The Holidays are a time for office parties and get-togethers with family and friends with sleigh-fulls of delicious holiday foods!
Between the list of to-do’s, to-buy’s, to-make’s, to-call’s, to-rsvp’s and merrymaking aplenty, it’s all too easy to run yourself dry and put your health last. Not only can this concession ruin your holiday season if you get sick, but it can inevitably lead to a whole NEW list of problems that will take you more than just January to recover from.
Bloating, headache, gas, constipation, diarrhea, indigestion…we’ve all had one or more of these. That second helping of turkey and fixings, just another dessert or two. While we convince ourselves and each other it’s no big deal, our “second brain” is always watching. Each bite. Each mouthful. Each swallow.
This “second brain”1 is the gut’s network of 100 million neurons sending information from the stomach, through the intestines. The gut decides what to digest, absorb, excrete and, sometimes, send back, making us violently sick in the process. Dr. Gershon2, author of The Second Brain, said it best, “The brain doesn’t like to micromanage; it leaves the details of digestion up to the gut.”
And the gut takes its job very seriously.
So how do we get through all the merrymaking and celebrations with our loved family and friends without weight gain, bloating, sugar crashes and digestion problems while still managing to enjoy ourselves? By following a few tips and tricks.
7 SIMPLE TIPS TO GET YOUR BRAIN AND GUT IN GEAR
1. Drink Enough Water
Your first stop when you get up in the morning should be the sink. Fill the biggest glass you have with lukewarm water and squeeze a lemon into it for 3 seconds. Drink it all, and refill, drinking a second glass (or as much of it as you can).
The combination of lukewarm water and freshly squeezed acidic lemon juice3 first thing in the morning wakes up the gut gently and helps with the digestive processes throughout the day. It’s a small change in your routine and especially important through hectic weeks over the holidays.
This is always on everyone’s list to staying healthy, but who’s got the time? Here’s a little secret; we always have enough time, it’s just a matter of how we choose to spend it. Make the choice to leave a little early from the party, to politely say no to that after work happy hour, or skip that last store on the shopping list.
When our bodies don’t get enough sleep it becomes harder to focus, to function and to digest.4 While one or two nights with less sleep might not seem like a big deal, each one takes a toll on our bodies. And remember the gut knows it all.
3. 50% Rule
Forget every food chart and plate diagram you’ve ever seen. To keep your gut healthy, your body, and in turn yourself happy, make it a rule to always fill at least half your plate with veggies.
Vegetables are easy to digest and great sources of carbohydrates and calcium, keeping you full longer. Between the holiday festivities and platters of food, gravitate toward the veggie tray – it’s a perfect match.
4. Alkaline Foods
Think Broccoli, kale, sweet potatoes, apples, berries.
Emotional stress is all too common during the holidays, and when combined with sugary foods, grains and processed meats the body’s overall pH decreases from its ideal (7.4)5 making absorption of minerals and nutrients more difficult for the gut.
To combat the harmful acidic environment that this creates in the body, include alkaline greens such as spinach, dates, oranges and grapefruit in your diet at least 3-5 times/week. An alkaline pH in the body minimizes inflammation in the gut and allows for optimal stomach and intestinal health and function.6
To keep that gut healthy throughout the Holidays, it’s important to keep the ‘good’ bacteria of the gut lining in check and flourishing.
Artichokes are a Paleo approved food that fall into a group called prebiotics.7 Prebiotics like artichokes, bananas also fall into this category, contain indigestible nutrients that help feed the beneficial bacteria in your gut.8 By adding artichokes into your holiday meals, you’ll keep those good bacteria well fed and your gut healthy and happy.
6. The ONE Dessert Rule
Just say no to the pastry, pies, and the processed. While the Paleo Diet prescribes an 85:15 Rule allowing for the occasional cheat or Paleo treat, we say go for the fruit platter! You’ll still get a chance to sample a variety without the unnecessary digestive problems when your gut works overtime.
7. Think ‘Balance’
The hardest to stick to during the holidays – it is often the most important.
To keep digestive disorders and irritabilities at bay, try to make the time to exercise at least 3 times/week (a brisk 20 minute walk is better than nothing!).
This will let you just fly through numbers 1-6 and enjoy the Holidays without indigestion and gut-related stresses like bloating, constipation, diarrhea, acid reflux and all the rest. Because nobody wants those as surprise gifts at Christmas dinner.
Happy Holidays, All!
Sanja Jovanovic is a co-founder of PALEO WIRED – a site dedicated to GATHER the best and latest paleo recipes & information to share with you, to inspire you to EAT the deliciousness of those recipes and creations and to REPEAT each day. Because we’re all going to eat something anyway, might as well make it something that our bodies will thank us for!
 Gershon, M. D. The Second Brain: A Groundbreaking New Understanding of Nervous Disorders of the Stomach and Intestine. New York: HarperCollins; 1998. 336p.
 “Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry”; Metabolism of Antioxidant in Lemon Fruit (Citrus limon BURM. F.) by Human Intesetinal Bacteria; Yoshiaki Miyake et al.; 1997.
 Chen CL, Liu TT, Yi CH, Orr WC. Evidence for altered anorectal function in irritable bowel syndrome patients with sleep disturbance. Digestion. 2011;84(3):247-51. PMID: 21952561.
Koziolek M, Grimm M, Becker D, Iordanov V, Zou H, Shimizu J, Wanke C, Garbacz G, Weitschies W. Investigation of pH and Temperature Profiles in the GI Tract of Fasted Human Subjects Using the Intellicap® System. J Pharm Sci. 2014 Nov 19. PMID: 25411065.
 Lallès JP. Intestinal alkaline phosphatase: novel functions and protective effects. Nutr Rev. 2014 Feb;72(2):82-94. PMID: 24506153.
 Ramnani P, Gaudier E, Bingham M, van Bruggen P, Tuohy KM, Gibson GR. Prebiotic effect of fruit and vegetable shots containing Jerusalem artichoke inulin: a human intervention study. Br J Nutr. 2010 Jul;104(2):233-40. PMID: 20187995.