Your Healthy Happy Holiday Gut
If you’re like many of my patients this holiday season, the chaotic combination of travel, change in diet and routines leads to gastrointestinal distress. For most folks, that “distress” comes in the form of a slow bowel or frank constipation. My passion and mission is help people just like you reach optimal wellness and that includes daily bowel movements! The colon is a very important detox organ and if we don’t “go” like clockwork, our gut ends up absorbing much of the toxic gunk our bodies are trying to throw out! This can leave us feeling with brain fog, feeling bloated or just tired! Don’t worry, there’s plenty we can do! The gut is sometimes easily thrown off when our schedule is out of whack, but give it time and the right amount of TLC and you’ll make it through the holidays unscathed.
Here are my steps for you to keep regular wherever your plans take you this holiday season:
Eat With Intention
Around the holidays it can be so tempting to constantly graze, either out of boredom, stress or actual hunger. Who hasn’t finally made it to dinner after cooking all Thanksgiving day to realize, “I’m not hungry!”? Or have you ever spent an entire holiday party snacking on cookies only to have a huge sugar low before the evening is even through? This holiday season commit to eat with intention to help settle your stomach. What does that look like? Eating plenty of fresh fruit and veggies FIRST — don’t wait until the main course, start eating your fruits and veggies as soon as you get to the party or before you start cooking. Pack fiber rich snacks like carrot sticks, broccoli, cauliflower, apple and pear slices to have on the plane or on your long car ride.
Photo credit: Laurie Rockenbeck
Along with fiber, make sure you’re sipping on water constantly. Just because temperatures are lower doesn’t mean you need less water than during Summer. I recommend half of a patient’s bodyweight in ounces year round — and more if you’re sweating. Dehydration is one of the more common causes of constipation and when you’re traveling it’s even easier to fall behind on water consumption. Remember coffee and alcohol are dehydrating, so take at least one extra glass of water for each of those. It’s best to drink water while sitting in the dry environment of an airplane as well.
Give Your Gut Time
Modern life dictates we all subscribe to a certain amount of “busy-ness” whether we like it or not. Whether it’s work, home, activities or a combination, we can’t help but rush around. One of the costs of this is a stressed-out gut and poor and irregular bowel movements. I advise patients to stick to this easy daily routine: Upon rising drink 2 full glasses of water, the first plain, the second with a squeeze of lemon. Afterward sit on the toilet for at least 20 minutes. This activity tells your body that it’s time to have a bowel movement. Filling the stomach with a large volume of water initiates something called the “gastrocolic reflex” which stimulates a bowel movement. Giving the gut opportunities like this on a regular basis will encourage normal and healthy bowel routines.
Finally, take some time to choose a high quality probiotic and take it on a daily basis — especially if you’re traveling, are around sick folks or have recently been ill yourself. Probiotics or friendly bacteria help regulate the function and structure of the gut and are absolutely indispensable when it comes to regularity. Foods high in inulin like chicory, onions, garlic, jicama and Jerusalem artichoke are great sources of prebiotics, meaning they feed the good bacteria, so be sure to include these as well.
Katie Disharoon ND – Katie sees patients of all ages in her Family Practice at Full Circle Natural Medicine near Greenlake in Seattle, WA. She enjoys helping people regain their energy and pep through natural medicine, paying special attention the important role digestive health plays in quality of life.