12 Tips to Save Your Gut This Festive Season
It's so close to the holidays I can smell my Aunt's Christmas pudding in the making! Anyone else think that this is by far the best time of year? Holidays with family and friends, time at the beach or bush (if you’re from the southern hemisphere), summer storms (again, southern hemisphere) and a whole heap of delicious food that you likely can't eat much of without getting symptoms. Well, apart from the food, it's a pretty awesome time.
I don't know about you, but I struggled with speaking up about what I could and couldn’t eat when I first started on my gut-healing journey. It generally meant that there wasn’t much I could eat at Christmas gatherings, unless I'd made it myself. Yes, I should have spoken up, but I'm a pretty quiet person. I also struggled with the excitement of seeing sooo many delicious offerings that often led to overeating and overindulgence.... and the dreaded symptoms of gas, bloating, indigestion and so on.
So, what is it about us crazy humans and feeling the need to abuse ourselves with food on special occasions? That we are missing out if we don’t? And that the food won’t be there the next day, or even week?
We forget that we can roast a turkey or ham, cook prawns and delicious desserts any time of the year. We have this thing called a ‘scarcity mindset’ and it drives us to over do it. So how can we slow down and enjoy the day, and make sure we are respecting our gut and where we are at with our health?
Here are some tips to help your gut stay happy over the Silly Season.
In preparation for the day
1. Help plan the menu so you can recommend meal ideas that you can eat and drinks that won’t upset your gut. I’ve found that being a part of this process is helpful for educating your family and friends about what you can eat, and they are usually really excited about trying something new that everyone can eat. If you’re planning a breakfast, check out these allergy-friendly PANCAKES. Allergy-friendly dessert options that my family love are my PALEO LEMON TART and CHOC-BANANA NUTTY FREEZER CAKE.
2. Cook and take foods you can eat so you know there is something for you on the day. I try to take one main dish and a dessert that meets my needs. You’ll have to be careful though. Family and friends love trying new things and I am often sharing my gut-healing recipes by the end of the day. Here is a great COOKIE recipe that is allergy-friendly and everyone seems to love.
3. And if you can’t do either, have a meal before you go so you can eat as much or as little as you want when you get to the function. I also like to take snacks like fruit, nuts, BLISS BALLS or superfood bars to help me get through the day if I think there isn’t going to be anything that doesn’t upset my gut.
On the day:
4. Have a proper meal to avoid snacking throughout the day. Snacking means that your digestive system isn’t getting a rest, and this will likely lead to bloating, gas and reflux by the end of the day, no matter how well you are sticking to the foods that you know won’t upset you. The digestive system needs time to do its work so give it at least three hours between meals.
5. Take a digestive enzyme if you are concerned about what’s in the meal. Digestive enzymes help you break down the foods you eat so they can be easily absorbed and used by the body. They take the stress off your digestive system and are a great option for big meals, or if you are enjoying a lot of foods you often don’t eat. If you are in need of some digestive enzymes, I like to use these two options available from iHerb: Enzymedica Digest - 1 capsule with meals, or Garden of Life, Omega-Zyme Ultra for those who have a particularly sensitive stomach - 1-3 capsules with meals. If there is a big break between your main meal and dessert, have another enzyme with your pudding.
6. Choose more cooked than raw foods because raw foods are harder to digest. I like to aim for 70% of my meal to be cooked, and 30% at most to be raw. This generally means choosing cooked vegetables and eating less raw salads where possible to give your gut a break.
7. Sit when you eat so your body can relax and digest the meal. If you are rushing around, this can push your body into a stressed state and you won’t be able to digest. Remember: rest and digest.
8. Eat your proteins, healthy fats and veggies first because they are more satiating and will send signals to your brain about whether you are full or not. Leave the sweets for later.
9. Chew your food until it is soft and put your cutlery down between bites. This will help you slow down and enjoy the meal so you are less likely to eat too much. It will also help your body break down your meal more thoroughly, meaning less gas and bloating.
10. Be careful when combining alcohol and fruit. Alcohol and sugar together are the perfect storm for a holiday hangover, and they are really hard on the digestive system. Not to mention, highly inflammatory. If you do decide to indulge, try to keep them separate. Which I know is hard with Christmas pudding and Trifle.
11. Stay hydrated and try to have a glass of water for every glass of alcohol you consume. And to supercharge that glass of water, add some fresh lemon or lime juice for antioxidants and minerals that the alcohol will be depleting.
12. Have a natural relief plan for if you do get symptoms. I generally go to Christmas day knowing that I will likely overeat a little, and the foods that I choose may not be a part of my every day eating. This means symptoms, although mild, are inevitable. To help with this, I take some digestive tea bags that contain peppermint, ginger, licorice and/or chamomile, or a natural digestive aid like Iberogast with me. 20 drops in a little water after meals helps to calm your tummy swiftly. And if you are still struggling, you can take up to 20 drops, 4 times during the day.
But most importantly, remember to enjoy the day for what it is - which is more than just the food!
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