time as an opportunity to relax, unwind, and spend valuable time with family and friends.
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