It’s the season of delicious food, naughty cocktails and an all round party for your stomach.
All that party food and takeaway, however, can have consequences for your gut health.
Gut health is so important. Your gut is a crucial part of your immune system. In fact, 70% of your entire immune system sits around your gut.
Good gut health means looking after your gut microbiome — the bacteria, fungi, viruses and tiny organisms that live inside you and help break down your food — but also the cells and function of your gastrointestinal system.
Did you know that your gut health can actually affect your mood too!!! How??? Our digestive system and our brain have a close relationship with one another. The brain sends signals to the gut to release stomach acids when we just think of food. The relationship goes the other way also. A troubled gut sends signals to the brain and a troubled brain sends signals to the gut. So a troubled gut can be the result or the cause of anxiety, depression and stress. The brain and the gut have a unique relationship called the gut-brain axis.
How does your festive season affect your gut health???
You can change your gut microbiome within a couple of days by changing your diet. And over a longer period of time, such as the Christmas-New Year season, your diet pattern can change significantly, often without you really noticing.
That means we may be changing the organisms that make up our microbiome during this time. Whatever you put in will favour certain bacteria in your microbiome over others.
We know fatty, sugary foods promote bacteria that are not as beneficial for gut health. And if you indulge over days or weeks, you are pushing your microbiome towards an imbalance.
What can you do to prepare your gut health for the indulgent events?
If your gut is healthy to begin with it will be more resilient to what you are consuming, so here are a few tips to get your gut health prepared for party time:
- Eat foods that have prebiotics in them such as artichokes, garlic, onions and a variety of grains and inulin-enhanced yoghurts (inulin is a prebiotic carbohydrate shown to have broad benefits to gut health)
- Eat resistant starches which are starches that pass undigested through the small intestine and feed the bacteria in the large intestine. That includes grainy wholemeal bread, legumes such as beans and lentils, firm bananas, starchy vegetables like potatoes and some pasta and rice. The trick to increasing resistant starches in potato, pasta and rice is to cook them but eat them cold, so consider serving a cold potato or pasta salad over Christmas
- Choosing fresh, unprocessed fruits and vegetables steering clear of added sugar where possible. Excessive amounts of added sugar (or fruit sugar from high consumption of fruit) flows quickly to the large intestine, where it gets gobbled up by bacteria. That can cause higher gas production, diarrhoea and potentially upset the balance of the microbiome
- Increase the amount of fibre in your diet (or via a supplement), you’ll need to drink more water — or you can get constipated.
- WATER, WATER, WATER the more water you can drink in between your meals or alcohol the better it is to flush out all the nasties and will keep your body hydrated.
Remember, there are no quick fixes. Your gut health is like a garden or an ecosystem. If you want the good plants to grow, you need to tend to them — otherwise, the weeds can take over.
I know you’re probably sick of hearing the basics — eat fruits and vegetables, exercise and don’t make the treats too frequent — but the fact is good gut health is hard won and easily lost. It’s worth putting in the effort.
A preventative mindset helps. If you do the right thing most of the time and indulge just now and then, your gut health will be OK in the end.
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