The holidays are easily one of my favorite times of year. I love the extra time with loved ones, the tradition, the decor, the gift giving, and the overall feel of joy! But let’s be honest… it’s not all gumdrops and candy canes for all of us. With the temptation of less than healing foods, and the myriad of ways to take on stress, the holidays can really take a toll on your health… especially your gut health.
We know that your gut health is so central to the health of your entire body. It impacts your mood, your ability to absorb nutrients, your autoimmune status… the list goes on. As someone with Hashimoto’s disease and long term health issues, one of the biggest factors in how I feel at any given time is my gut health. It’s the key behind so many of our issues.
So, why are the holidays such a concern for your gut health? Here are just a few ways that the holidays can result in a less than optimal environment for gut health…
- Lack of healing foods or excess of sugary, processed foods
- Emotional stress
- Physical stress (due to lack of exercise, or stress from travel)
- Lack of sleep
- Lack of self care
The list goes on…
Allowing your gut health to fall by the wayside can have lasting effects beyond just the holidays… it can cause health flares, and a myriad of other illnesses. However, it also impacts our ability to enjoy the present moment that we’re in. If I’m doubled over in pain from bloat or stomach cramps, I’m not enjoying the holidays… period.
Though it’s important to continue to care for our health, it’s equally as important to not restrict or deny ourselves of holiday fun! Restriction can be just as damaging as indulging. So where is the balance?
Here are 5 easy ways to keep your gut healthy during the holidays while still enjoying yourself!
1.Continue to incorporate healing foods daily
The holidays don’t have to be non-stop cookies, pies, and gingerbread houses. There are still plenty of opportunities for you to keep up with a normal healing diet throughout the days and weeks!
The misconception is that if you slip up with too many treats, or a non compliant food once, then there’s no point in even bothering with healing foods… you might as well just go completely off the rails. That couldn’t be further from the truth.
Even if you have one off day or over indulge at a party or two, all is not lost. You can still turn it around and continue making healing choices.
Here are some ideas for incorporating healing foods during the holidays…
- Soups with bone broth and pureed veggies
- Pot roast
- Beef stew
- Turmeric lattes
- Cauliflower rice risotto
2. Bring healing food to share at holiday gatherings
One of the most common places that we can trip up in our healing journey is at parties, dinners and other gatherings. It can be hard to say no to plates filled with Christmas cookies, warm mugs of hot chocolate, and other yummy appetizers.
However, it’s a lot easier to stick with healing foods at parties when you bring your own that’s good enough to share! This is a trick that I’ve been using for years, and it always works. Not only does it keep me happy and well fed, but other party go-ers are always happy with the healthy treats and appetizers.
Here are some ideas…
3. Lean on supplements when necessary
We could all use a little help every now and then, and the holidays are a perfect time of year to lean on some extra support from supplements to help. Of course, you always want to work with a doctor to ensure that supplements you’re taking are compatable with your health status, but here are some ideas to discuss…
- Activated charcoal. You can get this at any drug store… I don’t have a particular brand I like more or less. This is a must for me when I’m traveling or eating out. Activated charcoal can help combat side effects from eating food that makes us sick. It’s great to take after you accidentally eat something that makes you feel ill. However, taking too much can have bad side effects so you don’t want to over do it or take it when you don’t need it. It’s just a back up!
- Digestive enzymes. Taking an enzyme could be a good idea if you have gut issues. The type you get will vary, but I like this brand.
- Digestive bitters/ HCL. This helps stimulate stomach acid which aids digestion. This is my favorite one, but everyone is different.
4. Manage your stress & mindset
The holidays are incredibly stressful. There’s travel to coordinate, dinners and parties to plan, gifts to shop for, and more. Regardless of your situation, there’s going to be some associated stress.
Stress can be just as damaging to our gut health, and health in general as inflammatory food. The stress hormone cortisol keeps our body is a sympathetic state which interferes with our digestion, our ability to heal, and even the health of our gut lining. I’ve gone through a number of flares that were triggered by stress alone, and have seen the negative impact that stress can have in my own clients and friends.
It is so imperative to manage your stress and mindset during the holidays! So, how do you do that?
First, remember that this is temporary. This won’t last forever, and you’ll be out of the woods in a number of weeks.
Next, remember to make time for self care, relaxation, and fun. I can’t think of anything more relaxing than curling up with a good book on the couch near the Christmas tree, or taking a walk in a neighborhood with Christmas lights. Find moments of joy, and prioritize them during the holidays.
Finally, shift your mindset around the holidays to focus on gratitude and giving. There’s always something to stress out about, but there’s also something to always to grateful. When we focus on what we’re thankful for, and give back to those that are less fortunate, we dwell on our own stressors less.
5. Make time for movement
Movement is so important for the overall health of our body. We need to regularly move our body to keep our joints healthy, regulate our sleep, aid our digestion, and more.
It’s harder to get movement in during the winter… I know. Walks become colder, and it’s harder to get to the gym when it gets dark so late. So you have to get creative….
Getting in little walks throughout the day like a lunch break walk, or walking right when you get home from work is one of my favorite strategies. Home work outs are also a great option, and one that I’ve been loving recently is Yogaglo. It’s $18 a month, and has tons of great options to get in some movement. Another option that I haven’t tried but have heard a lot about is barre3, which has also started a online subscription service.
No matter what it is, make time for movement daily during the holidays to keep your body healthy, and your spirits high!