Restoring Digestive Health After The Festive Season
We ate, we drank, and we were merry! But now, as we emerge from the haze of the holiday season, we might notice our digestive systems feeling a bit.. sluggish. Our festive habits can throw our gut microbiome off-kilter which can contribute to bloating, discomfort and less-than-ideal digestion. Sound about right? Then it’s time to give your gut some extra love and care and get it back to its best with a gut health reboot.
Why is gut health so important?
The gut microbiome refers to all of the trillions of microorganisms that live in our digestive tract. Within the microbiome, there are bacteria that are beneficial to our health and help to keep our gut working properly - digesting food, absorbing nutrients, regulating inflammation - but there are also other bacteria present that can be harmful to our health. A healthy gut has lots of different types of beneficial bacteria and less of the harmful bacteria.
Keeping this community of gut microorganisms happy and healthy is not only important for our digestive health, but has been linked with a lower risk of conditions like certain cancers, type 2 diabetes and heart disease as well. If your gut microbiome is unbalanced, you may experience issues with digestive function and suffer from symptoms of cramping, bloating, constipation or other digestive issues. A healthy microbiome also supports our mental health and contributes to our metabolism, energy, immunity, hormones, skin health and much more.
Gut Health Reboot
Feed your gut with good stuff
With nearly 100 trillion bacteria in the digestive tract, our gut is very responsive to changes. While this can work against us during the excitement of the holiday season, it can also work in our favour when we start to change our habits. Research shows that our gut microbiome can be brought back to balance after just 2-4 days of healthy eating.
So what sort of food does our gut like? Well, the beneficial bacteria in our gut love plants! The fibres within plants (prebiotic fibres), to be exact. The more plants we eat, the more these beneficial bacteria grow. Fruits, vegetables, legumes (beans and pulses), wholegrains (brown rice, oats, barley, wholewheat breads and cereals), nuts, seeds, herbs and spices are all sources of these plant fibres. So, finding ways to increase the amount of fibre rich foods we eat each day can go a long way to improving the happiness of our gut.
However, it’s not just the amount of these foods we eat that’s important, we also need to increase the variety we consume. Each of the thousands of different species of bacteria in our gut do a different job, imparting their own unique health benefits, and they each feed on different types of plant fibres. So by increasing the variety of the plants we eat, we can nurture many different species of bacteria and enjoy a diverse and healthy gut microbiome. The goal is to eat at least 30 different plant-based foods a week. If this seems daunting, include new plants to your diet gradually - add mixed seeds on top of your porridge, throw different fruits in your smoothies and pop a tin of chickpeas in with your curry. SylliFlor Psyllium Husks may also be helpful. These are a high fibre prebiotic supplement that nourishes various beneficial bacteria in the gut and also stimulates smooth and regular bowel movements when taken with liquid.
Probiotics is another name for the beneficial bacteria that live naturally in our gut. They can also be found in certain fermented foods such as yoghurts containing live active cultures, kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut and kimchi. Consuming probiotics can add to your existing supply of friendly gut microbes, and supplementation has also been shown to have a positive effect on various issues from gastrointestinal issues to skin health and vaginal health. A digestive health supplement such as Symprove, which contains 4 strains of live and active bacteria, can be a great addition to your routine. The bacteria in Symprove are proven to reach the gut alive, where they work to rebalance the bacteria levels in the microbiome. Symprove can be easily added to your daily routine, simply start your day with a 70ml shot of Symprove at least 10 minutes before eating or drinking, a great way to support your gut health each morning.
Work on stress reduction
Have you ever felt butterflies in your stomach? That’s an example of the connection between our brain and our gut. The gut can send signals to the brain, just as the brain can send signals right back to the gut. Given how closely our gut and brain interact, it becomes easier to understand why stress and anxiety can upset the delicate balance of our gut microbiome. With the festive season being one of the most stressful times of the year for many, your gut might be feeling the effects.
Taking steps to reduce stress can benefit your gut health. This may seem easier said than done when life can be so busy, but as you return to routine, make an effort to carve out time in your day for stress-free moments when you can allow your brain to slow down. This might look like:
- Taking a walk outside
- Having a bath
- Reading a book before bed instead of scrolling
- Practising breathing exercises
- Spending time journalling
- Trying out a yoga class
- Enjoying a cup of coffee
- Watching a comedy
- Listening to music - maybe having a little dance
- Taking a screen break
- Simply being in the moment
Eating well, exercising, getting quality sleep and limiting caffeine, alcohol and nicotine are also habits that are associated with lower levels of stress.
Move your body
If your main form of daily exercise over the holidays consisted of the trip from the couch to the fridge, that may be another reason your digestive system is feeling a bit iffy. People who are more physically active tend to have better gut health. Research shows that regular exercise can increase the number of beneficial microbes in our gut and improve the diversity of our microbiome, both of which we know are essential for a healthy gut.
Unfortunately, many of us find sticking to a regular exercise routine difficult. No matter how determined we are when we start off, life often gets in the way and we end up losing our gusto. If you’re someone who finds that they often fall off track when it comes to exercising, here are some tips that might help:
Firstly, choose an activity you like. There’s no point forcing yourself to do something that you don’t enjoy. Especially when there are so many activities to choose from - walking, cycling, tennis, golf, swimming, dancing, strength training, aerobics. Why not try a couple and see which suits you best? If you’re doing an activity you enjoy, you are much more likely to stay consistent.
Then, consider asking a friend to join. Exercising with a friend or as part of a team provides us with support and can help to motivate us and make the activity more enjoyable. It also holds us accountable as we’re less likely to skive off if we know there are others depending on us. Plus, it’s a fun way to socialise too!
Last but not least, start small. To avoid overwhelming yourself and your body, build up your activity gradually rather than taking on too much at once. And make sure to incorporate rest and recovery in between your workouts. Hush & Hush Plant Your Day is plant-based vegan protein powder that can be used to support recovery post workout.
Get those z’s in
For many of us, our daily routine goes for a hop during the holidays and our sleep routine often goes with it. And while we’re totally here for staying up until the wee hours binge watching Harry Potter movies, your gut will thank you as your regular sleep schedule starts to take shape again. This is because sleep affects our microbes too. Research suggests that lack of sleep and an inconsistent sleep schedule is linked to worse microbiome health. In fact, our gut microbiome can be impacted after just two days of getting less sleep than we need.
It is recommended to aim for seven to eight hours of sleep each night and also to try to develop a consistent sleep pattern so that you’re going to bed and waking up around the same time each day. How achievable this is obviously depends on your circumstances - teething babies aren’t known to be particularly considerate to their parent’s gut health - but there are some steps you can take that might help you drift off that bit easier.
Try your best to avoid screens for an hour or two before you head to bed. Light from screens can have a negative effect on sleep, and social media, news and games can all stimulate the brain, making it harder to fall asleep. Instead, spend some time relaxing before you hit the hay. Calming activities like reading, practising breathing techniques, listening to calming music or meditating can help shift your body into a more sleep-ready state. Creating a comfortable environment can be key for some people too. Spaces that are dark, cool and quiet are generally easier to fall asleep and stay asleep in, but everyone is different so see what works for you. If you want try and make yourself as comfortable as possible while trying to fall asleep, consider using a lavender infused sleep spray, such as the This Works Sleep Plus Pillow Spray. This pillow spray is infused with Lavender, Vetivert and Camomile essential oils which release throughout the night to help support a relaxing nights sleep.
If you find you have persisting digestive issues that are affecting your day to day life or seem to be getting progressively worse, consult your doctor for advice. You can also speak to a member of our team if you are looking for further information on gut health.