The holidays are upon us, and you know what that means…‘tis the season for gut inflammation! With the parties, meals, and seasonal cheer, it’s easy to get out of your routine and indulge in foods your body isn’t used to eating. Remember, what you eat and drink affects your gut microbiome. Gut inflammation is also a crucial determinant of intestinal and full-body health. It’s essential to keep healthy as an inflamed gut can contribute to the development of Type 2 Diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, cardiovascular disease, and more.
So how can we keep your gut healthy?
We created a quick food and lifestyle guide to help you navigate through the holidays and stay as healthy as possible!
1. Stay away from gluten!
Gluten is a group of proteins found in wheat, rye, barley, and triticale. Avoiding gluten is more than giving up bread, cereal, pasta, pizza, and beer. Gluten also acts as a binding product that hides in many other products, including frozen vegetables, soy sauce, some foods made with “natural flavorings,” vitamin and mineral supplements, some medications, and even toothpaste! Aim for whole foods you cook yourself, and if you’re eating packaged foods, look for gluten-free (GF) labels.
2. Check your oils
Industrial seed oils are from genetically modified plants, such as corn, soy, cotton, rapeseed (the source of canola oil), cottonseed, and safflower seeds. Instead, use organic oils such as coconut, avocado, or olive and also Ghee or grass-fed butter!
3. Acellular Carbohydrates
Acellular Carbohydrates are flour-based carbohydrates that have been stripped from their fiber cells. These are dense carbohydrates, meaning they do not have a cell wall. Acellular Carbohydrates are commonly found in flour, sugar, and many processed foods. Consuming these carbohydrates leads to several health issues, besides an inflamed gut, such as leptin resistance and obesity. If you are itching for something sweet this holiday season, go for fruit or a sweet potato!
Additives are the sneakiest of them all because they are sneakily added to everything. A study found that nearly 60% of foods in the United States contain additives! If you see monosodium glutamate (MSG), artificial food coloring, sodium nitrite, guar gum, high-fructose corn syrup, artificial sweeteners, carrageenan, and sodium benzoate, trans fats, or yeast extract in any of your food, run!
Alcohol irritates your gut. Drinking makes your stomach produce more acid than usual, which can, in turn, cause gastritis, triggering stomach pains, vomiting, diarrhea, and even internal bleeding. However, a research study conducted by Kings College London earlier this fall, published in the Journal Gastroenterology, explored the effect of beer, cider, red wine, white wine, and spirits on the gut microbiome. While we have heard the benefits of red wine on heart health, this study showed that moderate red wine consumption could be linked to a greater number of bacterial diversity, therefore a healthier gut microbiota. When you’re picking something to drink this holiday season, think about cheering with a glass of red wine.
Stress has a direct correlation to your gut. In a study conducted by Harvard Health, it was found that emotions can cause chemical and physical responses in the body that can result in pain and discomfort. Find a way to take time for yourself and relax – or learn how to reduce stress just through breathing using our Simple Guide to Relaxation Through Breathing!
7. Get Off The Couch!
Get moving! Movement, in general, is not just good for your muscles and cardiovascular system but also is good for your gut. Rhythmic and prolonged movement such as walking, jogging, and biking can be beneficial. You don’t need an intense workout; just work on moving your body more by taking a nice 10 to 20-minute stroll after a meal.
Amazing things happen while you sleep! A poor night’s sleep can immediately change the composition of your gut microbiome by decreasing the types of beneficial bacteria. This shows that when we sleep poorly, our gut suffers and can’t do its job as efficiently. Even taking a 20-minute nap during the day can improve your gut health.
9. Immune System
Our immune system protects us from disease by monitoring our bodies and responding to foreign threats. Our immune system and the gut microbiota work together to maintain our body’s homeostasis and health. Imbalances in the gut microbiota may disrupt immune responses and lead to the development of chronic inflammatory and autoimmune dysfunctions. As the temperatures go down and the common cold takes over, antibiotics can wreak havoc to our gut, so make sure to boost your immune system with vitamins and whole foods to keep your defenses sharp.
10. Environmental Toxins
Gut inflammation is one of the most frequently linked symptoms of exposure to environmental toxins. The top five groups of environmental toxins that disrupt gut bacteria include triclosan, pesticides, plasticizers (such as BPA and phthalates), heavy metals, and pharmaceutical drugs. Simple changes as replacing your cookware, water bottles, and cleaning products can make an impactful change to your gut’s health!
We hope this list you will leave you feeling ready to take on the holidays, gut first!
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Harvard Health Publishing. “The Impact of Stress on Your Gut.” Harvard Health, www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/the-impact-of-stress-on-your-gut.
“How The Gut Microbiota Influences Our Immune System.” Neurohacker Collective, www.neurohacker.com/how-the-gut-microbiota-influences-our-immune-system.
Spreadbury, Ian. “Comparison with Ancestral Diets Suggests Dense Acellular Carbohydrates Promote an Inflammatory Microbiota, and May Be the Primary Dietary Cause of Leptin Resistance and Obesity.” Diabetes, Metabolic Syndrome, and Obesity: Targets and Therapy, Dove Medical Press, 2012, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3402009/.
“Why Red Wine Could Be Good for Your Gut – in Moderation.” BBC News, BBC, 28 Aug. 2019, www.bbc.com/news/health-49480864.