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Although Christmas may be slightly different this year, we all still have the temptation to overindulge, with its lavish roast dinners, decadent desserts, and often excessive alcohol. With the build up to Christmas starting earlier and earlier, the temptations can become plentiful, which can lead to an increase in the frequency of these indulgencies. This can put a lot of stress on our digestive system, with excess carbohydrates, fats, sugars and proteins to break down appropriately. You may even experience symptoms such as diarrhoea, constipation, bloating and flatulence. But don’t despair, we have come up with some easy and practical Christmas health tips to help you and your gut stay on the right track.
All the stress of shopping, wrapping presents and the long to-do list might have raised your cortisol (our key stress hormone). So you may be more susceptible to lowered immunity and a stressed stomach. So make sure you spend some time relaxing and ensure you get some good quality sleep (so watch the coffee and alcohol). Important nutrients to focus on are magnesium (found in avocados, spinach, nuts and seeds) and vitamin C (found in bell peppers, broccoli, strawberries, and pineapple).
It is often tempting to skip breakfast or treat yourself to a little croissant when you know you will be having a larger meal later on in the day, however, breakfast can be a great way to prepare your body for what’s to come. Starting the day with a meal containing high quality protein, healthy fats and loaded with antioxidants will help. A healthy ‘fry up’ is an easy and hearty way to do this, you can include poached eggs, wilted spinach, grilled tomatoes, homemade baked beans and sliced avocado. If you prefer something lighter, have a tasty smoothie that will provide lots of nutrients and protective antioxidants. Try our tried and tested green detox smoothie which you are sure to love!
Some foods can be particularly problematic such as foods rich in gluten, dairy, trans fats and added sugars, and it’s these which are usually abundant in the ‘luxurious’ foods we indulge in at Christmas time. All the desserts, bakes and chocolates as well and processed/cured meats and pastries are the usual culprits to disrupt our digestive system. Try not to over indulge in these foods, introducing some self-control and balance in your diet.
To help lessen the burden on our digestive system, there are certain supplements we can take. Digestive enzymes can help us break down sugars, carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. Look for a supplement that contains a broad spectrum of these enzymes to aid overall digestion and help to relieve symptoms such as acid reflux and bloating. In addition, live bacteria with carefully selected and well-researched bacterial strains is also supportive for IBS-type symptoms.
Consider your plate size. We tend to pile our plates high with food and eat until it’s all gone or until we can’t fit any more in. So having a smaller plate, whether this is the actual plate itself or putting less food on your plate, can help to prevent overeating. The key thing is being mindful and aware of how much you are consuming. It can also be about self-restraint, so when you are full - stop!
Although it is tempting to curl up on the sofa after eating Christmas dinner, a good way to stimulate your digestion, is to put on your hat and scarf and go for a walk. Gentle exercise can encourage digestive function and support healthy bowel motility.
Instead of waiting until the New Year, you can gently detoxify your body throughout the Christmas period. This can reduce your chances of weight gain and feelings of fatigue and being run down. Detoxification is an everyday process helping us deal with foods, additives, toxins we’re breathing in, caffeine, alcohol, and household chemicals. Green vegetables and fruits really are your friend as they are packed full of nutrients and support the detoxification process. Smoothies are an easy and great way to get these leafy greens in. Including kale, spinach, broccoli, and apples can be a great way to ensure your body is getting the nutrition it needs. As Christmas can also bring the cold weather, you could put green vegetables into a soup for lunch or dinner, adding in herbs such as coriander, which is full of plant chemicals that are highly detoxifying.
After over-eating throughout the Christmas period, it’s important to get your eating habits back on track. Portion control and resisting the urge to eat and snack in excess are easy ways to support the pancreas, as is leaving a gap between your evening meal and bedtime. Eating too close to bedtime can disrupt sleeping patterns and the gut’s ability to repair at night.
The chances are your Christmas diet is going to be more depleting than nourishing, so when you’re not indulging, make sure you top-up your intake of plant based foods. Don’t stress about what you’re doing, but don’t overcompensate for it either. It’s pointless having a huge blow out and then going to the extreme of trying to compensate for it all in the New Year. We hope you have an enjoyable Christmas - just make sure that it’s in moderation.
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