Healthy Tahoe: 5 tips for better gut health through holidays
The holiday season is a wonderful time of year. And while themed gatherings, comforting meals, and holiday treats are part of the magic, these events can also create some anxiety of overindulgence and foreshadow discomfort in your digestive system.
Everything you eat goes through the gastrointestinal tract, or gut. Eating a diet full of fruits and vegetables will help keep your gut in good condition, and this is especially important through the holidays, when our gut can get out-of-balance. Along with fruits and vegetables, there are other ways to keep gut health in check as the new year approaches:
Tip 1: Start your Holidays off by going “whole,” which means when you prepare or enjoy holiday entrees, select dishes with ingredients which are prepared “as grown,” with minimal, if any, refining. Processed foods such as white flour or white rice have had much of their fiber removed. Although not absorbed, fiber feeds our “good” gut bacteria, reduces intestinal inflammation, and reduces absorption of molecules such as cholesterol. Less in calories yet filling, fiber is important for us all.
Tip 2: Seize opportunities to eat colorful varieties of both vegetables and fruits. Make sure you fill at least half your plate with these foods. Colorful fruits and vegetables contain nutrients called antioxidants which counter the effects of free radicals. Free radicals form during normal metabolism with exposure to environmental toxins, and can cause damage to important cell structures, processes and molecules, and these damages can be avoided with adequate antioxidant intake.
Tip 3: Drink a glass of water after a glass of wine, beer or other alcoholic beverage. It will fill you up, and make you less likely to overdo it on the alcohol front. Although it remains a popular beverage, alcohol has health issues, so it’s best to limit your intake.
Tip 4: Eat slower. Chew your food well so you swallow less air and can better realize when you’re full. This will help avoid overfilling your stomach. A packed stomach may trigger reflux, when foods and acids back up into the esophagus.
Tip 5: Set a schedule you can stick to and try to eat at the same times each day. Your GI system benefits from a schedule. Also, set a bedtime for your gut. Late-night eating can alter your microbiome, the 100 trillion microbes that live in your gut. Try to eat 2-3 hours before bedtime to allow plenty of time for your body to digest.
Bonus Tip: Manage your stress. Everyone manages stress differently, so finding a stress relief activity that works for you is key. Some healthy ways to reduce stress include a walk in fresh air, deep breathing, mindfulness meditation, and exercise. Stress can hinder digestion and cause discomfort such as inflammation and bloating.
Before you dive into holiday events, try setting an intention with your gut health at the forefront. With a simple plan, you can reduce potential stress and discomfort of the holidays so that you can more fully enjoy the treasured parts.
Dr. Azadeh Brumand is a board-certified gastroenterologist with Barton Gastroenterology, offering referral-based treatment for digestive diseases, such as gastroesophageal reflux disease or inflammatory bowel disease, among many other GI conditions to the Lake Tahoe community. Contact your primary care provider for a referral, or for more information, visit BartonHealth.org/Gastroenterology.
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