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Prep + Protect your Gut Health for the Over-Indulging Season

We’re excited to share some bits and highlights from Claus T. Christophersen’s article on how to protect your gut health during times of gastronomic revelry.

How to prepare and protect your gut health over Christmas and the silly season. Claus T. Christophersen. The Conversation. Dec. 20, 2020.

End-of-year celebrations, even in pandemic-small pods, can create a ripple effect that may wreak even the healthiest microbiome.

Clause writes:

Gut health matters. Your gut is a crucial part your immune system. In fact, 70% of your entire immune system sits around your gut, and an important part of that is what’s known as the gut-associated lymphoid tissue (GALT), which houses a host of immune cells in your gut.

Good gut health means looking after your gut microbiome — the bacteria, fungi, viruses and tiny organisms that live inside you and help break down your food — but also the cells and function of your gastrointestinal system.

We know gut health can affect mood, thanks to what’s known as the gut-brain axis. But there’s also a gut-lung axis and a gut-liver axis, meaning what happens in your gut can affect your respiratory system or liver, too.

Sometimes it’s hard to stop once we get going...which leads to Claus’ “silly season indulgences”.

Your gut health can change within just a couple of days!

‘You can change your gut microbiome within a couple of days by changing your diet. And over a longer period of time, such as the Christmas-New Year season, your diet pattern can change significantly, often without you really noticing.

That means we may be changing the organisms that make up our microbiome during this time. Whatever you put in will favour certain bacteria in your microbiome over others.

We know fatty, sugary foods promote bacteria that are not as beneficial for gut health. And if you indulge over days or weeks, you are pushing your microbiome towards an imbalance.

 

These are tips for preparing your gut microbiome for the culinary onslaught. The same tips may be applied to the post-feeding frenzy that will help return balance to your gut.

  • eating prebiotic foods such as jerusalem artichokes, garlic, onions and a variety of grains and inulin-enhanced yoghurts (inulin is a prebiotic carbohydrate shown to have broad benefits to gut health)
  • eating resistant starches, which are starches that pass undigested through the small intestine and feed the bacteria in the large intestine. That includes grainy wholemeal bread, legumes such as beans and lentils, firm bananas, starchy vegetables like potatoes and some pasta and rice. The trick to increasing resistant starches in potato, pasta and rice is to cook them but eat them cold. So consider serving a cold potato or pasta salad over Christmas
  • choosing fresh, unprocessed fruits and vegetables
  • steering clear of added sugar where possible. Excessive amounts of added sugar (or fruit sugar from high consumption of fruit) flows quickly to the large intestine, where it gets gobbled up by bacteria. That can cause higher gas production, diarrhoea and potentially upset the balance of the microbiome
  • remembering that if you increase the amount of fibre in your diet (or via a supplement), you’ll need to drink more water — or you can get constipated.

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Try to limit the damage

“If Christmas and New Year means a higher intake of red meat or processed meat for you, remember some studies have shown that diets higher red meat can introduce DNA damage in the colon, which makes you more susceptible to colorectal cancer.

The good news is other research suggests if you include a certain amount of resistant starch in a higher red meat diet, you can reduce or even eliminate that damage.”

This is serious stuff!

What’s your 💩  type?

“The best and easiest way to check your gut health is to use the Bristol stool chart. If you’re hitting around a 4, you should be good.

Credits: Shutterstock

We love Claus’ comparison of the gut microbiome to a garden. It takes work to tend to a garden each day, keeping out the weeds that can suffocate the but the benefits are ends with:

“Remember, there are no quick fixes. Your gut health is like a garden or an ecosystem. If you want the good plants to grow, you need to tend to them — otherwise, the weeds can take over.

I know you’re probably sick of hearing the basics — eat fruits and vegetables, exercise and don’t make the treats too frequent — but the fact is good gut health is hard won and easily lost. It’s worth putting in the effort.

A preventative mindset helps. If you do the right thing most of the time and indulge just now and then, your gut health will be OK in the end.

Take care of your gut, and your gut will take care of you!

Here’s to a New Year and a better, more vibrant YOU!

Stay healthy. Begutzy®.