How To Protect Your Gut Health Over New Year's, According To Nutritionists
While New Year's Eve may be a fun time to drink and stay up late with friends, your gut — and its healthy bacteria — might take a hit from the festivities. Luckily, experts say protecting your gut health on New Year's is super easy, so you can celebrate the holiday without worrying about your wellness.
The truth is, gut health affects so much more than just the digestive tract. Science has shown that everything from your mood, skin, and even your joints can be impacted by your gut microbiome (aka, the bacterial ecosystem in your gastrointestinal tract). Unfortunately, many classic New Year's Eve activities, like drinking, can mess with your gut — and, so it follows, your overall health.
"One of the challenges is that many people do not drink in moderation, thus leading to [gut] dysfunction. Alcohol is a toxin, and the body recognizes it as such," registered dietitian and nutritionist Maya Feller tells Bustle. "The gut then becomes susceptible to dysbiosis [aka, imbalances in gut bacteria], inflammation, and changes in the microbiome. This can lead to changes in immune function, since the gut is the largest immune mediator in the body, and an increased risk for disease."
Suffice it to say, your gut health plays an important role in maintaining both your mental and physical wellness. Here are seven helpful tips from nutritionists on how to protect your gut health before, during, and after New Year's Eve.
1. Drink In Moderation
First and foremost, being aware of how much alcohol you're actually consuming on New Year's Eve can help you keep your gut health in check. "I surely do not want to ruin anyone’s fun, but being moderate about your alcohol intake is really key," Feller says.
2. Eat Fermented Foods
Sauerkraut is a New Year's Eve staple in some households, but now you have even more reason to pile it on your plate. Lisa Booth, a registered dietitian and in-house nutritionist for the app 8fit, explains, "A great way to improve the number of healthy bacteria in your gut is by integrating fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, yogurt, or tempeh regularly [into your diet] if you’re not doing so already." Booth adds that fermented food may "reduce some digestive issues, and increase bacterial diversity."
3. Be Aware Of Pro-Inflammatory Foods
Feller explains that, if you're concerned about protecting your gut health on New Year's Eve, it's important to "be mindful of your intake of pro-inflammatory foods." This includes things like artificial sugars or processed foods. (Of course, if mixed drinks and cheese plates are your thing, go for it!)
Squeezing in a morning workout or walk before you get all glammed up for a New Year's Eve celebration could also protect your gut health. "Studies show that people who exercise regularly have a healthier microbiome than [those who don't]," says Booth. "Make exercise one of your priorities — preferably outside. If you regularly expose yourself to nature, your body is in contact with a wider diversity of bacteria."
5. Rest After A Long Night
After you get home from a late night New Year's Eve gathering, Feller says to "give your body a rest from the stress of alcohol and sleep deprivation." Science is increasingly showing that sleep and gut health have a bilateral connection — which means they both can impact each other for the better, or worst. Try to prioritize sleep before and after New Year's to keep your gut healthy.
6. Eat A Balanced Meal
Long night of drinking on New Year's Eve? Feller says to "feed yourself vitamin and mineral rich whole foods" the following day to help restore your gut microbiome.
Booth further explains that, "After only one day of eating a lot of vegetables, fruits, legumes and whole grains, the population of healthy bacteria increases. [...] To feed your gut bacteria, you need to give them prebiotics like fiber."
7. Take Care Of Your Mental Health
Your brain and gut are intrinsically linked, so try to make your holiday stress-free to keep your gut healthy. "Since your digestive wellness and mental health are so closely related, with your gut being equally susceptible to your mood and stress levels, lifestyle is just as important as a healthy diet," says Booth. "Assess and address your stress levels [...] as an integral part of your gut health regime."
Protecting your gut health is all about balance and prioritizing activities that have proven health benefits, such as sleep and exercise. This doesn't mean you can't have a great time on New Year's Eve, though. Living it up is also a part of leading a balanced lifestyle, so have fun as the clock strikes midnight!