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Gut-Friendly Festive Foods for Bloating
Posted 8 months ago by Katie
Beat the Bloat this Christmas with these helpful Gut-Friendly tips
The winter solstice has just passed and the festive season is in full swing, which means many of us will be eating out more, indulging in comfort foods, and having more late nights, all of which can upset our sleep and gut circadian rhythms. This time of year can often mean it is more difficult to avoid IBS flare-ups, stress, and poor sleep as we celebrate with friends and family. If you’re struggling with gut issues, such as bloating, dysbiosis, constipation, leaky gut, or S.I.B.O, you’ll want to stick with a gut-supportive diet and avoid foods that will aggravate your symptoms. To support a well-balanced gut this winter, read on for my lifestyle tips, gut-friendly festive foods, and some of my favourite alternative gut healing recipes for this time of year.
Manage your stress levels
Stress has a negative effect on your whole body, and can also wreak havoc on your gut health. The holidays can be stressful for some people, and chronic stress is one of the root causes of compromised gut health. The stress hormone cortisol can worsen digestive conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome and symptoms such as bloating and pain. Partaking in a daily meditation or breathing practice to help lower your cortisol levels will promote relaxation and calm the ‘fight or flight’ stress response. Adaptogens, unique substances such as ashwagandha, holy basil, and cordyceps mushroom which adapt to your body and support the adrenal system, have all been shown to lower cortisol and restore balance in the body.
Get your daily dose of live cultures
Whether it's in the form of live cultures probiotic supplements, raw fermented foods such as sauerkraut, or a shot of kombucha, beneficial microbes are supportive of good digestion and overall health of the body, so we want to be topping up our levels daily. With probiotics, it’s not a question of one-size-fits-all, as different strains of bacteria are targeted for specific health issues. OptiBac Probiotics ‘One Week Flat’ supplement contains a combination of strains that are beneficial for digesting starchy foods and reducing bloating after overeating. Perfect after a huge Christmas dinner when your stomach can often feel a bit uncomfortable. 'One week flat' can be taken for either a week or for ongoing use, and comes in easy-to-take powdered sachets.
Maintain a sleep routine
Catching up with friends and family can take its toll on the amount of good-quality sleep we get over the holidays. Try to maintain 8 hours sleep each night, and allow 3 hours between eating dinner and bedtime to ensure you have digested your food properly before hitting the pillow.
Balance your fibre intake
Fibre feeds our army of good bacteria and provides the right nourishment for your good gut bugs to flourish. Maintaining a diet rich in fruit and vegetables over the festive season will support a well-balanced microbiome, but it can also lead to gas and a bloated stomach. As a nutritionist I recommend slowly increasing fibre intake in your diet to allow your body time to adjust. It is also important to balance your fibre intake with adequate water intake to support the breakdown of fibre and reduce constipation, which is one of the main causes of bloating.
Gut-Friendly Festive Foods
There are many gut-friendly foods that are wonderfully festive too. Here are some of my seasonal favourites to include, with the added benefit of beating the bloat and keeping your gut bacteria happy too.
Parsnips are rich in fibre and so provide a good source of prebiotics to feed your microbiome. They are also a good source of vitamin C, which is great for the immune system (70% of which is based in your gut.)
Cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli and cabbage, contain compounds called glucosinolates that can be utilised by gut bacteria and improve bacterial diversity in the gut1.
Instead of your traditional braised red cabbage, try a raw, pickled version this year for a host of gut health benefits. Like its next of kin, Brussels sprouts, red cabbage is rich in gut-healing soluble fibre and is also an excellent source of glutamine, an amino acid that is good for reducing inflammation and pain in the gastrointestinal tract.
Kombucha is a fermented drink that contains organic acids, enzymes and antioxidants, that may promote healthy digestion, support immunity, and soothe an upset stomach. See below for my homemade 'Spiced Christmas kombucha' recipe.
Dark chocolate is considered a prebiotic that is rich in polyphenols and antioxidants.
In a controlled, double-blind, randomised clinical trial2, researchers compared the outcomes of consuming a high-cocoa vs. a low-cocoa flavanol drinks. Their results show a significant increase in certain gut microbes such as Bifidobacterium and Lactobacilli populations.
