As holiday season is upon us, many of us are spending too much money, eating and drinking too much, and replacing gym visits with mall visits. Unfortunately, our society has made Christmas into a stressful time where we run around trying to show people how much we love them by spending money on gifts for them.
I've always wanted Christmas to be about spending quality time rather than money, and it has saved my bank account and my adrenals. But for many of us, this is just not the case.
The bad news is stress + eating badly does a doozy on your digestive system which will leave you feeling "off" for no apparent reason.
The Stress Response
First, let's go over what stress is doing to your body.
Whether you're stuck in traffic and someone cuts you off, or some other mom just grabbed the last [insert toy craze of the year here], you may start to feel your "blood boiling". Your face gets flushed, your heart races, and you are ready to fight. Well, that's because your body doesn't know that you aren't in any real harm. Your body is actually getting ready to fight or run. So blood is sent to your heart, lungs, and extremities, your liver releases stored sugars, so that you have the resources to fight or run. What happens to your poor digestive system? No love.. no blood flow. So let's say you were eating the cookies that someone gave you as a gift, and then the stress response strikes... Your digestion will halt, and those cookies will just sit there, waiting for your digestive system to start working again. Oh, and since you're not running or fighting, your body will package that sugar that your liver so graciously released for you and store it neatly away into your fat cells for later.
So in a nutshell, stress is making your digestive system sluggish, and making your fat cells larger.
So on top of the stress that the holiday spirit brings along, we are also going out more, and eating (and drinking) things that we maybe wouldn't normally have. It's also likely that we're eating too much of it, and justifying it because, hey, that's what the holidays are for!
Your digestive system will surely be unhappy with all the things you're throwing at it, and when your gut is not happy, either are you! 80% of your serotonin is produced in your gut, so there is a HUGE connection between your gut and your brain. We have to think of this as a large contributor to how we're doing mentally and emotionally around this time of year.
So What Do We Do?
Now I'm not going to shake my finger at you, because I do it too. What I will do, is give you some tips and tools to decrease the effect that all of the above has on your system, so that you can enjoy the holidays, and go into the new year feeling good!
In terms of stress: The hardest part is trying not to get to that point of heart racing, blood boiling stress in the first place. But if you do find yourself there. Stop what you're doing and take 5 deep breaths (from your deep core, just like your pelvic floor physio would teach you).
One supplement you can use to help you manage stress is ashwagandha. Get it in tincture form and take a dropper full between meals, twice a day over the course of the holiday season. Ashwagandha will gently support your adrenal glands without stimulating them. It's also safe to take while pregnant or breastfeeding! Read more about adaptogens and the stress response here.
In terms of supporting the digestive system: Ideally you can try a little of everything and not over-stuff yourself, but we all tend to eat a little too much at holiday parties so we want to support our digestive system the best we can.
Try super enzymes (NOW brand) 10 minutes before you eat. This supplement has all the tools to help you digest fat, protein, and carbs, as well as some other digestive boosters like papain (from papaya).
- Avoid dehydration by adding a glass of water or tea between alcoholic or caffeinated beverages
- Move! Try doing a full body exercise like one of these for 8 rounds of 20 seconds of work, 10 seconds of rest. It will take 4 minutes, and rev your metabolism for the feasting that's about to go down!
- Take some magnesium citrate before bed if your bowels become sluggish (200-400mg)
- Up your probiotics to the 30-50 billion range during holiday season so that you have more of the good guys in your gut
- have daily smoothies with chia seeds to keep your gut lubricated with mucilage
What are your best holiday survival methods to keep your body and mind feeling good?