Moth and Toad Apothecary

Herbalism, self-sufficiency, and low-waste living

Gut Health for the Holidays | Remedies for Better Digestion

The holidays are quickly approaching, and with them come the hearty (and sometimes heavy) traditional comfort foods of the season! Eggnog, potato casserole, tender meats and sweets, oh my! If you have begun your journey into herbalism or just want to ensure your body stays happy and healthy through the next few months, you may be wondering what you can do to avoid these delectable treats. However, I challenge you to rethink how you make these foods, instead! There isn’t a way to make every aspect of these foods nutritious and delicious, but by adding helpful herbs, reducing portion sizes, and using different ingredients, you can enjoy them with a little less guilt this year.

Last year, I shared a bunch of soup recipes–canned, crockpot, stovetop, and instant pot-friendly–to try. This year I’m expanding off of that post by focusing on traditionally unhealthy foods to give them a boost in the right direction! Check out that post for soups of all kinds!

This first post will be offering some insight into how to make your foods easier to digest, and how to do so! In my next post, I’ll have a list of recipes to try in place of your usual recipes! Feel free to explore them and mix and mash them with your own tried and true staples. Let me know how they go for you, and don’t forget to share and comment!

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Consume Fermented Foods and Probiotics

Fermented foods include things like yogurt, kimchi, and sauerkraut, and offer a healthy dose of beneficial gut bacteria. The “good” bacteria from these foods aid in healthy digestion and the communication between your gut (the enteric nervous system) and your brain (the central nervous system). A healthy microbiome in your gut can be cultivated by eating fermented foods, making use of high quality probiotic supplements, and avoiding excessive use of antibiotics (consult your doctor about this if you have questions!). Eating too much sugar can also cause imbalances in your gut, leading to yeast infections and poor gut health. Incorporate at least one serving of fermented foods into your daily diet to help restore and maintain gut health!

Eat More Nutritious, Light Foods Everyday

I tend to associate fall and winter with an overall sense of sleepiness. Maybe that’s because I grew up eating hearty, heavy foods as the seasons changed, or maybe it’s because the lack of sunlight puts me right to sleep. Either way, I plan on changing my diet to suit the seasons this year, and hopefully regain some of the energy I usually lose with the light.

Your body dedicates a ton of energy to digesting the food you give it. By consuming light meals more frequently, your body will have more energy to devote to other tasks, like keeping you warm and alert! Plus, you’ll have more energy to break down the heavy treats you eat whenever you indulge in them.

Did you know that your brain uses up about 500 calories daily, all by itself? Eat plenty of light, nutritious, and easily digestible foods throughout the day, such as chicken noodle soup, to fuel your body and reduce after-meal fatigue.

Add Carminatives and Bitters to Your Meals

An added bonus to traditional cool weather foods is the carminative herbs used therein! Carminatives aid in digestion by moving blood and energy to the abdomen, essentially directing the body’s focus to the contents of your gut. Using these herbs can help diminish the effects of indigestion, including bloating, cramping, and excessive gas. Carminative herbs are usually quite aromatic, and include such staples as cinnamon, peppermint, paprika, and thyme! Pungent herbs make up a large part of the carminative grouping, and provide the literal spice of the dish! These herbs tend to have stronger effects than aromatic herbs, but work in a similar way. Onions, garlic, cayenne, and ginger are all pungent, carminative herbs!

If you tend to have indigestion when eating heavy foods, try adding carminatives to these dishes. They add exciting flavour as well as digestive benefits! You can also create a bitters tincture to use before and after eating to stimulate digestive enzymes! Simply take a few drops on your tongue, or spray it into your mouth with a mister bottle. The bitter flavour tells your body to kickstart the digestion process.

Kami McBride, author of the Herbal Kitchen, suggests placing bowls and shakers full of carminative herbs on your dining table. You’re more likely to use them if they’re out and ready than if they’re tucked inside your pantry!

Try Out Dairy and Meat Alternatives

I follow a few wonderful vegan/plant-based chefs and bakers; they use their knowledge of cooking science and the iconic flavour profiles of the holidays to create gut-friendly alternatives! Some dairy products, including heavy whipping cream and cream cheese icing, tend to be hard for some people to digest. However, that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy cakes and creams! By experimenting with dairy alternatives, you will be able to eat more of what you love without all of the negative effects on your tummy.

Meat-centric meals can be heavy, albeit delicious and full of protein and fat. By limiting your consumption of red meat to one or two meals a week, your heart health and cholesterol levels may improve, as well as your digestive capacity! If you really crave that delicious beefy flavour, you can try using it more sparingly as a garnish or even as an additive to sauces and gravies. Mix it in with flavourful herbs, spices, and veggies, or add it to rice and quinoa bowls as a good source of protein. For lighter solutions, make use of chicken, salmon, and other lean meats! Some meat alternatives such as tempeh, beans/legumes, and protein-rich grains can be the center of incredibly delicious meals, too!

I hope this post inspires you to make some healthy changes to your holiday meals, and offers some insight into gut health and overall function! Let me know what some of your favourite fall and winter recipes are, and how you’re thinking of changing them around! Like, comment, and share this post so it can inspire others, too! If you’re interested in seeing more posts like this one, consider subscribing to my email list, so you never miss out on a new post.

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