The holiday season can really sabotage your gut health. It takes some serious self-control to keep from over-indulging when you are celebrating with your favorite people. So, here are some tips and strategies for how to lessen the damage and bounce back more easily from all the extra goodies.
Your Party-Going Strategy
You shouldn’t have to deprive yourself completely — “everything in moderation” is an excellent guiding principle when presented with good food and drink at holiday events. If you are already following good nutrition and wellness practices, however, now is not the time to slack off. And if you’re a little lax, you may want to step it up. You’ll feel better during the festivities, and you will be able to bounce back faster the next day.
As a reminder:
Don’t compound the sluggishness you’ll likely feel after feasting by not getting enough sleep the night of a party. Although it’s tempting to stay out late, prioritizing your usual sleep schedule is crucial for a variety of reasons. When we’re sleep deprived our bodies produce more of the hormone cortisol, which promotes insulin resistance, a risk factor for obesity and diabetes, according to Medscape. However, this is much more of an issue for those suffering from chronic sleep loss.
Sleep loss at any level interferes with your body’s hormone production and has adverse effects on your metabolism.
As always, stay hydrated — particularly if your holiday festivities involve alcoholic beverages.
Don’t Skip Any Meals
You shouldn’t arrive at a party on an empty stomach. When you know you’re heading out after work, or during the upcoming weekend, start your day off right by eating a healthy breakfast and lunch that will fill you up and keep you satiated throughout the day. When we become over-hungry, our bodies tend to crave fattier and more carb-heavy foods. So, any calories you thought you were saving by not having breakfast or lunch will likely backfire on you later.
Choose Foods to Balance Your Blood Sugar and Keep You Fuller, Longer
Balancing your blood sugar depends on the foods you choose for your breakfasts, lunches, and dinners pre- and post-party. Pair a protein with a healthy fat and some fiber-rich fruits and veggies, and you’re on the right track. Even if you’re not diabetic, choosing foods that balance your blood sugar — greens like kale or broccoli, whole grains like quinoa, sweet potatoes, nuts, lentils, beans, and berries — will prevent your insulin from spiking, keeping cravings and inflammation at bay.
Pair Prebiotic Foods with a Probiotic Supplement
As they say, you are what you eat. To boost your immune system and maintain good digestion, include more prebiotic foods in your diet whenever you can. Prebiotics promote the growth of microorganisms in your intestines. According to Healthline, once the prebiotics pass through the small intestine (without being digested), they are then fermented in the large intestine by preexisting bacteria. Here, they become the perfect source of nutrition for the bacteria already living in the gut, giving it the fuel it needs to keep processes working well.
According to MayoClinic, prebiotics are found in many fruits and vegetables, especially those that contain complex carbohydrates, such as fiber and resistant starch. These carbs aren’t digestible by your body, so they pass through the digestive system to become food for the bacteria and other microbes. Try including foods such as artichoke, garlic, onions, leeks, asparagus, bananas, barley, oats, apples, cocoa, flaxseeds, seaweed, kimchi, sweet potatoes, hemp seeds, and sauerkraut.
To help your microbiome even further, you can pair prebiotic foods (or a prebiotic supplement) with a probiotic supplement, which will add live microorganisms to the environment in your gut. There are a ton of probiotics available in stores nowadays. Before you buy anything, do your research and perhaps get a recommendation from your doctor. If you’re not on board with the idea of taking supplements, find a yogurt or kombucha drink that you like and stick with it.
Pack Nutrients into a Healthy Smoothie or Green Juice
As long as you avoid making your smoothies into sugar bombs, they can be a great way to pack nutrients in quickly. Use a base with lots of protein such as Greek yogurt (will also help you with your probiotic needs), your favorite nut butter, or protein powder. Smoothies don’t always fulfill your fiber needs as much as whole fruits or veggies would, but if drinking a smoothie stops you from having an unhealthier alternative, go for it!
If you want more fiber, juicing whole fruits and veggies (bonus if you use lots of greens), does retain the fiber content, enzymes, antioxidants, and other micro-nutrients your body needs and thrives on. If you’re interested in promoting the body’s natural detoxification process — say you’re recovering from popping champagne bottles on New Year’s Eve and want to hurry along the recovery process — try this green juice recipe from Joe Cross.
Reboot with a Plant-Based Diet
If you’re committed to making more significant changes to your diet after a long period of eating with reckless abandon, try going vegetarian, vegan, or mostly plant-based for a while.
If you don’t think you can handle that much change so quickly, start out by eating plant-based foods 60 percent of the time, and increase from there if you like the results.
Limiting meat, dairy, and refined sugars will reduce inflammation in your body. The bonus is that if you decide to make the change permanent, you’re helping to reduce your chances of cancer, heart disease, diabetes, depression, arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease, and other chronic ailments.