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Five nutritional choices to balance mind, body, and gut during the busy holiday season

The physicians at Salvo Health, including Dr. Max Pitman and Dr. Erin Hendriks, provide their recommendations to major publications.

Published:

September 22, 2022

Written by:

KT Heins-Nagamoto

Managing Editor

Medically Reviewed by:

Published:

September 22, 2022

From Our Doctors
From Our Doctors
Nutrition
Nutrition
Whole Self Science
Whole Self Science

You hear that? It’s the holiday season sneaking up on you. And with the holidays comes a string of late night parties with family and friends, more time in the car or on a plane, plentiful eggnog and festive treats, and of course hours spent shopping online or in-person. 

Tis’ the season for a flare-up. 

If you’re wondering what you can eat or do to counter-balance staying up late and perhaps indulging more often, our Salvo Health clinicians have insight on what you can do to take care of your body, mind, and gut as temps drop. 

How to treat your mind, gut, and body during the holiday season 

  1. Hydrate, hydrate, and then hydrate some more 

Drinking water during or after a meal helps how your body breaks down and processes food, aiding the digestive system even as you eat more or maybe less (depending on your schedule) during the holiday season. It can also relieve constipation and minimize the negative effects of alcohol. 

The impact of hydrating during the holiday season, or developing a healthy habit of drinking more water during the day, also has long-lasting effects on your gut microbiota. A new study from The Journal of Nutrition revealed that drinking water may be an important factor in shaping the human gut microbiome, with low-water drinkers having a higher abundance of Campylobacter, a bacteria that can cause infection.

Make sipping water more festive with  cranberry mint infused water. 

  1. Balance your sugar intake with a savory, balanced breakfast

Full transparency: We know that no one wants to cook breakfast when they’re hungover. Alcohol intake encourages the brain to release galanin, the neurochemical that promotes a need for fatty foods, which is why you would rather order McDonalds or hit up a diner for a greasy breakfast after you drink.

However, feeding your body the right stuff after a night of indulgence will relieve your symptoms, and energize you despite your hangover. The Salvo Health physicians recommend cooking a hearty, savory breakfast with eggs, avocado, gluten-free toast. 

Be mindful of how you cook to optimize the health benefits of your spread. Dr. Erin Hendriks recommends to Every Girl, "Instead of using processed vegetable oil or butter to cook your eggs, choose an oil with healthier fats such as olive oil. Experiment with different spices such as cumin, paprika, and oregano—all of which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties."

It might be helpful to add some veggies to your egg omelet as well, with kale, spinach, and arugula rich in Vitamin C, fiber, iron. This nutrient combo makes these leafy greens a good option when you're feeling less than sparkly after a night out. 

Cook your eggs to kill a hangover with help from Dr. Erin Hendriks at She Finds 

  1. Consider refreshing your daily routine with 2-3 cups of green tea daily

Does caffeine trigger your gastrointestinal symptoms? Since you’re staying up late during the holiday season, you might be drinking more coffee these days to counteract lack of sleep and overindulgence. Which means your stomach might be paying the price. 

Salvo Health physician Dr. Erin Hendriks recommends swapping out coffee for earthy matcha, with evidence showing that green tea extract can help alleviate hangover symptoms, including headache, nausea, and fatigue. It has been suggested in animal studies that green tea might even protect against liver damage. 

Plus the anti-inflammatory properties in green tea might be able to soothe your gut despite caffeine intake.

“Green tea polyphenols specifically promote the growth of butyrate-producing bacteria in the gut,” Dr. Erin Hendriks explains for Every Girl. “Butyrate is a short-chain fatty acid well known for its potent anti-inflammatory activity and key role in maintaining the intestinal barrier and mucosal immunity. Green tea also contains a specific type of polyphenol called epigallocatechin, or EGCG for short, which has been shown to offer protection against several cancers, including cancers of the gastrointestinal tract.”

Work green tea into your holiday schedule with advice from Dr. Erin Hendriks and Every Girl

  1. Don’t drink (coffee or alcohol) on an empty stomach 

Okay, this might seem obvious, but according to a survey of 3000 people, as many as 40% of 25–34 year-olds and 39% of 18–24 year-olds skip meals to save the calories for drinking. While this is a worrying trend for disordered eating behaviors, some skip meals due to schedule or stress, as our routines get thrown out of whack during the most wonderful time of the year.

If you are unable to fit in a snack or neglect to eat before an event or party, you are likely to a) overeat or indulge in the evening or B) experience more painful gastrointestinal symptoms. 

Dr. Max Pitman reminds us that drinking on empty stomach can cause a flare-up of GERD symptoms, "The bitter taste of coffee and some alcohol can lead to increased acid production, which could trigger heartburn or acid reflux symptoms, but everyone reacts differently."

Our advice is to stock up on packable snacks like plant-based protein balls, nuts like almonds or walnuts, baby carrots, mini sweet peppers, or snap peas, and be sure to stick to a healthy morning routine including the aforementioned balanced breakfast. 

Here are some more reasons why your stomach might hurt after drinking alcohol or caffeine from Dr. Max Pitman at Livestrong 

  1. If drinking, go for a lighter drink like beer or wine

Another piece of sage advice from Dr. Max Pitman: White wine and lighter beers (like pilsners or lagers) tend to be the least irritating for gastrointestinal issues. If you’re more fond of cocktails, try to opt for something without added sugar, like vodka soda, vodka (diet) tonic, or tequila soda. 

In fact, while Salvo Health Clinical Advisory Board Member, Dr. Mark Hyman usually advises against alcohol, he makes an exception for tequila, as it is made from fermented agave. Learn how to make his probiotic-tequila lime cocktail.

  1. Get festive with your gut-friendly foods 

If your mood shifts with the weather, you’re not alone. For those with a pre-existing mood disorder, they’re 10-20% likely to experience seasonal affective disorder as well. 

Dr. Erin Hendriks reminds us of the importance of feeding our gut the right stuff, to manage stress and depression from October to December: "Increasingly, the microbiome appears to play a facilitating role between how we respond to stress and the emergence of anxiety and depression." 

 While cooking becomes a chore from October to January (especially if you’re preparing a gut-friendly dish to bring to a party or hosting your own), something that can bring you joy is to put a festive twist on your safe foods. For example, making Brit & Co’s recommended halloween avocado toast, recommended by Dr. Hendriks, or experimenting with seasonal whole foods, like cranberry or pumpkin, for more fiber and antioxidants, plus diversity for your palette! 

The holiday season is always stressful, but you don’t have to go it alone. 

Imagine being able to text a board-certified Physician or Behavioral Health Coach to avoid flare-ups or manage your pain. No waiting for appointments during a busy holiday season or trying to squeeze another doctor visit in your schedule! 

At Salvo Health, our virtual clinic app provides you with continuous connection with a dedicated Care Team, who uses a signature model of care called Whole Self Science to diagnose and help you understand your condition and how environmental changes to one’s food, movement, and sleep, like those experienced during the holidays, impact your gut. You’ll receive a Care Plan which the team will use to coach you through life in a way that’s going to reduce symptoms and treat your gastrointestinal issues. 

Take our assessment to see if you qualify

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Written by:

KT Heins-Nagamoto

Managing Editor

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