The weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year are known for their tasty treats. During this holiday season, overeating is practically a family tradition on its own. All of the extra food and drinks can lead to weight gain, as well as debilitating gut issues like abdominal pain and constipation.
While it’s important to spend time with our loved ones, togetherness does not have to be synonymous with overeating. So since we’re in the thick of this season right now, consider these Ayurvedic tips to help boost your digestion and take better care of your gut.
Yogurt and kefir are common examples of probiotics, or foods that contain beneficial bacteria. Along with other fermented foods like sauerkraut and kimchi, these foods can help improve overall food tolerance while optimizing your digestion. The beneficial bacteria have a positive impact on your gut microbiome, helping to maintain or improve your gut health.
Watch Portion Sizes
When you’re putting food on your plate at each holiday gathering, start by adding gut friendly foods. Aim to fill half of your plate with vegetables. If they’re available, prioritize leafy greens, Brussels sprouts, and broccoli because these are especially beneficial for digestive health. Don’t forget to add some ginger powder when you cook them to reduce bloating and boost digestion.
Next, fill one-fourth of your plate with protein. Where possible, replace red meat with fish, eggs, or vegetarian proteins like tofu and lentils. Lastly, fill the remaining one-fourth with carbohydrates. Whole grains are your best choice here because they contain more fiber, helping encourage regular bowel movements.
Choose Drinks Wisely
Holiday drinks like mulled wine or hot chocolate are high in fats and sugars that can trigger gut problems. It’s understandable to want some treats throughout the holiday season. But if these drinks are consumed in large quantities – or consumed along with alcohol – the potential for gut problems increases. When it comes to fun holiday drinks, focus on moderation. Indulge in the drinks that are only readily available this time of year, but remember that too much of anything is not good for you. One of our favorite tea to boost digestion!
Choose Nutrient Rich Foods
We all know how holiday schedules can be. Routines get disrupted, bedtimes get pushed back, and the cold weather makes us want to stay in bed later each morning. With all of these changes, fiber can play an especially important role in maintaining regularity for your gut. If you know a day will include a heavy meal or a late night, make sure you add oatmeal, fruits, and nuts sometime during the day. After adding leafy greens to your plate, fill the rest of that space with cooked vegetables like sweet potatoes and green beans. This infusion of fiber will help keep your digestion moving along despite other high-fat or high-sugar holiday foods.
As exciting as the holiday season can be, it’s also a very stressful time. Menu planning, gift buying, travel planning, family gatherings – these are all stressors. Sudden increases in stress can negatively affect your digestive health. So even if you can only find ten minutes for meditation each day, take full advantage of that time.
Sleep 7-9 Hours
We’ve previously discussed the importance of daily routines in Ayurveda. During the holiday season, a lot of this routine can be thrown out and replaced by late-night gatherings. If you do find yourself up late with family and friends, be sure to set your morning alarm to allow for 7-8 hours of sleep. When you get an insufficient amount of sleep, your system experiences higher inflammation. This inflammation can negatively impact both your mood and your overall gut health.
Stressful situations + late nights + higher fat foods… Overindulging during the holidays can quickly lead to stress build-up! By staying active during the holiday season, you can improve your own stress tolerance while promoting overall well-being. Keep in mind that exercise doesn’t have to be a solo act. If you’re spending time with family or friends, invite them along for a walk or for an aerobic workout in the morning. This movement can aid in your digestive processes and even keep your blood sugar and blood pressure levels in check.
No matter how balanced you are in your nutrition during the holidays, water is still incredibly important. Water revitalizes your body by contributing to overall hydration and helping your gastrointestinal tract function properly. If you’re not drinking ample amounts of water, your digestion can slow and lead to constipation.
Moving Into 2024
After we wrap up the holiday season and find ourselves in the earliest days of the new year, reimplement your regular routines. Part of what makes holiday foods and drinks so special is that they’re only readily available during a limited time. So as tempting as it can be, don’t let holiday leftovers or winter laziness keep you from returning to your routines.
If you’re struggling to jump start your way back to routine, try starting with these steps:
- Drink 6-7 glasses of lukewarm water every day
- Drink a ginger infusion twice daily
- Avoid snacking in between meals
- Eat at least one vegetarian meal each day
- Get your exercise schedule back on track
With the remaining weeks of the holiday season, be sure to enjoy the foods, drinks, and together time. You don’t need to restrict yourself because, instead, you’re focusing on moderation to maintain your digestive health. You really can have both!