Christmas is a wonderful time where we can celebrate with family and friends. It can also be very busy and exhausting which can negatively effect our gut. Here I am sharing a few hacks and ideas to make the holidays a little easier. This will have a positive effect not only on your gut but also help you feel more energised, less anxious and happier over the holidays.
1- Don’t Skip Meals
One of the mistakes people make during the holidays is skipping meals. It’s really important to try and have consistency over the holidays and if you are feeling stressed or anxious skipping meals is going to make this worse. Have a couple of quick meal ideas that you can quickly put together. It will also keep you full, support energy, concentration and reduce anxiety.
I like to keep 3 ingredients stocked in my fridge for this: Milled flaxseeds, yoghurt and berries (either fresh or frozen)
Yogurt with a teaspoon of milled flaxseeds and a handful of berries. This takes no more than 60 seconds to put together.
Porridge with half a cup of oats and one heaped teaspoon of milled flaxseeds. Let this simmer on low for 2-3 minutes and then enjoy topped with some yoghurt and berries.
I like to include milled flaxseeds because it is a source of omega 3, anti-inflammatory, a great source of fibre, helps feed the good microbes in your gut and contains antioxidants. Linwoods have an apple and cinnamon flavour for an extra festive feel and more plant points.
Yoghurt is a probiotic food and a good source of protein. Berries are low GI and high in antioxidants. Berries help to naturally sweeten the meal without the need for added sugar.
2 – Blood Sugar Balance your Meals
Blood sugar balancing your meal means that it should not only contain carbohydrates (for example toast or cereal) but also protein, fat and fibre. This is important because carbohydrates cause what is known as the blood sugar roller coaster. They are simple sugars and get broken down very quickly in the gut and hit your blood stream fast, causing a spike in blood sugar, followed by a drop. This causes you to feel irritable, anxious, low in energy and negatively effects your gut and immune system (no good for the holidays!)
If you were to add some protein, fat and fibre to the meal it would slow down the release of sugar into the blood stream giving you sustained energy, negate anxiety, support the gut and keep you full for 3-4 hours.
If we take the example of toast – if you were to add a nut butter, like peanut butter (which contains protein and fat) and a sprinkle of milled flaxseeds, it would slow the release of sugars as you not only have carbohydrates but also protein, fat and fibre. For cereal you could swap this for a bowl of porridge or yogurt (as above).
3 – Schedule Outdoor Time
We know that feelings of stress directly impact our gut health and it can be a contributing factor to more gut issues over the holidays. One of the easiest ways to support the mind and gut is to try and get outside during the day.
Going for a short walk can help clear the mind and reduce stress, positively impacting the gut. If you have a nearby park or woods where you can go walking that is even better. We know that plants and trees release chemical compounds that we breath in, having a positive impact.
If you have a busy day try waking up 30 minutes earlier and use that time to get outside and walk.
Another option would be to take a walk after a meal. It can be a great family activity. In addition to this, walking after a heavy meal can help you digest that meal better, reduce bloating and feel more energised.
4- Mindful Eating
Mindful Eating is great at improving digestion and also reducing any gut related symptoms you can experience after a meal. Mindful eating simply means eating your meal with intention.
- Be seated and take a couple of deep breaths before you eat and think of something you are grateful for. This allows the body to be calm and optimal digestion happens in a calm state. It also allows blood to flow to your digestive organs, like your stomach, supporting better digestion.
- Chew your food! You have digestive enzymes in your saliva and the more you chew your foods you can coat it better in these enzymes supporting optimal breakdown. Also, your stomach doesn’t have teeth and relies on the mechanical process of the teeth to break down food.
5- Digestive Tea
A quick and easy digestive tea can be a lovely end to a big lunch or dinner. It’s also a great way to
include ingredients that can calm the gut and reduce and gut related symptoms.
Ingredients like chamomile, fennel and ginger can be great. Chamomile is a nervine and helps calm both the gut and the brain. In addition to this it has been shown to reduce the blood sugar response after a meal. Fennel seeds can help reduce bloating and any gut related pain and ginger is antispasmodic, reduces nausea and is calming for the gut.
I like to mix one teaspoon of fennel seeds and one teaspoon of Chamomile, with a thumb size piece of grated ginger. Add just boiled water, cover and let it infuse for 5 minutes before pouring and enjoying.
Article by Farzanah Nasser
Farzanah Nasser is a Nutritional Therapist and certified Functional Medicine practitioner. She specialises in autoimmunity with a special interest in Hashimotos Disease and the Gut Microbiome.
She works with women to help bring their autoimmunity into remission. Farzanah has a virtual practise that allows her to work with clients worldwide.