How to protect your gut this festive season
Food is a wonderful way to connect and engage and share and spend time together over – but for all the goodness of connection depending on WHAT we are eating it can tip the scales of health in the wrong direction. So how do you protect your gut health this festive season?
By Caren Wigmore ND.
By now its no secret: our gut holds up to 70% of our entire immune system in what is known as the gut-associated lymphoid tissue (GALT). The complexity of this system is so exciting and complex we are still learning new things every week, but one thing is for sure: you are what you eat!
Our microbiome: the bacteria, fungi, viruses and tiny organisms that live inside you and help break down your food can weight up to 2kgs. Depending on what we feed them determines what species are supported and nourished: lots of fresh vegetables, complex carbohydrates, resistant starches rainbow of colours in fruit and veg are all key in keeping a well-balanced microbiome – on the other hand: saturated fats, processed foods and sugars and alcohol (sounding like the indulgence of the Festive Season?) will have a poor impact and encourage inflammation and less beneficial species to thrive in your gut.
If you have ever sat in a consultation with me you would be sure to have heard me talk about the gut-brain axis and our vagus nerve which connects them. The Gut brain axis refers to a constant flow of information between gut microbes and the central nervous system. It’s a highly sophisticated network that is a two-way street which can easily be disrupted by many different factors: stress, lack of sleep, concussions, and the foods we eat to name a few.
The good news is you can change your gut microbiome within a couple of days by your diet choices but beware of holiday seasons: especially the longer Christmas period which starts in November with work and school parties…. carries on through December up to Christmas and climaxes with New Year! The extended “great excuses” to have a few more indulgences can certainly knock our gut health off track. So if you are starting to wonder why you are feeling more bloated, sluggish, not sleeping as well pretty lethargic/ less motivated and not as sharp as you used to feel it could be the change to the organisms that make up our microbiome during this time. Whatever you consume can feed or starve beneficial bacterial species and if its more of the fatty, sugary foods you are pushing your microbiome towards imbalance.
So what can you do?
- Intermittent fasting stimulates the MMC (Migrating Motor Complex) think of this as a jolly good sweep-out of the gut. When there is no food in the digestive tract this reflex response enables a wave of peristaltic motion that acts a cleaning/ sweeping motion moving on whatever may be fermenting or loitering uninvited.
- Consume fermented foods with beneficial species: Kimchi, Sauerkraut, homemade kombucha to name a few (just be aware these foods are high in histamines so are not as therapeutic for anyone with a histamine over-load).
- Pre-biotic foods: We all know about pro-biotics: delivering the beneficial species to the gut but did you know about Pre-Biotics? These are the foods that the probiotics feed off. Jerusalem artichokes, garlic, onion… to name a few.
- Resistant starches pass undigested through the small intestine into the large intestine where they feed our beneficial species: green banana flour, cooked and cooled potato (think potato salad – YES it can be good for you!), wholemeal bread, legumes, beans and lentils. So, rice or potato salad and legume salads get a BIG TICK on the Christmas table.
- Fresh unprocessed fruits and vegetables in a rainbow of colours.
- Limit excessive amounts of added sugar (or fruit sugar from high consumption of fruit). This 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.
- Keep exercise up of the festive season: even a brisk walk can get things moving and help energy and bowels.
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. If you’re suffering from the excesses of the festive season and need to get your gut back on track, book an appointment with me and let’s get 2023 off to a great start.
We offer Naturopathy and Nutritional Medicine consultations
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