With Christmas here and days of indulgence, ‘tis the season to be jolly’ but, we may also experience digestive issues more often due to an increase in rich food and alcohol consumption in a relatively short space of time.
To avoid and minimise digestive discomfort this holiday season, we’ve rounded up a few easy tips on how to improve your digestion so you can enjoy time with your loved ones to the fullest.
Move your body
Exercise is one of the best ways to improve your digestion. Now, you might put your gym membership on hold over the holidays, however you can still incorporate some light movement in your daily routine and get the whole family involved. Taking a walk after a meal instead of sitting down in front of the TV will not only help your digestive system but will also clear your mind and give you the opportunity to chat and bond with your loved ones better. Doing light yoga stretches first thing or before bedtime even for just 5 minutes can do wonders for your digestion too.
Our favourite ways of moving over Christmas is to get walks in between meals, it can also be very social, build stamina and burn a few extra calories. If you are lucky enough to live near a wood or a great park there are so many beautiful colours to look at, during this time of year. It’s also a great way to walk off a little overindulgence and have fun with the children for example naming trees, and spotting deer, which they can draw when they get back from a fabulous winter walk.
We have some great ideas for winter walks;
- Virginia Water lake
- Chilten Hills
- Regents Park
- Hatchlands Park in Surrey
- Bushey Park
If none of those are near you, visit the National Trust website; and enjoy your walking.
- Prioritise sleep
You might be surprised that this is at the top of the list, however getting adequate amount of sleep is essential for your hormonal, gut and overall health. Lack of sleep has been linked to decreased levels of leptin (appetite suppressant) and increased levels of ghrelin (hunger hormone), thus resulting in increased levels of hunger and appetite. When we feel tired, we are more likely to turn to caffeine and sugar which in turn disrupt our digestion and sleep, continuing the vicious cycle. Sticking to your usual bedtime routine might be harder due to more social events and late nights, however with more time off over holidays, lie ins and afternoon naps are not only acceptable but more feasible. Try and avoid sleeping on your stomach as that compresses the organs of your digestive system so sleeping on your back or left side are best to aid digestion.
- Stay hydrated
Low fluid intake can result in constipation and further digestive issues thus make sure you are getting adequate amounts of non-caffeinated fluids (2 litres as a rule of thumb or more if you are exercising). Apart from water, you can also meet your fluid intake with herbal teas and sparkling water. With higher alcohol consumption over the holiday season, try and drink water with your mulled wine and/or bubbly. A way of increasing your water consumption is to include foods higher in water, such as cucumber, celery (did someone say Bloody Mary?), tomatoes and grapefruit.
- Eat your probiotics and prebiotics
While the two sound similar, they are very different and play a different role in our digestive system. Prebiotics are a form of dietary fibre that is found in bananas, leeks, garlic, skin of apples and chicory root, to name a few. Prebiotics feed the friendly gut bacteria, which in turn help produce nutrients for our colon cells. Probiotics are live beneficial bacteria that are usually created by fermentation in foods like yoghurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi and miso soup. Probiotics are also available in pill form or they can be added to yoghurts and health drinks. Both prebiotics and probiotics play a vital role for our gut microbiome.
- Chew your food
Digestion starts in your mouth. Chewing produces saliva, and the longer you chew, the more saliva is produced, which in turn helps break down some of the carbs and fats from meals. By chewing food properly, our stomach has less work to do with turning solid foods into liquid mixture and can prevent symptoms such as indigestion and heartburn. Not chewing food properly has also been linked to decreased nutrient absorption.
- Choose your calories wisely
Whilst there is nothing wrong with a bit of indulgence over the holiday period, ‘balanced’ indulgence is key for a happy soul and gut. If you are going to a seven-course dinner in the evening that you booked six months before, you might skip the mince pies that your colleague brought for the office that day. Likewise, you might not want to overindulge on the store-bought chocolates if you know your mum made your favourite chocolate cake that you have been looking forward to since the last time you visited her. By being a bit smarter with our food choices and not eating something just because it’s in front of us, we give ourselves the opportunity to really savour and enjoy the special occasions without overwhelming our digestive system.