November has officially arrived which means the silly season is fast approaching.
The silly season can often mean more alcohol, poor food choices, less sleep and sometimes heightened stress, all of which can impact gut health.
The health of our gut is fundamental to overall wellbeing especially our mental health.
While the silly season may look a little bit different this year for many of us, there are things we can all do, no matter how we are celebrating, to take care of our gut health.
I know I may sound like a broken record but plant diversity is the biggest contributor to a healthy gut microbiome. If filling up on party foods and nibbles it can be all too easy to miss out on your daily veggie and plant-food targets. An easy way to overcome this is to go plant-based for the meals you are in control of, for example when eating out, at breakfast time, pre party snacks. This can be as simple as having an avocado, spinach and berry smoothie before an event, opting for avocado, rocket and tomato on toast for breakfast or snacking on veggies and dip.
Take measures to lower stress
Stress can have a major impact on our gut especially those who suffer from IBS. Stress triggers the fight or flight mode, which diverts blood away from the digestion tract impairing its ability to function. Stress can also cause our body to want to ‘unload’ so we can run faster from a lion/bear, which can result in increased trips to the bathroom.
We can all benefit from honing in on stress reduction especially during this time of year. Some ways to do this are to:
- simply say no when you are feeling overwhelmed and be ok with this
- find a way to exercise and move daily
- schedule in things to look forward to daily, things which really nourish your soul
- try some form of mindfulness practice – meditation, deep breathing or yoga – find what work for you
Support thy liver
Too much alcohol, especially over a short period of time, can negatively impact the liver. The liver plays an important role in clearing toxins, hormones, bacteria etc. A sluggish liver can also lead to gut symptoms such as constipation, bloating and nausea. This means liver health should ideally factor into a gut health regime.
If you are choosing to drink, you can take measures to support the health of your liver such as providing it substrates, which aid its ability to function and detoxify, such as:
- B-vitamin rich foods: especially, B1 and B3, which can help metabolise alcohol and acetaldehyde. Alcohol depletes B vitamins so it’s important to eat foods rich in B vitamins to help replenish supplies, especially after a drinking session. Food sources include asparagus, legumes, nuts, wheat germ, wholegrains, almonds, chicken, eggs, sunflower seeds.
- Load up on anti-inflammatory foods: alcohol has been shown to increase inflammation in the body, which may contribute to hangover symptoms. To help combat this, make sure to fill your diet with anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant rich foods such as fatty fish, hemp seeds, chia seeds, flaxseeds, walnuts, berries, capsicum, tomato, herbs etc
- Keep hydrated: this helps to flush our toxins, supports digestion and helps to also stabilise appetite which means we are less likely to reach for unhealthy foods.
Maintain some form of routine
It is suggested our gut microbes have their own circadian rhythms, which you may have noticed yourself if your bowel habits follow the exact same routine daily. If your eating habits drastically change over the silly season this can upset the rhythm of your microbes and intestinal cells. While this is likely to only be temporary and when life returns to normal so too will your toilet habits. However, if you like consistency, then aim to give your microbes and intestinal cells, the same consistency they get all year round.
This doesn’t have to mean eating the same foods, but it does mean trying to eat at similar times and avoiding skipping meals and grazing all day/night.
If you struggle to fit meals in around events, here are some easy and healthy snacks you can use to get you through:
- Chopped fruit drizzled with nut butter, LSA and hemp seeds
- Wholegrain / seed crackers with avocado mashed with chopped tomatoes and hemp seeds
- Rye crackers topped with cottage cheese and tomato
- Baked tofu cubes with diced avocado and tomatoes, drizzled with tahini
- Smoothie using coconut water/milk, berries, spinach/kale, nuts and banana
- Can of tuna / salmon mashed with avocado and served with wholegrain crackers
- Leftover roasted veggies with chickpeas and tahini