Maintaining Good Gastrointestinal Health During The Holidays

Thanksgiving to New Year’s is a time when many of us throw out our diet rule books. We load up on high-calorie foods and extra cocktails, while on the other hand we sleep and exercise less, and stress more. All of this is bad news for your gut health. Diarrhea, constipation, bloating, gas, heartburn – you name it, the festive season can bring it.

However, it doesn’t have to be that way. With a little extra attention to your diet and lifestyle, you can indulge in your holiday favorites and still maintain good gut health to set you up for a great start to the new year.
 

Eat Mindfully.

No one is saying you can’t have seconds if you really want them or that you must skip dessert, but making conscious choices and listening to your body can help avoid post-binge regret. For starters, eat smaller portions. That way, you can sample all of your favorite dishes without overloading your system. You should also stop eating before you feel full and wait before going back for second helpings, preferably drinking a glass of water while you wait. Many times, you will find that you are already full.
 

Avoid Trigger Foods.

If you are sensitive or allergic to certain foods, you should continue avoiding them throughout the holiday season. As tempting as those holiday treats may be, the momentary pleasure is not worth the potential pain or discomfort they can cause.

 

Take A Walk.

Walking after a meal can help move food through your digestive system. This can be especially beneficial after a large or heavy meal.

 

Stay Hydrated.

During the holidays when you may be consuming fewer nutrient-dense foods, more salt and more alcohol than usual, it’s important to drink enough water every day to keep things moving. Dehydration can lead to constipation.

 

Feed Your Gut Health.

Keep up your good bacteria by including probiotic-rich foods in your diet. Probiotic foods include yogurt, kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut and kimchi, or you can try a probiotic supplement. Prebiotic-rich foods (garlic, onions, asparagus, legumes, beans, oats, bananas and berries) can also help improve digestion. Another option is taking digestive enzymes before eating, especially if you know it is going to be a big meal.

 

Make Sure You’re Getting Enough Fiber.

If you want a healthy gut, you need to eat plenty of fiber. A diet high in fiber promotes good gut bacteria and keeps you regular by moving food through the body. Fiber also has a host of other benefits like reducing cholesterol, blood sugar, blood pressure and the risk of Type 2 diabetes. Therefore, it is important to maintain your fiber intake all year long.
 

Keep Your Regular Schedule.

This can be easier said than done if your social calendar is packed with events. However, keeping some consistency across most days during the holidays will help avoid disrupting your gastrointestinal health. Stick to the same mealtimes, at least for breakfast and lunch if evenings are too unpredictable. Make healthy meal plans for the days when you aren’t attending social events. Not only will this help keep your diet on track, but it will also benefit your gut health. A consistent sleep schedule is also very important. Poor sleep can elevate stress levels, which is a big driver of poor gut health.
 

Manage Your Stress.

Stress is one of the biggest contributors to gastrointestinal distress. For most of us, the holidays are as stressful as they are fun. Prioritize your health by implementing or continuing to practice stress-management techniques. Whether you choose meditation, journaling, deep breathing, a hot bath or a quiet walk, find ways to take time to fully unwind.
 

Don’t Ditch Your Workouts.

Exercise supports gut health, along with helping you sleep, elevating your mood and reducing stress. If you can’t fit your normal workouts in, make sure to incorporate as much movement during the day as you can. Another tip is to meet up with friends for a walk or a hike instead of drinks or food. That way, you get the benefits of fresh air, exercise and socializing all in one.

If you do overindulge here or there, don’t sweat it. As long as you maintain a good balance overall, you’ll enjoy a happy, healthy holiday season.

The team at GastroIntestinal Specialists, A.M.C., treats multiple conditions and diseases of the GI tract. Our Board-Certified physicians have more than 150 years of combined experience in providing quality care that you can trust. To schedule an appointment, call (318) 631-9121 or click here.