Temptations are everywhere this time of year. Parties, dinners with friends and family get in the way of daily routines and make eating healthy during the holidays truly challenging.
Even if you’ve been following The Myers Way®, you know it’s easy to have your progress derailed when faced with so many stresses and indulgences of the holiday season. Trust me—it happens to all of us from time to time!
If you occasionally splurge a little with holiday eating, it’s not the end of the world. However, you’ll want to make sure you’re giving your gut a little TLC to keep your microbiome balanced. Without support, the holiday eating can wreak havoc on your gut.
Don’t worry! I’m going to tell you how you can support your gut while holiday eating and give you a few tips on eating healthy during the holidays. First, let’s talk about foods that are sure to make an appearance during your holiday party.
Holiday Eating and Your Gut
Eating healthy during the holidays can seem near to impossible with the abundance of cocktails and indulgent desserts full of sugar, gluten, and dairy. The problem with alcohol, sugar, dairy, and gluten is that combined with holiday stress and anxiety, repeated over indulgences leaves you susceptible to inflammation and gut infections, particularly Candida overgrowth, leaky gut, or SIBO.
Let’s talk more about how these foods can turn holiday eating into gut health issues.
Even if you abstain from alcohol for the rest of the year, holiday celebrations can be tempting to indulge in a few glasses of wine or a cocktail or two. It turns out, even a single episode of overindulging (having a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08g/dL or more) can cause leaky gut and a significant increase of toxins in your bloodstream. 1
Remember, alcohol is a toxin. What’s more, alcohol is essentially liquid sugar. Most beer is made from wheat or yeast, which contains gluten. Gluten is a highly inflammatory food and should be avoided by anyone. I’ll talk more about that in just a minute.
If you do choose to celebrate with alcohol, stick with a clear liquor such as gluten-free vodka, mixed with soda water. The key is to keep it to just one drink a day for women, and two for men. This is the amount of alcohol that your body can safely process.
An overload of sweet treats made with refined sugar are everywhere. It may seem impossible to eat healthy during the holidays with so many goodies available. Making your own treats with natural sweeteners such as stevia, honey, or maple syrup is a great way to stay on track with eating healthy during the holidays.
Like alcohol, refined sugar is an inflammatory food that can cause leaky gut and put you on the path to autoimmune disease.23
Consuming sugary foods and beverages leads to increased production of advanced glycation end products (AGEs), which cause oxidative stress), and spikes levels of inflammatory markers such as C-reactive protein (CRP). Inflammation is at the root of almost every chronic disease, including Type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and rheumatoid arthritis.
Sugar also can alter bacterial communities in your gut, determining what types of bacteria and the amount of each that take up home there. This can affect your weight and cause a whole host of issues related to an imbalance of microflora.4
Sugar also directly fuels Candida overgrowth, which leads to its own host of related health issues.
Gluten and Dairy
Gluten- and dairy-filled foods are everywhere during the holidays. Traditional holiday foods such as eggnog, gingerbread, pumpkin pie, and stuffing are likely filled with gluten and dairy, two foods I recommend that everyone remove from their diets.
Studies have linked gluten to a wide range of chronic health issues including eczema and other skin rashes,5 Alzheimer’s and dementia, irritable bowel syndrome,6 and autoimmune disease.7
Refined grain is found in abundance at holiday parties in the form of cookies, breads, cakes, and crackers, refined flour can spike your blood sugar, disrupt your delicate gut balance, and create a breeding ground for Candida to flourish.
Gluten-filled treats often contain dairy as well, which is inflammatory for a large percentage of the population. Even if you aren’t lactose intolerant, you might still be sensitive to casein and whey, two proteins found in cow’s dairy. Casein has the same molecular structure as gluten, which is why most people that have a gluten sensitivity also have one to dairy. If you want to stay on track with eating healthy during the holidays, it’s best to completely avoid gluten and dairy at all costs.
So what happens if you get off track while eating healthy during the holidays? Let’s discuss what you can do if you’ve been glutened or overindulged while holiday eating.
What to Do If You Get Off Track
You can feel pretty bad if you have a sensitivity to dairy or gluten, or overindulge during the holiday season. The good news is that you can take the following steps to recover quickly and get yourself back on track eating healthy during the holidays.
1. Get The Gluten, Dairy, And Toxic Foods Out
If you continue to eat gluten, sugar, or dairy, your immune system becomes overly stressed as the inflammation keeps on coming with each bite of yeast bread, bagels, dairy, and sugar. The quicker you can get it out of your system the better you’ll feel. Here are my tried and true methods for supporting healthy digestion:
Digestive enzymes help speed up the breakdown and absorption of macronutrients. I formulated these to be the best of the best. I made sure when customizing Complete Enzymes that they were specifically designed for those of you with digestive issues, food sensitivities, and nutrient absorption challenges. These enzymes break down everything from protein and protein peptides to carbohydrates, disaccharides, sugars, lipids/fats, and even vegetable fibers.
Activated charcoal binds toxins and helps reduce gas and bloating after being exposed to gluten, dairy, and sugar. Activated charcoal is a great idea if you’ve consumed food or drink you shouldn’t have, and can help to “mop up” the toxic aftermath. My Coconut Charcoal can also help to bind to potentially irritating proteins, such as casein and gluten.
2. Decrease Inflammation
Inflammation occurs in your body when there is a threat or injury. It’s your natural defense. However, it can be painful and cause an array of issues with your gut over time. Here are measures you can take to facilitate a healthy inflammatory response after holiday eating.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Fish oil is the world’s best and most bioavailable source of the Omega-3 fatty acids, EPA & DHA. These polyunsaturated long-chain fatty acids positively promote the production of inflammation mediating proteins such as eicosanoids, proteins, resolvins, and more.
