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The festive season and gut health

As we head into the festive season, we wanted to give you some tips on keeping your gut healthy while you take the time to let your hair down and eat, drink and be merry!

This can lead to consequences for some of us, particularly in relation to gut health and toilet habits, but it is possible to keep your microbiome happy while still enjoying yourself.

In this article, we discuss some of the key things to consider in relation to keeping your gut healthy throughout the festive season – and we offer some tips for dealing with the challenges.

  1. Alcohol 

Even those who don’t consume alcohol the rest of the year may partake at Christmas, when socialising with family and friends who they don’t often see. Although this might be different in 2020, the pressures of this year might also mean that some people drink more, to ‘celebrate’ seeing people again.

Alcohol can cause an imbalance in our gut bacteria, as well as potentially causing heartburn and aggravating pre-existing gut conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). When taken in excess, alcohol may also lead to conditions such as gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD) and stomach ulcers.

Top tip: Have some alcohol-free days. And when you do drink, a glass of water between each alcoholic drink helps to manage blood alcohol levels (and blood sugar levels in some instances) as well as potentially reducing overall alcohol intake. 

Christmas mocktails are also a great idea and there are lots of shop-bought as well as home-made options available to help you join the party without the consequences.

  1. Over-indulgence

The sheer volume of food and drink that we eat over the festive period (even Christmas Day alone) can overwhelm our digestive systems, leading to indigestion, heartburn, constipation or diarrhoea. We tend to have a lot more food around our homes at this time of year, which can lead to constant snacking and grazing in addition to the large three-course meals that we wouldn’t ordinarily eat throughout the year.

Top tip: Whilst reducing the volume of food consumed is the obvious solution, ensuring that you include gut-supporting foods and supplements can help to maintain digestive balance. Staying well-hydrated can also help.

There are an abundance of Christmas staples that contain high levels of both prebiotic fibre and probiotic bacteria to help support gut health. These include Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cabbage, onions, garlic, cranberries and fermented foods, such as sauerkraut, kombucha and other pickled and fermented vegetables.

  1. Chemically laden foods

Processed and convenience foods are typical of festive buffets and from mince pies, pigs-in-blankets and vol au vents to Yorkshire puddings, gravies and dips, festive food can be a minefield of additives, preservatives and E numbers.

Whilst E numbers are additives that are considered safe by the regulatory body European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), some people self-report ill effects from consuming foods that contain them, most notably those who suffer from IBS and similar gut complaints.

Top tip: Stay hydrated at all times. When we are eating a lot, it can be easy to forget to drink enough, but staying hydrated will help to support our detoxification processes when indulging in convenience foods. Green leafy vegetables (broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, spinach, kale, watercress, rocket and other bitter salad leaves) are also key in supporting both digestion and detoxification.

  1. Anxiety

December and the festive season tends to be about family, finances and busy schedules. Whilst things may be a little different this year, the intensity of this season can add additional stress to everyday life, with added pressure from the anticipation and expectation of everybody having fun.

Top tip: Take some time out to relax and do something purely for yourself – even if it’s just a soak in the bath. It is the season of goodwill and taking care of others’ needs starts with taking care of your own.

  1. Depression

Whether you’re feeling the general heaviness of 2020 or are suffering grief, isolation or persistent low mood, the festive season often magnifies our emotions.

Top tip: As our gut is directly linked to our brain, the microbiome influences the production of chemicals (including serotonin and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA)) that help regulate mood. So, keeping your gut nourished with prebiotic fibres and probiotic foods and supplements that will help friendly bacteria to flourish can support mental health.

Enjoy a fabulous festive season and do take time to spoil yourself, indulge and enjoy the time with family and friends – just don’t forget to support your gut and you’ll thank us as you head into the new year.

Other festive season articles offering gut health advice:

Want to know more?
ProVen Probiotics aim to provide the best support for both you and your health. If you wish to know more about gut health and mental health awareness please do not hesitate to call us on 01639 825107 or alternatively, learn more via our blogs or in-depth ProVen research.

ProVen Probiotics, Unit 2 Christchurch Road, Baglan Industrial Park, Port Talbot, SA12 7DJ. Tel: 01639 825107

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