Most of us have felt the unhappy grumble from a belly fed a few too many snowballs and sausage rolls. There’s no doubt that festive feasting can leave your gut feeling decidedly delicate – but fear not, help is at hand with our biome-happy inspired 12-days of Christmas.
Your gut microflora tend to take a bit of a bashing during the festive season thanks to a heady mix of late nights, boozy concoctions and high fat, low fibre foods. Support your gut garden with a daily dose of Symprove – the helpful bacteria it contains can help to maintain levels of the good bacteria in your belly, which are important for digestion, immune function and even mood.
Festive nibbles don’t have the healthiest reputation – but you can score gut-friendly points by switching up crisps and sausage rolls for olives and nuts. As well as being packed with heart-friendly fats, they contain polyphenols, a group of plant antioxidants which are buffet food for your gut bacteria. If you’re hosting, try whipping up this artichoke and lemon dip – it’s made with biome-boosting ingredients.
Several days of pastry covered nibbles and turkey sarnies can leave your gut bacteria starved of fibre – the very nutrient they need to survive. Keep your fibre intake topped up over the festive period by filling your plate with Christmas veggies – we love brussels, carrots, red cabbage and parsnips.
If you’re struggling to find space for your five-a-day, switch out your lunchtime sandwich for a roasted veggie salad (root veggies roasted with olive oil, cumin, coriander, cumin and honey are delicious!) and top with puy lentils and feta. For a FODMAP friendly plate, opt for parsnips, carrots and chestnuts and switch honey for maple syrup.
When you’re ready for a time out from mince pies and selection boxes, festoon your desk and dining table with a bowl of naturally sweet clementines. These orange gems are rich in vitamin C and will contribute to your fibre intake. And if you’re done with turkey legs, try your hand at this clementine and avocado salad – switch up the ham hock for smoked salmon or even lentils for a meat free meal.
Most festive-induced belly woes can be linked to an steady influx of booze and rich foods, interspersed with regular top ups of brightly coloured foil coated choccies. Your digestive system has to work hard to break down these festive indulgences, with little breathing space between the next top up. Give your digestive system a chance to catch up by taking a few hours rest from eating – this might mean saving that extra serving for later in the day, or leaving a longer period between dinner and breakfast the next morning.
Good news for cheese lovers – the probiotic bacteria found in cheese can help to foster a healthy microbiome. In one study from France, researchers found that healthy adults eating diets containing cheese had higher levels of butyrate (a byproduct of gut bacteria which has anti-inflammatory effect) than those eating a control diet without dairy products. Swiss cheeses – such as Emmental and Gruyère and Brie are ideal. Serve your cheese plate with fruits and vegetables (apple slices, grapes and pickles) and seedy crackers for extra fibre.
With so much delicious food around it tempting to gobble everything in sight double-quick, but spare a thought for your stomach, which is only about size of your clenched fist! Eating large volumes can trigger gas bloating and heartburn – and eating quickly means less chewing – a process which releases enzymes that help break down and prepare food for digestion. Go slow, savour the flavour and you’ll enjoy your food more and feel more comfortable after eating – win win.
There’s nothing more festive than an afternoon spent watching Christmas movies, but just like the rest of your body, your biome (and your gut!) benefits from regular movement. Roll out a mat and try this 15 minute sequence for digestion, or if yoga isn’t your thing, stick on a podcast or grab a family member and head to the great outdoors for a brisk walk.
As glorious as this time of year is, the festive season can also be incredibly stressful. Feeling of overwhelm can have a knock on effect on your gut, triggering digestive symptoms and changes in gut bacteria. One you notice your shoulders tensing or your patience wearing thin, take a moment to step back and breathe. Lengthening your exhalations is helpful as it activates the relaxation response – but you can also try this narrated 3 minute breathing space – it’s a great way to calm mind and body.
Large doses of caffeine can trigger heartburn and disrupt sleep (which seems important for a healthy balanced biome) so balance out those gingerbread lattes with a soothing cup of peppermint tea. Ahhhhh.
A celebratory snowball or glass of bubbles is a Christmas tradition, but too much alcohol can upset your belly and your gut bacteria. Having a spritzer with soda water is one way to reduce the load, but you can also switch up boozy beverages with a festive kombucha cocktail, or try a polyphenol-rich punch by simmering pomegranate juice with festive spices and a cinnamon stick.
Gut health isn’t just for Christmas – it’s important all year round. Make a commitment to care for your biome in 2019 and you’ll reap the rewards – all it takes is a few small changes. Take a look at the Symprove blog for inspiration, or get your January off to a good start with this 30-day gut-love challenge.