While attending mindbodygreen's wellness conference, Revitalize, we came away learning the importance of gut health. So we reached out to attendee Dr. Vincent Pedre, author of "Happy Gut" for his tips on what to eat to prevent or help with gut issues. Here, he shares his tips for easing the bloating we all experience during the holidays. Plus, he shares a sweet treat that's actually good for you.
We all love the holidays, but the bloating and constipation after the feast? Not so much. Consequently, the unwelcome guest you did not invite home for the holidays is your expanded waistline. It may arrive early or late, but once it’s there, it may not leave until you make the changes necessary to promote a happy, healthy gut. These are my most valuable tips for gut bliss during the holidays and beyond.
Cut back on dairy
Dairy is often source of abdominal discomfort, inflammation, and bloating for many people. One out of every 10 Americans is lactose-intolerant. This means they lack the enzyme needed to digest lactose – the sugar found in milk. As a result, the bacteria in the gut use the lactose sugar for energy and form gas, which leads to bloating, pain and even diarrhea. The first step to maintaining a healthy gut this holiday season is to completely avoid or at least cut back on cow’s milk and cheeses. Also avoid dairy in hidden sources, like soups, cream sauces and desserts. Beware of dairy in holiday drinks. And instead, reach for nut milks, like almond, coconut or hemp.
You don’t have to go to the opera to get cultured (although know if you did I’d be there with you...); I’m talking about eating or drinking cultured foods like kombucha, kimchi, non-dairy yogurt, sauerkraut and kefir. They might be new names to you, but your sense of adventure is your only limit when it comes to discovering foods that have been fermented to bring out their flavor, lengthen their storability, and improve their digestive benefits. Imagine these foods as if they have been “activated” by the beneficial bacteria that ferment them. In exchange, we benefit from their ability to assist our digestion and improve the make-up of our gut flora.
Go 'pro' with a probiotic
Speaking of bacteria, there are 1 trillion bacteria in your gut…more than the number of cells in your body, outnumbering them 10 to 1. Astonishingly, this is greater than the roughly 400 billion stars in the Milky Way galaxy. I like to think of them as your own personal galaxy. These tiny helpers have evolved to live within humans for centuries, but in our modern world we have disrupted this delicate ecosystem inside your gut with antibiotics, pesticides, genetically-modified (GMO) crops, medications, and stress. Repairing the state of balance within this “internal garden” is not only the key to gut happiness, but also the key to health.
Pass on the sugar!
Everywhere you turn during the holidays, temptation will abound, especially with candies, chocolates and desserts. This is the time of year your office will be overflowing with everything you know you shouldn’t be eating, but really want to. Remember, sugar feeds yeast and also unfriendly bacteria, leading to very uncomfortable conditions known as SIBO (small intestine bacterial overgrowth) and the less recognized SIFO (small intestine fungal overgrowth). Symptoms may include diarrhea, constipation, bloating, gas, abdominal pain, fatigue, mental fog, and body aches. Not only will too much sugar raise the scale, it will expand your waistline in more ways than one. This holiday, instead, reach for fiber-rich fruit, like grapefruit and apples, or berries for their lower sugar impact. Offer to be the one contributing the healthiest options for colleagues, friends, and guests. And if you still want that sweet sensation, beat temptation with my low-sugar Almond Hemp Chocolate Truffles.
Begin or end with a digestive aide
Before you eat or at the end of a meal, take a digestive aide, like ginger or fennel tea. You can add a stick of cinnamon or star anise. These spices help relax the stomach, stimulate digestion and promote peristalsis (the involuntary movements that move food down the digestive tract). Slowly sipping tea can be a great substitute for eating dessert, without feeling cheated at the end of a meal. Tea is an old-world ritual; it interjects a moment to pause, getting your body into the relaxed state of your autonomic nervous system, which allows for easy digestion to take place.
For more healthy gut tips from Dr. Pedre, click here and follow him on Facebook to tune in to his next Facebook Live on Tuesday, November 22 at 6:00 p.m. ET., where he will share more tips for surviving the holidays.