Many of the aromatic spices that we usually associate with Christmas contain beneficial compounds that have antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties. Some of my favourites to include are fennel, cinnamon, star anise, ginger, and cloves. Drinking star anise tea after a meal helps to support digestive ailments such as bloating, gas, indigestion and constipation, as it contains the terpene linalool3.
Clementines are loaded with fibre and essential nutrients, including vitamin C to support your immune system over the winter months. Just one clementine contains 36 milligrams, which is 60 percent of your daily recommended value for vitamin C.
Gut Friendly Christmas Recipes
Roasted Brussels sprouts with cranberry and orange
Our guts could certainly use some extra support during the holiday festivities, and so Brussels sprouts are a must this time of year. Eating sprouts provides liver- and gut-cleansing properties along with a host of nutrients and antioxidants. They are a good source of soluble and insoluble fibre, which promotes bowel regularity and detoxification. They come into their own after the first frost and this recipe incorporates anti-inflammatory ginger and fresh cranberries too, which are rich in vitamin C.
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 500g Brussels sprouts, halved lengthwise
- Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
- 150g fresh or thawed frozen cranberries
- 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
- 1/2 tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger
- 1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
- 100g unsalted butter
- Handful of walnuts
- 1 shallot, minced
- 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
Preheat the oven to 200°C. On 2 large, rimmed baking sheets, toss the Brussels sprouts with the oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast for about 40 minutes, stirring halfway through, until the sprouts are tender and browned in spots.
Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, combine the cranberries, maple syrup, ginger and orange zest. Cook over moderately low heat, stirring until the cranberries break down and thicken, about 10 minutes.
In a medium skillet, melt the butter and toast the walnuts over a moderately high heat until deep golden, about 4 minutes. Remove from the heat, add the shallot and thyme and stir into the cranberry sauce. Transfer the butter and walnuts to a bowl, add the sprouts and toss. Season to taste and serve.
Medicinal Peppermint Hot Chocolate
Over the festive period and winter months, we tend to overeat and indulge in more comfort foods, which often results in indigestion, gas, and bloating. This hot chocolate is a favourite of mine for supporting easy, optimal digestion of foods, as it contains the medicinal lion's mane mushroom and peppermint herbal extract. Peppermint oil is like a cooling reset for the digestive system, and a study4 published in 'The Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology' supports the use of peppermint for irritable bowel syndrome, including symptoms such as flatulence, abdominal pain, and bloating. Lion's mane mushroom acts as a prebiotic (dietary fibre) that feeds our friendly bacteria, and repairs and regenerates the epithelial cells found along the gut lining.5
- 2 medjool dates, pitted
- 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
- 1 tablespoon nut butter-hazelnut or cashew
- 1 drop peppermint essential oil (food grade)
- 1 tsp lion's mane powder
- 1 teaspoon coconut oil
- 1 1/2 cups hot water
- Whipped coconut cream to top
1. Add all ingredients except coconut cream to your high powered blender. Blend for 2-3 minutes until totally smooth & lightly frothy.
2. Add whipped coconut cream for a bit of indulgence. Enjoy!
This pickled kraut can be served alongside any dish, but would be great with your Christmas meal as a gut-friendly alternative to shop-bought cranberry sauce, which is often high in sugar. Refined sugars upset the balance of good and bad bacteria in the gut as they feed pathogens and reduce the beneficial bacteria (probiotics) in our gut. Apple cider vinegar, the fermented juice from crushed apples, contains the prebiotic pectin, which is a good source of soluble fibre. A lack of this fibre is a common cause of bloating and constipation. Research shows that apple cider vinegar supports blood sugar balance6, has anti-fungal properties7, and lowers levels of gram-negative bad bacteria such as E. Coli8, that can lead to a leaky gut.
- 1/2 small/medium head red cabbage
- 1 apple (grated)
- 1 cup water
- 1/2 cup raw apple cider vinegar (with the mother)
- 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
- 2 teaspoons muscovado sugar (or coconut sugar, brown sugar,)
- 1 inch freshly grated ginger (or 1 tsp dried)
- 2 dried bay leaves
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp allspice
- 1 star anise
- 2 cloves
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- Black pepper
Note: Make at least 4 hours before serving.
Slice cabbage in half. Slice one half in half again. Remove the core. Shred cabbage finely with a mandolin slicer or very sharp knife. Grate the apple. Place in a large glass bowl or jar.
