Do the holidays upset your stomach? Family time, homemade treats, and alcohol are joyful parts of the holiday tradition in many households, but they can also lead to digestive problems. Everyday stress and even modern technology can also wreak havoc on your digestive tract. Fortunately, you can keep your digestive system happy and full of good cheer throughout this holiday season.
BRING HOLIDAY CHEER TO YOUR DIGESTIVE SYSTEM
The enteric nervous system, which helps regulate the digestive system, includes the sympathetic nervous system that triggers the “fight or flight” response to danger and the parasympathetic nervous system that calms down the body after the danger has passed. Many refer to the enteric nervous system as the “second brain.” As the digestive system breaks down food, the enteric nervous system uses serotonin and other neurotransmitters to send messages to the brain. This brain-gut axis may be the link between stress and digestive disorders.
Keep your digestive tract and enteric nervous system jolly this year with a few simple changes.
THE ART OF CHEWING
The act of chewing, also known as mastication, affects physiological and psychological health and function of the brain. Chewing is the first step of digestion and absorption of nutrients. Mastication breaks down cells, which makes the contents of the cells available for absorption by and digestion into the body.
Chewing also causes events to occur later on in the stomach. In one study, researchers discovered that electrical activity inside the stomach was slower in people who could not chew, which means chewing helps the stomach get to work processing food. Chewing can also help the body secrete enzymes that help you digest starches and other components of food.
Chew each bite of food at least 10 times to slow down your eating. Research shows chewing can reduce hunger and food intake, possibly by changing the response of the gut hormones that cause you to feel satisfied after a meal. Research also shows an association between the ability to chew and depression, anxiety and stress.
MUST BE PRESENT TO WIN
Holidays are more about presence than presents. Give your gut a gift this holiday by turning off the cell phone and computers, and instead, interact with those around you. Burying your nose in an electronic device during a holiday gathering is not only rude, it may be causing you additional stress and anxiety that upsets your digestive system. A 2016 study published in Computers in Human Behavior links high engagement of technology with anxiety and stress, which can make your digestive system very unhappy.
In one survey, 66 percent of respondents said they are in favor of banning phones from special occasions, such as Thanksgiving dinner and Christmas. In fact, 88 percent of women over the age of 65 would rule out phone checking at all family holiday events.
TURN HOLIDAY FOODS INTO PROBIOTIC POWERHOUSES
Protect your digestive system by turning holiday food into probiotic powerhouses. Start by selecting functional foods, which have a positive effect on health up and above basic nutrition, and then add probiotic powder just before eating it. For a healthy and delicious treat the whole family can enjoy, stir probiotics into vegan eggnog smoothies or pumpkin pie smoothies.
Be sure to blend all the ingredients of the smoothie together before adding the probiotics, as bacteria are fragile and will not survive the trip in the blender. Never add probiotics to food or drink warmer than 120 degrees Fahrenheit, as higher temperatures also kill probiotics. Do not add probiotics to acidic food or foods containing antimicrobial herbs and spices.
Probiotic powders allow you to control which healthy strains to add to your diet. Adding probiotic powder to food and beverages is an easy way for your entire family to get the specific probiotics they need. Your kids will never even know those good bacteria are there!
Keep your digestive system healthy and happy this holiday season.