Helping your gut deal with chocolate overload

Over-indulging in chocolate this Easter? Many of us will be giving and receiving Easter eggs and spending much of today (and maybe the next few days or weeks!) over-indulging in a chocolate-fest. What can we do to mitigate the effects and keep our gut health on track?

Chocolate has become a key element of our Easter celebrations in the UK and many other countries around the world. Unfortunately, eating too much chocolate can have a detrimental effect on our gut bacteria as most commercial Easter eggs contain very large amounts of sugar.

This sugar is the preferred food for the unfriendly species of bacteria in our gut – our friendly bacteria feed off fibre from fruits, vegetables and other natural foods, generally producing lactic acid and other helpful by-products, our ‘unfriendly’ bacteria feed off sugar and produce gas.

So, if we overindulge, we can find ourselves bloated and ‘gassy’ and our children might complain of stomach aches and other digestive symptoms, such as diarrhoea. There are tactics available to help mitigate these effects however, and we have listed some of them below:

  • Only eat chocolate after a healthy protein- and fat-based meal or snack – protein and fat are both digested more slowly than carbohydrates and help to slow down digestion of anything eaten with them. Examples of healthy protein include chicken, eggs, fish, seafood, nuts, seeds, lentils, beans and pulses. Healthy fats can be found in nuts and seeds (and their oils), avocados, oily fish, real butter, olives and olive oil, coconut and coconut oil.
  • Fill up on vegetables – the friendly bacteria in our microbiome feed off the fibres in vegetables. These fibres are known as prebiotics and cannot be digested by humans, but can be and are digested by the good bacteria in our gut. A high vegetable intake will feed your good gut bacteria and help to ensure that they are not over-crowded by the bad bacteria feeding on the sugar in the chocolate. Include lots of leafy green vegetables (spinach, kale, rocket), brassicas (broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage), alliums (onions, garlic, leeks) and root vegetables (carrots, parsnips, sweet potatoes, swede).
  • Top up on good bacteria – fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kefir and pickled vegetables all help to provide additional good bacteria to help maintain a balanced microbiome. Friendly bacteria supplements are also designed to do this.
  • Exercise and move your body – this will help to burn off the excess sugar from the ‘eggs’. If the sun is shining, get outside with the family and play some games – football, catch, frisbee, rounders, hide-and-seek – and if it’s raining, consider putting on some music and dancing or getting the kids to take part in an ‘aerobics’ session (star jumps, jogging on the spot, running up and down the stairs). The more vigorous the better!
  • Get the whole family outside in the fresh air – if you are not up for a lively exercise session, consider taking the whole family on a long walk or bike ride. Getting out in nature helps to support our gut bacteria as we are exposed to bugs that we won’t find in our ‘clean’ homes.
  • Limit the amount of chocolate eaten each day – rather than a one-off chocolate-fest, consider eating the chocolate over a period of time. Perhaps allow more chocolate than normal every day for a week, but only after meals.
  • Drink lots of water to stay hydrated – this is key to supporting healthy gut function and the proper function of our bodies overall. Aim for the standard recommendation of eight large glasses of water per day as the base level and add to that if you are exercising, particularly stressed or eating too much chocolate.
  • Relax and keep stress to a minimum – unfortunately our bodies are wired to respond to stress in the same way whether it is an acute (immediate) threat or chronic (long-term) stress. When we are stressed, our gut function is ‘switched off’, as our body considers that we will not need to eat when we are facing an immediate stressor. If this stress continues however, this can mean that our gut function is continuously downgraded and may lead to digestive symptoms. Holidays like Easter can be stressful for many (even just eating lots of chocolate is a stressor on the body), but once the stressful day (or weekend) is over, it is important to rest and to bring the body back to homeostasis (balance), to bring our digestive function back to normal.

Wishing you a very happy Easter.

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, 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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