Place water, vinegar, and sugar in a bowl and whisk together until the sugar is mostly dissolved. Stir in the bay leaves, star anise, cloves and dried spices (if using), salt, and a good grind of black pepper. Pour over the cabbage. Seal or tightly cover the jar/bowl and let sit on the counter for 3-4 hours. Stir, then seal and place in the fridge until chilled (at least 1 hour).
Stir before serving and use alongside your Christmas dinner instead of cranberry sauce.
At first, the liquid will not cover all of the cabbage but it starts to soften and will be fully covered after just a few hours. Best served at least 1 day after making. Keeps for about 2 weeks sealed in the fridge.
Spiced Christmas Kombucha
Kombucha is a fizzy, fermented tea with probiotic properties and a faintly tart flavour, with hints of apple cider. In this version, classic kombucha tea undergoes a second fermentation that infuses it with seasonal flavours of cinnamon, cloves, ginger and sweet spices.
- 1 star anise
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 teaspoon grated ginger
- 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
- 1 tbsp orange zest
- 1¾ cup kombucha tea (learn how to brew kombucha here)
- Add the spices, ginger, orange rind and juice, plus the freshly brewed kombucha, to a jar or flip bottle, and stir to combine.
- Leave at least ½ inch of headspace. Close the bottle, and transfer it to a warm spot in your kitchen out of direct sunlight.
- Allow the kombucha to ferment for 2-5 days, then transfer to the refrigerator. Taste after 2 days to see if it tastes good to you; for a stronger flavour leave to ferment for longer.
- Once the kombucha tastes ready, strain the spices and rind, and add the liquid to a clean glass jar. Place in the fridge to chill, and then enjoy.
Wishing you have a wonderful festive period, and a happy and healthy 2019!
For more information on useful supplements please read 'Why take a probiotic this Christmas?'.
1 Fei, Li et al. (2009) Human Gut Bacterial Communities Are Altered by Addition of Cruciferous Vegetables to a Controlled Fruit- and Vegetable-Free Diet, 'The Journal of Nutrition'. [online] Vol 139 (9) pp. 1685-1691 Available at:https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2728691/ [Accessed 15/12/2018]
2 Tzounis, X et al. (2011) Prebiotic evaluation of cocoa-derived flavanols in healthy humans by using a randomized, controlled, double-blind, crossover intervention study. AM J Clin Nutr, 93(1): 62-72
3 Peana, AT et al. (2002) Anti-inflammatory activity of linalool and linalyl acetate constituents of essential oils, 'Phytomedicine'. [online] Vol 9(8) pp.721-6 Available at:https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12587692 [Accessed 15/12/2018]
4 Cappello, G et al. (2007) Peppermint oil (Mintoil®) in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome: A prospective double blind placebo-controlled randomized trial. Plum X Metrics, 39(6): 530-536
5Chen, D et al. (2017) Extracts from Hericium erinaceus relieve inflammatory bowel disease by regulating immunity and gut microbiota, 'Oncotarget'. [online] Vol 8(49)pp.85838–85857 Available at:https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5689651/ [Accessed 15/12/2018)
6. Carol S. Johnston, PHD; Cindy M. Kim, MS; and Amanda J. Buller, MS. (2004) Vinegar Improves Insulin Sensitivity to a High-Carbohydrate Meal in Subjects With Insulin Resistance or Type 2 Diabetes. Diabetes Care, 27(1): 281-282
7. Manohar, J and Dr Gopinath, P. (2017) Antifungal activity of apple cider vinegar against clinical isolates of Candida species. Int J Cur Res, 9(4): 49317-49320
8. Yagnik, D; Serafin, V; and Shah, A. J. (2018) Antimicrobial activity of apple cider vinegar against Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus aureus and Candida albicans; downregulating cytokine and microbial protein expression. Sci Rep, 8: 1732
Mclaughlin, A (2015, April 03) Quick Pickled Cabbage [online] Available at: [http://www.edibleperspective.com/home/2015/4/3/quick-pickled-cabbage] [Accessed 25/122018]
Fearing, D (2007, Nov) Roasted Brussel Sprouts with Cranberry butter, [online] Available at: [https://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/roasted-brussels-sprouts-cranberry-brown-butter] [Accessed 15/12/2018]
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