Holiday Health Hacks: Simple Ways to Boost Digestive Wellness Through Activity
Article

Holiday Health Hacks: Simple Ways to Boost Digestive Wellness Through Activity

Published on Wednesday, November 29, 2023
by
Alexander Koch

Health & Wellness

Navigating Holiday Challenges: Health and Digestion Strategies

The holiday season approaches! This means fun, cheer, and goodwill towards all. The holidays also present some prominent challenges. Specifically, these challenges include the increased stresses of schedule changes, socialization, travel, more family time, holiday shopping, and holiday foods. 

Epidemiological studies have documented increases in negative health behaviors and outcomes over the winter holidays, including overeating and weight gain, increases in sleep disruption, and increased alcohol consumption. These trends can add burden to people already coping with IBS, acid reflux, or GERD.

Here are some tips to maintain your health and digestion as best you can during the season. The holidays are only a few weeks out of the year, so with some thought, you should be able to preserve good health during this time.

Exercise Tips for Festive Wellness 

During the holidays, try to adopt a mindset of “every little bit counts.” The holiday travel can detract from your regular exercise equipment and routine. Regular exercise has been linked to a lower risk of constipation, so lowering your physical activity for a few weeks in conjunction with a higher state of mental stress and the consumption of high-calorie foods can be a recipe for trouble.

Luckily, small, as little as 5-minute bouts of exercise can increase blood flow and glucose control. Lack of exercise equipment or inability to exercise outdoors (i.e., due to weather) should not be considered insurmountable barriers. 

You can do simple body-weight exercises anywhere. For example, someone can do a simple circuit of lunges, pushups, crunches, air squats, and planks in a guest bedroom within a few minutes. A quick routine like this will not take you to the pinnacle of fitness, but it is infinitely better than doing nothing. It will make transitioning to a more vigorous routine after the holidays much easier. 

Other simple ways you can add more activity throughout the day include parking at the rear of the low when shopping, going in to pay at the cashier rather than paying at the pump at the gas station, getting take-out food at the counter rather than using the drive-thru, and taking the stairs instead of the elevator/escalator if you are climbing no more than three floors at a time. Each of these done in isolation only adds a little bit of activity at a time, but collectively, done over a few weeks, they can make a meaningful difference in the total number of calories you expend.

Prioritizing Sleep Amid Celebrations 

Late nights can lead to a lack of sleep and poor sleep quality. Sleep disturbances are associated with several poor health consequences, including IBS. During travel and upheaval of your daily schedule, melatonin supplementation might be a helpful tool to improve sleep quality and digestive health.

Mindful Drinking: Alcohol and Digestive Health 

Alcohol consumption is a prominent trigger for acid reflux and GERD. Happily, my fellow expert contributors at Foodguides have written some excellent articles on alcohol-free alternatives for social drinking and beverage alternatives without alcohol. If you do choose to imbibe, moderation is key. Be mindful to nurse your drink, take small sips at a time, and limit yourself to two drinks within an evening. Also, ingesting alcohol fewer than three times within the same week appears to lower your odds of reflux events.

Balancing Holiday Treats: Healthy Eating Strategies 

Holiday treats are notoriously delicious and consequently high in fat and sugar. My best advice on enjoying holiday snacks in a healthy(ier) way is to limit your portion sizes of desserts. You can approach this while avoiding a feeling of deprivation if you focus on eating adequate servings of high-protein, high-fiber foods, which will increase feelings of satiety (fullness). 

Embracing Wellness Beyond the Holidays

Finding that sweet spot between celebration and well-being is an ongoing journey in the hustle and bustle of the holidays. Remember, it's not about perfection but making small, manageable choices that add up. Whether it's a quick exercise session or savoring your favorite holiday treat mindfully, each little effort counts. Let's carry these practical lessons forward as the holiday season wraps up. Here's to a healthy and balanced holiday season and many more sensible choices in the days ahead. I wish you all a joyful and health-conscious start to the new year!

 

  1. Abdulan, I. M., Popescu, G., Maștaleru, A., Oancea, A., Costache, A. D., Cojocaru, D. C., Cumpăt, C. M., Ciuntu, B. M., Rusu, B., & Leon, M. M. (2023). Winter Holidays and Their Impact on Eating Behavior-A Systematic Review. Nutrients, 15(19), 4201. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu15194201
  2. Ali, T., Choe, J., Awab, A., Wagener, T. L., & Orr, W. C. (2013). Sleep, immunity and inflammation in gastrointestinal disorders. World journal of gastroenterology, 19(48), 9231–9239. https://doi.org/10.3748/wjg.v19.i48.9231
  3. Gao, R., Tao, Y., Zhou, C., Li, J., Wang, X., Chen, L., Li, F., & Guo, L. (2019). Exercise therapy in patients with constipation: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Scandinavian journal of gastroenterology, 54(2), 169–177. https://doi.org/10.1080/00365521.2019.1568544
  4. Heacock, R. M., Capodilupo, E. R., Czeisler, M. É., Weaver, M. D., Czeisler, C. A., Howard, M. E., & Rajaratnam, S. M. W. (2022). Sleep and Alcohol Use Patterns During Federal Holidays and Daylight Saving Time Transitions in the United States. Frontiers in physiology, 13, 884154. https://doi.org/10.3389/fphys.2022.884154
  5. Pan, J., Cen, L., Chen, W., Yu, C., Li, Y., & Shen, Z. (2019). Alcohol Consumption and the Risk of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. Alcohol and alcoholism (Oxford, Oxfordshire), 54(1), 62–69. https://doi.org/10.1093/alcalc/agy063
  6. Thor, P. J., Krolczyk, G., Gil, K., Zurowski, D., & Nowak, L. (2007). Melatonin and serotonin effects on gastrointestinal motility. Journal of physiology and pharmacology: an official journal of the Polish Physiological Society, 58 Suppl 6, 97–103.

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