Complete Omega-3 Softgels are pharmaceutical grade, GMP certified, and 3rd-party tested by Eurofins. Complete Omega-3 Softgels are the purest, highest-potency fish oil supplement available on the market today.
Turmeric is a root or rhizome plant native to India. The most bioactive of the active ingredients in turmeric is curcumin.
Curcumin makes up 90% of the curcuminoid content in turmeric, though turmeric is only around 5% curcuminoids by weight and it’s famously known for its poor absorption. Many curcumin supplements not only have very low percentages of useful bioactive compounds, they’re also very poorly absorbed. What little is able to be absorbed is almost always immediately metabolized by your liver.
My physician-formulated Liposomal Curcumin is the most bioavailable form of curcumin available on the market. It’s ideal for supporting a healthy inflammatory response and fighting free radicals. And it tastes great – like an orange popsicle!
3. Repair Your Gut
This may be the third step, but it’s also the most important! Nearly 80% of our immune system is in our gut. Having a healthy gut is crucial for optimal health. Even if you’ve got off track eating healthy during the holidays just once, it’s essential to repair your gut. The 4R approach is a proven approach that I have used with thousands of patients for gut repair.
The goal is to get rid of things that contribute to gut inflammation such as inflammatory foods, infections, and gastric irritants such as alcohol, caffeine, or medications. Inflammatory foods such as gluten, dairy, corn, soy, eggs, and sugar can lead to food sensitivities. I recommend doing an elimination diet to determine if you have a sensitivity to any foods.
Add back in the essential ingredients for proper digestion and absorption that may have been depleted by diet, medications (such as antacid medications) diseases, or aging. This includes digestive enzymes, hydrochloric acid, and bile acids that are required for proper digestion.
Restoring beneficial bacteria to re-establish a healthy balance of good bacteria is critical. This may be accomplished by taking a probiotic supplement that contains beneficial bacteria such as bifidobacteria and lactobacillus species. I recommend anywhere from 25 -100 billion units per day.
Providing the nutrients necessary to help reduce gut inflammation is essential. My most comprehensive weapon for gut repair is Leaky Gut Revive®, which contains powerful gut-repairing ingredients l-glutamine, aloe, deglycyrrhizinated licorice, arabinogalactan, slippery elm, and marshmallow root.
Of course, the best way to eat healthy during the holidays is to be prepared. That’s why I want to give you a few tips to stay on track with holiday eating.
Tips for Eating Healthy During the Holidays
Now that you know how to recover and what foods to avoid while eating healthy during the holidays, let’s discuss how you can avoid the temptations that come with the holidays! Here are a few tips to help you this holiday season.
Make Your Own Food
If you’re going to a holiday party and want to eat healthy during the holidays, the best way to do that is make your own food to take with you.
There are a number of delicious dessert recipes that are tasty and full of high-quality protein and natural ingredients. I’m sure you’re asking yourself – how do I make it myself yet also save time? My protein powders serve as an easy base for many great high-protein desserts that taste delicious and are beneficial for your body.
Indulge in something sweet, like a gluten-free cookie or these Peppermint Brownie Bites. Experiment with new recipes and show your loved ones that gluten-free, dairy-free cooking can be delicious. If you have an autoimmune disease, these recipes are compliant with an autoimmune Paleo (AIP) diet, or can be easily adapted.
Be Mindful of Sugar, Gluten and Alcohol
It’s easy for your gut to become out of balance if you’re indulging in sugary treats, starchy foods, and alcoholic drinks all season long. I know that if you’ve finished a 30-day protocol and reintroduced some foods, then maybe your body can tolerate small amounts of these foods. However, they’re still toxic!
At this time of year, moderation is key when it comes to sugar and alcohol. If you have gut infections such as Candida overgrowth or SIBO, you want to avoid these foods. Remember, sugar and alcohol can feed Candida and make your condition worse. Mocktails are a great substitute for alcoholic drinks during the holidays.
Don’t Be Hard on Yourself
It’s ok to have the occasional sweet treat or drink. If you do give into temptation, however, remember that moderation is key. And if you do, remember that there are ways to speed up your recovery so you can get back on track with healthy eating during the holidays. Use the steps I mentioned earlier to recover faster from the occasional holiday indulgence.
Eating healthy during the holidays is challenging. After all, we are only human and the temptations are higher than usual this time of year. Now that you have the tools you need to be successful eating healthy during the holidays, you can stay committed to your health and still enjoy the holiday season!
- Single episode of binge drinking adversely affects health. Jim Fessenden. University of Massachusetts Medical School. 2014.
- Fructose: A Dietary Sugar in Crosstalk with Microbiota Contributing to the Development and Progression of Non-Alcoholic Liver Disease. Jessica Lambertz, Sabine Weiskirchen, Silvano Landert, and Ralf Weiskirchen. Frontiers in Immunology, vol 8. 2017.
- Role of “Western Diet” in Inflammatory Autoimmune Diseases. Arndt Manzel, et al. Current allergy and asthma reports, vol. 14. 2014.
- High-Glucose or -Fructose Diet Cause Changes of the Gut Microbiota and Metabolic Disorders in Mice without Body Weight Change. Moon Ho Do, et al. Nutrients, vol 10. 2018.
- Non-celiac gluten sensitivity triggers gut dysbiosis, neuroinflammation, gut-brain axis dysfunction, and vulnerability for dementia. Mak Adam Daulatzai. CNS & neurological disorders drug targets, vol. 14. 2015.
- The Overlap between Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity: A Clinical Dilemma. Archita Makharia, et al. Nutrients, vol 7. 2015.
- High Proportions of People With Nonceliac Wheat Sensitivity Have Autoimmune Disease or Antinuclear Antibodies. Antonio Carroccio. Gastroenterology, vol 149. 2015.