The holiday season is a wonderful time of year to spend time with loved ones and family. Celebrating with our family often involves certain favorite holiday dishes. Over indulging on large meals and treats can leave us feeling sluggish as we juggle busy work and holiday preparations or traveling. This holiday season, we’re sharing some tips to help you celebrate without that holiday hangover!
While indulging in a few favorite treats over the holidays is not in itself largely detrimental, prolonged exposure to certain foods can lead to chronic inflammation within the body. Regular exposure to inflammatory foods results in a breakdown of the natural protective lining within your digestive system. This lining is essential for establishing and maintaining a balanced immune system, as around 70% of our immune system is found in the gut.
A Gateway by Design
When healthy, the lining of your digestive system is designed to have a highly selective “gateway.” Only certain particles are allowed to pass through the gut lining in order to travel to other areas of the body to provide valuable nutrients and energy. As levels of inflammatory foods such as sugar and processed foods rise, they wear away the ability of the gut lining to properly maintain its selective barrier. Picture the skin on the back of your hand. When you apply lotion to keep your skin hydrated throughout the dry MN winter, your skin allows the lotion to absorb into it. In contrast, things like dirt or water are not able to penetrate the surface of your skin. Your gut lining functions in the same way, with certain particles allowed to pass through while others are blocked.
When levels of inflammatory foods rise, they irritate and wear away the protective barrier of our gut lining. Imagine taking a piece of sandpaper and rubbing the back of your hand consistently. The longer you rub the greater irritation to your skin. When irritated your skin is not able to protect against dirt and germs like it was able to when healthy. When irritation happens in our digestive system, it leads to something called increased gut permeability. As gut permeability increases, things like bacteria, toxins and undigested food particles are able to move out of the gut and into the bloodstream more easily leading to inflammation throughout our body.
Sugar: The #1 Culprit
One of the biggest culprits creating chronic inflammation and this holiday hangover is sugar. No, not all sugar is bad! Natural sugars found in fruits and vegetables have not been found to produce inflammation in the body. In fact whole foods with natural sugar tend to also contain protein and fiber, resulting in a potential anti-inflammatory effect. However, artificial sugars are a main cause of irritation for our digestive system. These artificial sugars can be found in many of our favorite holiday dishes and drinks in the form of high-fructose corn syrup, fructose, sucrose, glucose and corn sugar. Even in small amounts, artificial sugars can irritate our gut lining. The combination of increased sugar intake with increased levels of stress, medication, fat intake and smoking can also greatly increase the risk of chronic inflammation.
Chronic inflammation and sugar have been linked to many chronic diseases found in our society today including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer’s, obesity, liver disease, digestive disorders, autoimmune diseases, arthritis, skin problems, and depression, among others. By reducing sugar intake and limiting other triggers we can be proactive in preventing chronic inflammation within the body.
Tips to Reduce Inflammation
- Reduce processed foods and drinks – read food labels to help identify products with ingredients such as sucrose, glucose, high-fructose corn syrup, maltose and dextrose
- Eat more whole foods, including fruits and vegetables
- Include antioxidant-rich foods such as nuts, seeds, and avocados
- Stay active!
- Manage stress levels – meditation, adequate sleep, and essential oils
Take this information, visuals (especially those of the healthy and permeable gut), and tips and amp up your holiday mindfulness. Consider not only your immediate health, but the long term negative effects of improper gut health. Cheers to combating the #1 culprit: sugar and reducing current and chronic inflammation!
Jen and Amanda of Empowering All are pleased to feature guest blogger, Dr. Amanda Haeg, co-founder of Cadence Chiropractic, along with Dr. Aleshka Calderon-Santini. Jen, Amanda, Amanda and Aleshka are passionate about natural health care options to help the body function at its best by identifying and addressing the root cause of health issues. For Jen and Amanda, chiropractic care has been beneficial and at Empowering All and Cadence, we align around a most common culprit hindering wellness: sugar. See also this article, Does Sugar Cause Inflammation, on Healthline and reach out to us here for additional resources. Thank you to Dr. Haeg for sharing her insight on this topic with our community! You can find Cadence online and in their offices in Eden Prairie.