Christmas berries on table
‘Tis the season to be jolly. Don’t let stress and digestive complaints ruin your fun this Christmas.

The festive season can impact our digestion in various ways… indulgent Christmas food, abundant alcohol, excessive sugar, additional stress, and spending time sedentary indoors can lead to sluggish digestion and bloated bellies.

Here are some top tips to give your digestion a helping hand over the festive period.

  • Start each day with a glass of warm water with a slice of lemon to hydrate and wake up your digestive system. Make sure to keep hydrated with water all day too, especially between those cheeky festive tipples. Turn it into a mindfulness or gratitude practice, using the time that you are drinking water to focus intently on the process and sensations, or to literally count your blessings – mentally list all of the things that you are grateful for at this time of year.
  • Stress has a big impact on our digestion,1 so keeping stress levels in check will benefit all areas of your health and wellbeing. Practicing focused breathing exercises can help bring you from a tense state back into a calm state that is vital for good digestion. Breathe in through the nose for a count of 4 then exhale slowly to a count of 8. Repeat a few times until you feel calmer. Use some of the extra time that the holiday break provides to include calming activities such as walks in nature, alone time (perhaps take time to curl up with a good book), meditations and yoga sessions. There are so many free resources out there that you can access on your smart tv or phone… try out some of the free sessions from ‘Yoga with Kassandra’ or ‘Yoga with Adriene’ available on YouTube – just don’t get side-tracked into mindless browsing! Bookmark or save sessions that you find helpful, so that you can find them again quickly without distraction.
  • If you feel as though you need some extra support to help calm your frazzled nerves you could experiment with supplementing adaptogen herbs such as Ashwagandha and Rhodiola, which both have been shown to help relieve stress.2,3 At Sprout, we stock Ashwagandha as capsules as well as tincture, and Viridian do a lovely blend of adaptogen herbs in one product, the Enhanced Rhodiola Complex. Ask any of the Sprout team about this one, as most of us have found it useful for supporting our stress resilience at some point in our busy lives.
  • Have you ever thought about swapping your afternoon coffee for a cup of CBD tea? Naturally caffeine free, it promotes a sense of calm that could be just the ticket for coping with the onslaught of family visits and the pressures of entertaining. We stock loose leaf and cbd teabags in the shop, or you could pop in for a relaxing cup in the café to see how you like it.
  • Look after the friendly bacteria in your gut by eating plenty of vegetables and other plant foods such as fruit, nuts, seeds, pules, beans, herbs and spices. The more variety the better, remember to eat the rainbow.4 If your plate is looking a little beige, get creative with your festive fare and throw on some colourful plant foods. The not-so-friendly bacteria in the gut thrive on sugar, so try to remain mindful about your intake of high carbohydrate and sugary foods which can lead to uncomfortable fermentation in your gut.
  • Fermented foods and drinks are a fab addition to the diet which will add beneficial bacteria to your gut. These include sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir and kombucha. Sprout sell a variety of fermented foods and drinks, including locally made Delea jars of fermented foods (we are loving Caitlin’s seasonal Christmas Kraut) and Jacks Cornish kombucha.
  • If you are prone to gut health issues you could consider taking a probiotic supplement. Sprout stock high quality, clinically researched probiotics by Optibac, Bio-Kult, Biocare and Viridian.
  • Even though it can be helpful to take it easy over Christmas, your mind and body will thank you if you keep up some regular movement. Regular exercise is beneficial for your gut bacteria and short walks after meals can aid digestion.5
  • Get involved in the cooking at mealtimes, as the sight and smell of foods prior to eating are great at naturally kick starting the body’s digestive processes. Bitter tasting herbs help stimulate the digestive system to process our food efficiently, which can help to prevent bloating, feelings of fullness, and indigestion. Take a leaf out of our European neighbour’s book by eating bitter tasting salads such as rocket and endive, or take a digestive bitter tincture in some water before a meal, such as Swedish bitters, or A. Vogel’s Yarrow complex tincture. We absolutely love a non-alcoholic aperitif made with Botivo, a bitters-containing herbal drink that knocks the socks of any of the others that we have tried.
  • Put your fork down between mouthfuls! Eating food without thoroughly chewing and rushing through your meal can mess up your digestion and leave you feeling sluggish and bloated. Eating mindfully and remembering to chew thoroughly will have you ready for another round of Twister in no time!
  • Digestive enzymes are required to break down our food into easily absorbed nutrients that our bodies can use. If our food isn’t broken down adequately, we can experience uncomfortable symptoms such as bloating and flatulence, which might entertain the kids, but could mean our bodies missing out on the absorption of vital nutrients.6,7 This process is often impaired with age too, as we tend to produce less stomach acid in our later years. If this sounds familiar, consider supplementing main meals with Viridian’s Digestive Aid which is a vegan combination of enzymes, betaine hydrochloride (stomach acid), peppermint and ginger to help promote healthy and efficient digestion.
  • Herbal teas can also be really effective in soothing digestive symptoms. Peppermint tea is a great option after a heavy meal as it can help to calm the gut.8 You can find peppermint or fennel teas at Sprout, as well as a vast array of other herbal teas from the likes of Yogi and Westcountry Teas (blended right here in Newquay).
  • Lastly, remember to have fun and laugh! It’s proven to be good for your health,9 so use the time to fully indulge in what makes you happy. 

References

  1. Konturek, P. C., Brzozowski, T., Konturek, S. J. Stress and the gut: pathophysiology, clinical consequences, diagnostic approach and treatment options. 2011. J Physiol Pharmacol, 62(6):591-9.
  2. Lopresti, A. L.  An investigation into the stress-relieving and pharmacological actions of an ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) extract. 2019. Medicine (Baltimore), 98(37): e17186.
  3. Li, Y et al. Rhodiola rosea L.: an herb with anti-stress, anti-aging, and immunostimulating properties for cancer chemoprevention. 2017. Curr Pharmacol Rep, 3(6): 384–395
  4. Tomova, A. et al. The Effects of Vegetarian and Vegan Diets on Gut Microbiota. 2019. Frontiers in Nutrition, 6:47.
  5. Clarke, S. F. et al. Exercise and associated dietary extremes impact on gut microbial diversity. 2014. Gut, 63:1913-1920.
  6. Ianiro, G. et al. Digestive Enzyme Supplementation in Gastrointestinal Diseases. 2016. Curr Drug Metab, 17(2): 187–193.
  7. Roxas, M. The role of enzyme supplementation in digestive disorders. 2008. Altern Med Rev, 13(4):307-14.
  8. Alammar N et al. The impact of peppermint oil on the irritable bowel syndrome: a meta-analysis of the pooled clinical data. 2019. BMC Complement Altern Med, 19:21.
  9. Savag, B. M. et al. Humor, laughter, learning, and health! A brief review. 2017. Adv Physiol Educ, 1;41(3):341-347.

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