Last year, I surveyed my Instagram followers on which quarter of the year is the most challenging to stay on track with taking care of their bodies. The overall consensus was the last quarter by a long shot!
After asking for reasons, the answers varied — football season, tailgating, miniature candies, less sunshine, colder weather, more processed foods, more alcohol, more traveling, catching colds, end-of-year work stress, family/peer pressure, Christmas cookies, and bread.
When looking at this data and considering the effects of these challenges on the body, my mind immediately went to the gut, which plays an integral role in digestion, immunity, detoxing, mood, hormones and cravings. Our gut is a barrier from the outside world to our inside world. It can take a beating to the demands of stress, high sugar intake, alcohol, travel, etc.
Before diving into tips on how to care for our bodies during the holidays, we must first distinguish outcomes from behaviors. I tell my nutrition clients that we can’t control outcomes. We can’t control if our flight is delayed or canceled due to weather. We can’t control if a coworker brings a plate of cookies to a party. We can’t control the amount of sunlight outside.
We can, however, control our behavior and how we respond to situations! These are called habits. Although we can’t control if cookies are brought into our vicinity, we can control how we react to them. We can either eat or not eat them. We can’t control the weather, but we can choose to bundle up, get outside or find a different way to exercise rather than defaulting to the couch. Success in caring for our guts begins with implementing habits we have control over.
I spoke with Lauryn Lax, a functional medicine practitioner, author of “Total Gut Reset Cookbook,” and expert on “The Golden Poo.” She shares the best habits for this holiday season to make the gut a top priority.
Many people participate in extended or intermittent fasting during the holidays to “earn” holiday fare or “save room” for dessert. While this can seem logical, there are higher consequences for the gut at risk here, such as binging or overeating, blood sugar swings and slowed bowels (due to lack of consistency).
Lax recommends we consume at least 20 to 40 grams of protein within the first couple hours of waking to set the tone for our blood sugar for the day, which prevents “hangry” or “weak” moments later. This helps with listening to appropriate hunger-fullness cues at the meal.
Lax also recommends a gut-love shot of apple cider vinegar because it’s a natural stomach acid enzyme booster and gallbladder stimulater. She advises taking a “gut-love shot” with one tablespoon of apple cider vinegar in 4 to 8 ounces of water at meals to aid in digestion.
Seventy-five percent of people are dehydrated, and many don’t know it! This is a top driver of constipation, bloating and irritable bowel syndrome. Lax recommends drinking half your healthy body weight in ounces of water daily from nonplastic sources; ideally, filtered, purified and/or spring water.
Every person is unique. We all have different routines, goals, lifestyles, holiday traditions and foods, and the status of one person’s gut can look dramatically different from another! Lax recommends each person create their own five gut-love habits, which are core habits that can go anywhere and help ground you in your healthy lifestyle.
Here’s a list of her personal five gut-love habits:
Feel free to adopt some of the habits mentioned above and create your unique spin on each of them. Remember, these habits are in place to help prevent the wear and tear of the typical challenges of the holiday season on the gut.
About the Author
Krista Large is a nutritionist, habit coach and online fitness trainer. Her passion in life is teaching others to dream big and live large, which starts with health. Large is an Ole Miss Rebel and runs her own brand and business based here in Austin. You can learn more about her at livinglargewellness.com.