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Good Gut Health Over Christmas

How to maintain good gut health over Christmas, naturopath tips, Kirily Thomas

The festive season is upon us again, which traditionally is a time when we eat, drink and be merry a lot more than usual over a month or so! This includes me as well ☺️! So I want to talk about how to maintain good gut health over Christmas.

A question I often get asked is, “Will I undo all the good gut work we’ve done this year if I overindulge over the festive period?” Whilst your gut microbiota is definitely impacted by what we eat and drink, and some of my patients do need to take extra care if they have possible overgrowths of inflammatory microbes, there are ways to help soften the blow microbiota-wise – you still need to avoid foods you are intolerant to of course and take it easy if your gut is really sensitive and reactive or you will cause yourself grief.

Some of the festive foods and beverages we may overindulge in during multiple catch-ups, celebrations, and holidays during December and January – such as a heavy meat intake, lots of pates and cheeses, foods high in saturated fats like pastries and dairy-rich desserts, and of course alcoholic beverages – have a tendency to feed more inflammatory bacteria in our gut like those from the Proteobacteria phyla if you have them present in your gut microbiota (bacteria can also “eat” protein, saturated fats and bile, not just fibre 😉). And, just like how some of our beneficial gut flora produce the wonderful short-chain fatty acid (SCFA) butyrate, which is very important for our health and wellbeing, some of our unhelpful inflammatory bacteria from the Proteobacteria phyla also produce by-products like the endotoxin lipopolysaccharide (LPS) and hydrogen sulphide (H2S), both of which are inflammatory, and can impact our health negatively over the longer term. 

Here are some tips to help balance out the possible production of these inflammatory compounds if you are indulging over the festive season. And by all means enjoy all those celebrations, just make sure you make a start on returning to your normal supportive diet as soon as those celebrations are over. 

The following foods have been shown to help reduce the absorption of endotoxins like LPS if we consume them alongside or following our more indulgent celebration foods (1-3):

  • Fruit – all fruit, especially those with deep colours and fruit high in pectin like apples, pears, and quince. Quince paste, dark-coloured grapes, figs or sliced apple and pear with your grazing boards anyone?
  • Berries – full of polyphenols and we’re lucky in Australia that our festive season falls in summer, so it is berry season here! Add berries to the tops of salad, include fresh berries with dessert (yum!) or have a side of cherries with your meaty main meal if you’re an omnivore.
  • Olives – full of polyphenols, especially the darker varieties, and a delicious addition to grazing boards and salads. Enjoy!
  • Olive oil – extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) is full of polyphenols and my oil of choice for cooking and drizzling over salads.
  • Mediterranean style diet – including lots of leafy greens, veggies, fruit and legumes (if tolerated) alongside more indulgent food, especially those high in saturated fats will help mitigate the absorption of endotoxins like LPS.
  • Soluble fibre (e.g. pectins, mucilage and beta-glucans) helps to reduce LPS absorption – e.g fruit, legumes, sweet potato, mushrooms, and if I have suggested you include ground flaxseed to support your gut, continue to have this over the holiday season as it’s also full of soluble fibre.
  • Iced herbal tea – a strong brew of rosella tea (Hibiscus sabdariffa) is lovely and refreshing when it’s cold, and it is also chock full of polyphenols too. More about how to make the iced tea here.
  • If I have prescribed you specific prebiotics, keep taking those through the festive season to help support the beneficial species in your gut microbiota.

Best wishes for the festive season everyone! 

  1. Ghanim, H., Sia, C. L., Upadhyay, M., Korzeniewski, K., Viswanathan, P., Abuaysheh, S., Dandona, P. (2010). Orange juice neutralizes the proinflammatory effect of a high-fat, high-carbohydrate meal and prevents endotoxin increase and Toll-like receptor expression. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 91(4), 940-949. doi:10.3945/ajcn.2009.28584 
  2. Pastori, D., Carnevale, R., Nocella, C., Novo, M., Santulli, M., Cammisotto, V., Violi, F. (2017). Gut-Derived Serum Lipopolysaccharide is Associated With Enhanced Risk of Major Adverse Cardiovascular Events in Atrial Fibrillation: Effect of Adherence to Mediterranean Diet. Journal of the American Heart Association, 6(6), e005784. doi:doi:10.1161/JAHA.117.005784 
  3. Zhou, Y.; Ruan, Z.; Zhou, L.; Yang, Y.; Mi, S.; Deng, Z.; Yin, Y. Chlorogenic acid decreased intestinal permeability and ameliorated intestinal injury in rats via amelioration of mitochondrial respiratory chain dysfunction. Food Sci. Biotechnol. 2016, 25, 253–260. 
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