Why Is Christmas A Problem For Your Gut?
Christmas meals can affect our gut health, its microbiome diversity and the abundance of health-promoting bacteria. A gut full of friendly bacteria prevents the growth of pathogens that cause certain health conditions. Furthermore, it also regulates many of our essential bodily functions that are needed for wellness.
What’s more, scientists have shown that 70% of our immune system is in our gut. The gut has proven links to several serious health conditions including obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Thus, Christmas overindulgence can put your health at risk if you don’t take your staple diet seriously. Keeping your gut microbes well nourished is essential for overall physical and mental health.
Which Gut Complaints Do Patients Have At Christmas?
- Weight gain and bloating. According to the King Edward VII’s Hospital in London, “Increasing the consumption of fatty or sugary food automatically slows down digestion, and an unhealthy gut causes symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome and bloating”. Fortunately, there’s plenty of nutrient-rich foods on offer at Christmas which can enable colon bacteria to keep your gut healthy. Nevertheless, if you notice you’re bloating very often, or if it is especially painful, you should go and see a doctor.
- Digestive discomfort related to alcohol consumption. Consuming too much alcohol can impact the composition and diversity of the bacteria in your gut. Indeed, alcohol slows down the movement of food through the digestive system.
- Social stress and its impact on our gut health. Stress has been shown to negatively affect digestion. Increased levels of stress can reduce the abundance of health-promoting bacteria. However, if your gut is balanced, these bacteria can even help increase resilience in stressful situations. In addition, the gut microbiome can increase the production of serotonin, the hormone that regulates mood, anxiety and happiness.
Our Top Tips For Supporting Your Digestion This Christmas
- Do not alter the normal rhythms and times of meals at Christmas. Some studies have shown that when alternating a generally healthy diet with a few days of eating a lot of unhealthy food harmful effects are seen on the gut microbiota, which are similar to when you would eat unhealthy food all the time.
- Eat calmly. Correct breathing while eating helps food metabolise better, benefiting absorption and digestion.
- Try to eat light dinners and avoid going to bed after dinner to prevent reflux and abdominal pain.
- Stay active during the holidays. It keeps your digestive movements regular and reduces stress.
- Moderate your alcohol consumption and make sure you’re drinking plenty of water.
- Be careful with the lack of sleep. It affects your gut microbiome and this, in turn, has a role in your sleep quality and your overall mood. You should aim to keep your pattern as regular as possible during the holiday season.