The holiday season brings with it an array of delicious feasts and treats. While it's a time to indulge, a little awareness about how these festive changes can affect your gut health goes a long way. Below, we explore how common holiday diet changes can impact your microbiome.
What Is the Microbiome?
The human microbiome refers to the trillions of bacteria, viruses, and fungi that live on and inside our bodies. The gut microbiome, specifically, resides in your gastrointestinal tract and is incredibly important for your overall health. These gut microbes help digest food, regulate immunity, produce vitamins, and even impact weight and mood. The health of our gut microbiome is primarily a consequence of our diet, which is why it’s important to be conscious about any major changes in your nutrition habits during the holidays.
How Holiday Foods Impact the Gut
During the holiday season, it's common to overload on treats like cookies, eggnog, and rich casseroles, and that’s okay! However, it is critical to recognize that for many, the holiday season lasts weeks, and we must be conscious of our diet even during these times of extended celebration. If you’re not careful, the following foods can wreak havoc on your gut microbiome in a few key ways:
Too Much Sugar - Sweet treats feed the "bad" bacteria in your gut, allowing them to multiply and crowd out beneficial bugs. This can lead to inflammation, weight gain, and other problems. While it is always fun to eat sugary treats around the holidays, it is important to maintain a balanced diet .
Lack Of Fiber - Fiber feeds the probiotics or "good" bacteria in your intestines, but holiday treats tend to be low in fiber, which can deprive your microbiome. Remember to balance your diet with high-fiber whole foods like broccoli, peas, barley, and lentils.. For more information on how probiotics can help your gut health check out our blog post Probiotics 101.
Alcohol - Drinking heavily, even just periodically, can damage gut lining and impact microbiome diversity . For many, drinking alcohol and celebrating the holidays go hand in hand. Be conscious of how much alcohol you are consuming, and be sure to stay hydrated with water. To learn about alcohol’s effect on your microbiome and digestive health, read our blog post How Does Alcohol Affect the Gut?
Rich Fats - High-fat foods typical of the holidays may satisfy your taste buds, but too many saturated fats can alter your gut microbiome makeup. Be conscious of the amount of high-fat foods you are consuming, and don’t be afraid to look for lower-fat alternatives or foods high in good, polyunsaturated fats, such as Omega-6 and Omega-3.
Support Your Microbiome This Holiday Season
The good news is you don't need to avoid your holiday favorites completely. Simply be mindful of your microbiome by following these tips:
Load up on prebiotic foods like onions, garlic, bananas, and asparagus to help support the growth of probiotics in your gut.
Balance your diet with probiotic rich foods like yogurt, kimchi, and kombucha to help combat the negative impact of many holiday foods.
Limit sugar, alcohol, and fried foods which can all wreak havoc on your microbiome.
Don't forget fiber from vegetables, fruits, beans, lentils, and whole grains. This nourishes your gut bacteria.
Stay hydrated with plenty of water which helps digestion and gut health.
Manage stress which can alter gut microbiome composition and impair your immune system. Make time to relax!
By supporting a healthy gut microbiome this holiday season, you can indulge in some of your favorite foods while optimizing your overall health and wellbeing. Focus on those prebiotics, probiotics, fiber, and other gut-friendly habits for holiday feasts that feel good on the inside too. Here’s to a happy and healthy holiday season!