Photo by Anda Ambrosini on Unsplash
Written by Leah Johnston, RDN
If you’re like me, when you think of winter you might think of warm beverages, cozying up by a fire, and twinkling lights glowing on freshly fallen snow.
You might not immediately think “ah, winter! This is a great time to focus on my gut health!” However, maintaining gut health is important year round but may be even more so during the winter months.
The fact is, cold and flu seasons peak over the winter months. We also tend to indulge in foods that are higher in fat and sugar (think all those sweets and gravies) during meals. Additionally, some of us decrease our physical activity levels over the winter months. This combination tends to slow our systems down and prevents our digestive tract from regularly eliminating toxins. The stain on our digestive tract can also affect our immune system, and lead to unwanted winter weight gain.
Keeping your digestive system balanced may not be as challenging as you think. There are simple ways to maintain our gut health and give our bodies a fighting chance against those winter bugs, a sluggish digestive track, and an expanding waistline.
- Be good to your gut bacteria. Fiber helps to keep things moving and probiotics feed help the good bacteria in your gut to flourish. Consuming the recommended 25-38 grams of fiber per day is already a challenge. When the menu switches to calorie-dense, rich foods, our fiber intake can tank. To help get the fiber we need, a goal for adults is to consume between 5-7 servings of a variety of fruits and vegetables per day and make half of the grains we eat whole grains. Probiotics from food come in the form of fermented foods, such as sauerkraut, kombucha, miso and kefir, or or with active cultures like yogurt. Taking a probiotic and digestive supplement like EnzyBiotic Enzyme & Probiotic Blend can help ease discomforting symptoms like bloating, gas, and upset stomach.
- Drink plenty of water. Maintaining adequate hydration is key to keeping our systems regular, especially if we increase our fiber intake. There are also promising associations between adequate hydration and weight management. A rule of thumb is to consume 8, 8-oz glasses of water each day. If you aren’t a big water-drinker, it's okay to get your fluids from other sources such as soups, herbal tea or decaf coffee. Keep in mind that certain beverages can be dehydrating such as alcohol and caffeinated drinks like teas, coffees, or soda. So, if you consume caffeine throughout the day, consider increasing your water intake.
- Stay active. One of the simplest things to do to keep our digestive tract moving is to keep our bodies active. Aim for 30 minutes of moderate physical activity daily. Bundle up and go for a 30-minute walk, stroll, or roll. Make daily walks a family event and design a scavenger hunt of things to spot around the neighborhood. If you enjoy relaxing in front of the TV, march in place, do jumping jacks, a set of bicep curls, push-ups or lunges during commercial breaks or between binging episodes. One tip is that physical activity accumulates throughout the day. So, if you sneak in a 15-minute walk in the morning and then shovel snow for 15 minutes in the afternoon, you’ve reached your daily goal and given your digestive tract an opportunity to keep things moving.
In order to maintain gut health and regularity, you don’t need to ditch the beloved cozy mainstays of the winter season. Fending off those unwanted extra inches may be as simple as consuming a little more fiber, drinking enough water, and keeping yourself moving.