Love it or hate it, but the season of over-indulgence is upon us. And with it comes temptation after temptation. But here's the thing. You don't have to be a saint during this time. But what we do highly recommend is that you practise mindful indulgence.
What is that? Well, this is all about enjoying yourself without adding to your waistline or making yourself sick. The way to do this is to make your festive season one where you can enjoy the moment without paying for it later with discomfort, pain or embarrassing symptoms. Here is what we mean:
Let's talk about booze
Drinking occasionally is a part of many peoples weekly lives, yet when we hit a “party season,” things go up a few notches! This is when many start to consume more alcohol, which can take the party blues to a whole new level.
“Running to the loo after your night out with diarrhoea, or being sick? Stomach pain too? Say hello to heartburn and acid reflux!” - Hannah, Lead Nutritionist
Your night out was probably a lot of fun. But want to know what's not so fun? When you keep rushing to the loo or just feeling awful. So what exactly is happening in your digestive system for you to feel so awful? Let's take a look at what we mean.
When we eat for example, our stomach digests food by breaking them down, taking the nutrients your body needs and getting rid of waste.
We have acids and digestive enzymes that break food down in the stomach, and when you drink alcohol, it can raise the acid from the stomach to your throat (acid reflux) or may also cause heartburn. (1)
That's not all. This also prevents the food we eat from being broken down properly. In turn, this can cause excessive fermentation leading to unpleasant and uncomfortable symptoms such as gas, bloating and diarrhoea.
Alcohol irritates the stomach lining and causes inflammation
Drinking too much may also make the stomach produce more acid than it needs, which over time can damage the stomach lining, and make it inflamed. After a heavy season it can lead to something called gastritis.
Symptoms of gastritis include indigestion, burning stomach pains, feeling sick/throwing up and feeling uncomfortably full after eating. See how much this is not fun?!
When this happens, it's a strong sign that you should be listening to your gut and showing it some love through eating whole foods (rich in fibre foods can do wonders!) and supporting your gut in other ways.
Party season and late nights
Another way the festive season messes with your gut is due to poor sleep - no thanks to all those late nights.
Sleeping late disrupts the sleep cycle, (2) which means that when you drink alcohol, you may be able to fall asleep fast but you will spend less time in the very important stage of sleep called Rapid Eye Movement (REM).
This is the sleep stage that plays an important role in dreaming, emotional processing, healthy brain development and memory. So when you spend less time in this stage, you won't wake up feeling well rested or refreshed. (3)
Curious to know how poor sleep can impact your gut health? In one study, researchers found that healthy people with no prior gut issues such as IBS developed IBS symptoms after being sleep deprived. (4)
But that's not the only way sleep deprivation damages the gut. Think about it. When you have a late night or are regularly sleep deprived, you are more likely to make poor food choices.
So your night out becomes a cycle of gut abuse as the combination of alcohol, the late night and bad food choices all create imbalances in your gut and trigger unpleasant or painful symptoms. So much for the fun!
Dealing with a hangover
A hangover is a collection of unpleasant symptoms that arise when your body and brain are withdrawing from the byproduct of alcohol.
While the only cure for a hangover is prevention (probably not what you want to hear!), there are ways you can reduce the unpleasant and painful side effects of alcohol.
These include staying hydrated, eating whole foods, and drinking ginger tea. For example, alcohol leads to dehydration and electrolyte imbalances, which is why you get those unpleasant hangover symptoms. By drinking water, you get to reduce those symptoms.
Whole foods such as those high in antioxidants like spinach, broccoli, cabbage, beetroot, lettuce, and sweet potatoes can help reduce hangover symptoms. As for ginger, this reduces nausea, improves digestion and relieves stomach upset - all good things!
Watch out for painkillers
It's very tempting to try to silence a nagging headache with painkillers. But this can be another terrible decision for your poor gut as well as liver. Your gut is already suffering from the alcohol you've consumed and the poor food choices you've made.
For “good” measure, you throw painkillers into the mix. The result? Bad news!
You see, common painkillers like ibuprofen and non-steroidal anti-Inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can cause irritation in the stomach lining and may lead to damage.
More reasons hydration is so key when drinking to keep that headache away. (5)
Food and alcohol
No doubt that you're familiar with the old saying, “Don't drink on an empty stomach.”
There's actual truth to this saying as eating slows the rate your body absorbs alcohol.
A small study indicated that with alcohol consumption in a fed state (that is a whole meal not just a snack), the availability of alcohol for absorption reduced to 66% in females and 71% in males compared to a 100% absorption rate if you had no food or a snack before alcohol. (6)
Don't forget your skin!
Believe us when we say that what happens in your gut doesn't stay in your gut.
And guess what? Since alcohol affects our gut, it also affects our largest organ, the skin.
Did you know that dehydration literally takes the fluids out of your skin, causing a risk of more wrinkles? We're not kidding! In other words, your expensive beauty products can't and won't undo the damage of alcohol.
The best way to have glowing, smooth, and youthful skin, is to break up with the booze. Did you also know that alcohol inflames the tissues in the skin and causes a histamine reaction for many? Ever notice the rosy red cheeks after a drink? That's the histamine in the alcohol causing that “blush.”
This is why whether you drink or not, hydration is so important.
Our top tips
Switch to a few non-alcoholic options. We like sparkling water, tonic water with lemon, and even some gut friendly kombucha. (some pubs do have them, ask!)
Remember, alcohol also includes sugar and artificial colours so all these add up to create imbalances in your gut.
That said, if you still fancy a tipple then go back to our hangover tips we shared earlier! It won't undo the damage of alcohol in your body but it can reduce the symptoms so that you feel a little less rotten.
To booze or not to booze
At Feel Complete, we believe that there is nothing more important than your gut health. For this reason, we don't recommend you eat, drink or do anything that negatively impacts your gut health. Why? Because this would be like telling you fire burns but that it's okay to touch it once in a while!
Having said that, we also know that a lot of people can't go without their booze. So if you find yourself dealing with the aftermath of alcohol in your system, then follow the tips we shared here.
Whether you completely stop drinking alcohol or significantly reduce your consumption, one thing is for sure.
Your body, brain and gut will thank you and so will your skin, sleep, weight, mood…we could go on and on but you get the point!
If you want to support your gut during the festive season and beyond, get your hands on gut health supplements like our 3-in-1 premium digestive supplement.
Formulated by gut health experts, this all-natural supplement includes premium ingredients that are carefully selected to support digestion, help repair your gut, and repopulate it with beneficial bacteria.
These include digestive enzymes, organic botanicals like camomile, peppermint and fennel as well as probiotics. Remember what we said earlier about what happens in your gut doesn't stay in your gut? Well, this is also true for the good stuff.
So when your gut is happy, your brain also benefits so you will feel less anxious, more relaxed and generally happier. All good stuff! Get your premium gut supplement here.
Did you know Chronic alcohol consumption may lead to a change in your gut bacteria, meaning the bad bacteria win and cause an issue like dysbiosis or bacterial overgrowth- all with many digestive issues? (7)