Has all the summer and festive celebrations left your digestion feeling a little sluggish? December tends to be a lot more indulgent than the average month. All the drinks, extravagant dinners and late nights can leave us feeling a little less sparkly then we usually do. While Christmas is a time to loosen the reins on our health regimes, there is nothing worse than starting the new year feeling flat. The digestive system is one of the first things people usually start to notice going a bit off track after a period of more indulgent dietary and alcohol choices. But not to fear, there are a few ways you can support your digestive system to try and keep it as healthy as possible, without having to say no to a big slice of your Mum’s famous dessert on Christmas day.
One of the best ways you can support your digestive system is by paying a bit more attention to bile. Not heard of bile? Well, it’s a really crucial part of the digestive cascade and it’s likely to be contributing to that ‘sluggish’ feeling if things aren’t working as well as they should be.
What Does Bile Do?
Bile contains bile acids that are essential for the digestion and absorption of fats and fat-soluble vitamins, as well as aiding your digestion of proteins and starches.
Plays a role in the regulation of microflora in the intestines.
Destroys unwanted and dangerous organisms as they invade your body.
Encourages the ‘wave’ motions in the intestines to help the flow of matter through the digestive tract.
Used by the liver as a way to form of transport to carry out waste products, helping the bodies innate detoxification process.
Ways To Support Bile Production and Digestion
Include bitter foods (especially veggies) in your meals wherever you can. Some great bitter foods are radicchio, endive, rocket, ginger, arugula, cilantro, turmeric, dandelion, artichokes, cumin, fennel and milk thistle. These all act to stimulate digestive juices and give the bile flow a boost for optimal digestion.
Make infused water with lots of fresh lemons and add in extra herbs such as mint or cucumber.
Have a shot of apple cider vinegar (organic and with the mother) in warm water 15 minutes before meals, or half an hour post-meal if you feel really bloated.
Swap your afternoon coffee for a dandelion tea. Dandelion tastes just like coffee but is caffeine-free and is great for getting everything flowing nicely through the digestive tract.
Make sure you stay hydrated. Aim to drink a minimum of 2L water every day. However, make sure you avoid drinking during meals and just afterwards as water will dilute your digestive enzymes and can slow the whole process down.
Try to include a few serves of fermented food every day (kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir or swapping your cocktail for a kombucha).
Focus on what you are eating. It’s easy to be distracted with all the excitement of Christmas but try to chew properly and avoid eating in a rush or when distracted. Chewing triggers the release of enzymes that kick the rest of the digestive system into action.
Try to give your digestive system a significant break between meals and avoiding grazing all day. If possible, have your last meal for the day before 8 pm and then don’t eat until 9 am the next morning.
Drink herbal teas. Fennel, aniseed, peppermint and ginger are all great for digestive function and help to nourish the liver. If it’s too hot, make them into ice tea.
Increase your fibre intake. Soluble fibre (oats, beans, chia and psyllium husks) helps to grab up old bile and take it out of the body, whereas Insoluble fibre (found in fruits and veggies) acts like a broom to sweep everything out through the bowels.
So enjoy the festive season and everything that comes with it, but try to make a few non-negotiable health habits that you include every day to ensure you are rolling into the new year feeling like the best version of you.