I’m already hearing talk of office Christmas parties and its only early October. My liver is wincing at the thought. You know the routine. By the first Friday in December you’re staring your first big night out in the face and before you’ve had your first taste of turkey or a mince pie, you’ve stopped paying much attention to your routine, what you’re eating, how often you’re getting to the gym and your blood is 70 proof.
Let’s go into this year’s festivities with a plan for damage limitation and a plan to beat the bloat and prime your brain for positivity come the new year.
What you eat is very important but what’s often overlooked is how you digest what you eat. The primary site of interaction between our food and our bodies is our gut and therefore, the health of your gut is vital to beating the bloat and priming your brain for positivity in the new year.
The good bacteria that live in your gut can produce serotonin, the feel-good chemical that regulates your mood (as well as the proper functioning of your appetite and digestion), and therefore some studies suggest that probiotics (good bacteria) can have an anti-depressant affect.
Dopamine is another chemical involved in our sense of well-being. Where serotonin is the feel-good chemical, dopamine is involved in the anticipation and pursuit of feeling good. For example, the anticipation and consumption of alcohol increases dopamine production. When we’re hungover and experiencing alcohol withdrawal, serotonin is suppressed, and dopamine is deficient and both low serotonin and low dopamine have been linked to depression.
So, when we knock serotonin and dopamine out of sync with lots of late nights and heavy drinking, it has an impact on upon our sense of well-being. Our levels of dopamine and serotonin can affect the makeup of the bacteria in our gut (the microbiome), and the ability of our gut to move properly and absorb nutrients, and can impact the role our gut plays in our immune system.
But that’s only half the story. This gut-brain relationship is a two-way street. Most of our serotonin is produced in the gut and while dopamine isn’t produced in the gut, the consumption of sugary and fatty food spikes dopamine in the brain and triggers us to search out more of the same.
When we alter our diets over the festive period and consume lots of acidic pro-inflammatory sugary and fatty processed foods and alcoholic or sweetened drinks, like mince pies and mulled wine, we disrupt the proper movement of our gut and help the bad bacteria in our gut grow and thrive. Not only are we left bloated and uncomfortable but throwing our gut out of sync impacts upon the healthy functioning of our brains and therefore, our sense of well-being.
We can beat the bloat and prime our brains for new year positivity by supporting the healthy balance of our gut with probiotic foods like natural yogurt, kefir and pickled foods, or probiotic supplements, and by eating foods rich in proteins that support dopamine and serotonin production, such as free-range eggs, poultry, oily fish, nuts, seeds, spinach and bananas. So put down the booze and sweets and think turkey and walnuts this Christmas.