Gut Health Hacks for the Holidays

herbs

Load up on Anti-inflammatory foods and spices

Eliminate processed and sugary foods that can lead to inflammation and damage your gut. Chronic low-grade inflammation is at the root of almost all chronic diseases, including those that don’t present classic inflammatory symptoms. Use this time to cook with local and in-season produce, spices, and herbs. Choose parsley, mint, basil, garlic, cilantro, ginger and dandelion. They are packed full of nutrients with each herb containing detoxifying properties. Ginger in particular is great for stimulating your digestive system particularly if you are feeling bloated. In addition, start each day with a cup of warm boiled water and lemon juice. This will help rebalance the alkaline/acid levels in your system and assist your liver in detoxing. Use these herbs in your daily cooking. 

Eat more cooked foods and warm liquids

soup

Now that fall is here, we can cut back on cold and raw meals and replace them with warm soups, stews, and liquids. Your digestive system doesn’t need to work as hard to break down and digest cooked foods. This also helps with reducing bloating. From an Ayurvedic perspective, cooked foods are generally recommended to strengthen the digestive system, decrease digestive stress, and optimize nutrient absorption. Choose warming spices such as turmeric, cinnamon, cardamom, fennel and ginger to add to your fall and winter meals. You can lightly steam, sauté, and simmer vegetables at a low temperature. Sip warm water with meals and avoid cold liquids. 

Reduce Stress

During the holidays we can experience stress from many different areas of our lives including family, career, and friends. Unfortunately, if you are stressed year round, think of this as a time to slow down. Chronic stress results in high levels of the stress hormone cortisol, and decreased oxygen can play a role in damaging your gut.

The holidays give us a chance to slow down by spending quality time with our loved ones and celebrating the season. Reduce your stress load through tai chi, meditation, sleep, self-massages, and warm baths.

yoga-mat

It’s great to get in the habit of stretching first thing in the morning and last thing at night before bed. Moving your body helps to strengthen your immune system, encourages elimination of toxins and gives you energy. Include forms of exercise such as yoga, Pilates, resistance or strength training and cardio. All of these movements release endorphins that boost your mood which is a huge benefit during the dark, colder months! Exercise helps build muscle, burn fat, and lowers the density of damaging sugars in the blood. By incorporating consistent stress-reduction practices, your central nervous system relaxes, reducing your overall level of inflammation and blood sugar too. Find what reduces your stress load and do it daily to maintain your health. 

Increase Probiotics

probiotic-drink

Our gut plays a huge role in obesity and chronic diseases. Both prebiotics and probiotics keep the bacteria of the microbiota in a healthy state. Probiotic rich foods such as yogurt, kefir, and fermented foods (kimchi, tempeh, sauerkraut) should be included in your daily diet on a consistent basis. Prebiotic foods can most often be obtained through dietary fiber such as asparagus, onions, leeks, artichokes, radishes, and carrots. Health benefits of prebiotics and probiotics include improving gut health, eliminating allergies, preventing infections and reduction in diarrhea incidence. If you are taking a probiotic supplement, consult with your naturopathic doctor to ensure it’s the right one for you. 

Minimize Intake of toxins and harmful substances

Toxins are everywhere—in our food, water, air, and many of our personal care and cleaning products. During this time of year we tend to be overloaded with more toxins. Heavy metals and GMOs have been known to be associated with disruption to our endocrine system, resulting in obesity and metabolic conditions such as diabetes. Luckily, we can make decisions to minimize our intake of these harmful substances and help our body detox. Here are some steps you can take:

  • Check with the Environmental Working Group for their recent versions of “Dirty Dozen” and “Clean 15” and choose to buy organically-grown when available. www.ewg.org

  • Choose antioxidant nutrients and phytonutrients food sources that help facilitate Phase I and Phase II detoxification in both the liver and the gut. Choose foods such as spinach, turkey, salmon, broccoli, sardines, turmeric, garlic, eggs, sunflower seeds, artichokes, pumpkin seeds, leeks, mustard greens, and virtually all plant foods. 

  • Buy organically-grown animal products (e.g., dairy and meats).

  • Wash and soak fruit and vegetables in a mild solution such as pure castile soap or biodegradable cleanser to remove surface pesticides, waxes, fungicides, and fertilizers.

  • Drink and cook with filtered water. Also, you may consider putting a filter on your shower head.

tea

Use these simple tips to help maximize your gut health and reduce your toxic load. You can incorporate all or just a few of them. Remember that it’s important to take the time to pay attention to your health, listen to your body, and do what feels best for you. But most of all enjoy the holiday season and your health will thank you! If you are curious about what foods work for your body and would like more information, please schedule a consultation with me. 

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Sarina Irizarry, M.S, Nutritionist & Certified Wellness Coach focuses on bringing the body back to balance by using food as medicine. In addition to nutrition protocols, meal planning and grocery store tours, she incorporates her coaching skills and lifestyle modifications to achieve optimal function in the body towards sustainable living. Sarina is available Fridays and Saturdays at San Francisco Natural Medicine, and is accepting new patients. Call today to schedule a free 15-minute consult.