Many of us always enjoy the wonderful flavors of Christmas. It wouldn’t be Christmas without…
…mulled wine, clementines, gingerbread, salmon, champagne, etc. The list can go on and on. These foods and drinks are often not consumed in moderation but instead all at once and excessively. That is why this can easily backfire on you and bowel problems start to appear, especially stomach pain, diarrhea, or bloating. Here you can find 6 tips to help your gut heal after the holidays.
1. Increase your intake of probiotics
Probiotics are beneficial gut bacteria that help maintain balance and can contribute to proper bowel function. These can be taken in the form of supplements, but they are also found in many common food products such as fermented foods, yogurt, and kefir. It is important to be aware that there are different types of probiotic bacteria and it’s recommended to test out which one works for you. Learn more about probiotics here.
2. Add more vegetables and fruits
It is well known that eating at least 5 different types of fruits and vegetables every day is important for proper digestion and overall health. After the typical Christmas feast, it may be beneficial to increase the intake of vegetables and fruits to restore a more balanced diet and reintroduce the necessary vitamins and nutrients. It is however recommended to opt for those with lower FODMAP content. FODMAPs are carbohydrates with shorter carbon chains that are thought to trigger IBS symptoms in some people. The common symptoms caused by FODMAPs are increased gas or bloating. Although a low-FODMAP diet may help alleviate IBS symptoms, it is important to slowly reintroduce those that do not cause you problems to avoid long-term dietary deficiencies.
Some of the low FODMAP fruits and vegetables recommended are:
- berries and citrus fruits
- greens like spinach or salad
- pumpkin and sweet potatoes
3. Hold off on alcohol intake
When alcohol reaches the stomach, the production of gastrin and gastric acid secretion are affected. Differences emerge between various alcoholic beverages, where fermented beverages such as wine, beer, and champagne increase acid secretion the most. The strong seasoning in the mulled wine can reinforce the negative effect. The great variation in alcohol content and seasoning among today’s mulled wine varieties also makes it difficult to predict how people will react to it.
The amount of alcohol can also affect bowel movements, which is of particular relevance to people with IBS. A relatively low alcohol intake can increase bowel emptying and lead to diarrhea, while a high alcohol intake can instead reduce bowel movements and cause constipation. However, understanding how alcoholic beverages fully affect the gastrointestinal tract is a more complex issue, with factors such as pH, other ingredients, and the distillation process all playing a role.
So the simplest advice for people with IBS is the usual, to consume alcohol in moderation. By reducing alcohol intake during and after the Christmas holidays, you may help promote faster gut recovery.
4. Hydrate your body
Hydration is essential for transporting and absorbing nutrients in the body and removing waste. It can be helpful in case of both diarrhea and constipation while it reduces the risk of dehydration and helps improve bowel movements. Although water is the best drink, it can be occasionally altered by teas (peppermint, chamomile, or fennel) or by adding lemon juice. It is better to avoid sugary or carbonated drinks which could worsen your symptoms. Keep in mind that on average you need about 1,5 to 2 liters of water per day and even more if you exercise or if you are sick.
5. Move and relax
During the holidays, people tend to be less active and go to sleep less. We often overeat and then blame ourselves for feeling uncomfortable. It is important to also take it easy on yourselves and not to be mad at losing control. By introducing light activities such as short walks, swimming, or yoga every day, and by taking enough rest during and after the holidays, you can get right on track toward healthier dietary habits. Don’t forget to forgive yourself for treating yourself and move on, after all, it’s Christmas.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!