I don’t know about you, but I love how fall and winter food taste more than what it does to me. The starch and sugary heavy foods takes it’s toll not just outwardly but internally. Not only do I usually gain a little, but my skin gets worse, and my digestion just isn’t the same as it is in the spring and summer. More gas and bloating. I wanted to share with you a few things I like to keep in mind to help with the unwanted bloat and digestive upsets fall and winter can bring on.
Fun fact: Feeling sick to your stomach is also known as being “bilious”. I’ve also heard it in reference to gas whether belching or flatulence. As you can guess the word is related to bile. But the word bilious also means “bad tempered”. So anything that makes you bilious I like to think is causing your digestive system to become “bad tempered” and it’s having a fit.
I like to refer to fall and winter eating and habits as my “hibernation mode”. You sleep more. The colder weather makes us eat more quantity and more calorie dense foods because your body is working harder and needing to add more “wood to the fire” to keep you warm. Those foods usually tend to be high in bad fat, processed sugar, and a lot of starch which turns into sugar. That combination is bad for your digestive system and your gut when in excess. So how can you keep your gut healthy and happy until spring?
Start Your Day with Apple Cider Vinegar (with Mother)
I started doing this first thing in the morning when I would have my water when I was getting ready. Add a tablespoon or two of apple cider vinegar (ACV) with mother, to your glass of water and get going! I started this because my allergies are the worst in the fall and winter. (The benefits of ACV and allergies are found here on an earlier post.) Because of this, I started taking ACV in the morning. It helped with my allergies, but I also noticed it helped with the gas I would get after having a heavy starchy meal the night before. So I kept at it.
ACV helps your digestive system more than just adding some probiotics. It also increases stomach acid which can be decreased with excess starch, sugar, stress, and alcohol. Sounds like fall and winter to me! If you don’t have enough stomach acid the digestive enzyme pepsin is reduced because it can only thrive in an acid environment, then your food (specifically proteins) are incompletely digested from the beginning and the rest of your system can have a hard time breaking it down – which could be the cause of gas and bloating.
Make Sure To Get Your Probiotics
Whether it’s yogurts, kombucha, or a pill, make sure to keep up with your probiotics. This adds good bacteria that breaks down your food in your small intestine and thus helps the whole process. It helps keep you regular as well as helping you digest things you have trouble digesting. James is lactose intolerant and by eating yogurt in the morning as part of his breakfast he can more easily digest milk.
Probiotics also create enzymes that destroy harmful bacteria increasing your immune system. Something that is definitely needed during the colder months. It’s been said that the majority of our immune defense is in our gut. Make sure to keep your gut healthy and functioning as best as you can!
Now onto some tips and tricks I’ve found to be helpful for me.
One of the biggest things I’ve come to realize is that most of my bloat comes from eating my starch/sugar with high amounts of fat. So although I can eat my weight in buttery mashed potatoes, I keep my portions appropriate and make sure it’s on the plate with vegetables, whether a salad or roasted carrots, to help.
- Processed sugar kills the good bacteria in your gut.
- Starches can cause gas when being broken down. Starches in excessive quantity, you can well imagine.
- Fat slows down the digestion process and slows down the functioning of the intestines, and by default slows down any relief.
So if you are eating the trifecta – sugary foods, excessive starch, and it’s high in fat – you can be in for some discomfort and bloat. Keep in mind it is not just with one dish. It’s in combination of what you eat throughout the day.
Here are some ideas to cut down on the regular foods and drinks colder months bring to us.
Fattening Hot Drinks
Nothing is better than getting something warm to sip on a cold rainy winter day. I love coffee. So warm lattes of all flavors call to me. And then there’s the classic hot cocoa on a below freezing night. Perfect! But like I said before, sugar and cream together can be just the combination to kick start my bloat and gas. Keeping the portions appropriate is also key. Although you CAN drink a 24 ounce pumpkin spice latte it’s better if, on the regular, you didn’t douse your system with fat and sugar in a liquid state. So instead of doing that, try some of these options.
- Hot Teas
- Herbal teas are always one of my options when I want something hot to keep me warm and to keep my hydration up. Some are naturally sweet like hibiscus that doesn’t have any sugar.
- Try your favorite tea with a low-fat milk if you’re craving something creamy
- Hot Apple Cider
- Hot apple cider can be good in small portions. However, this can still give your system an overload of sugar so make sure to keep it to an 8 oz. serving. Adding cinnamon can help to keep your blood sugar regulated when you sip on it, and make sure not to drink it after a heavy meal since it is high in sugar.
- If you don’t like straight up black coffee, then I suggest having either cream OR a sweetener in it, but not both together
- Chocolate lover? Try chocolate coffee. Add a scoop of ground cocoa to your coffee when brewing. You’ll have a mocha without the sugar or the added fat. And like with the other suggestion, you can add cream OR a sweetener but not both.
- Having a regular cafe’ latte without any added flavors or sugar and using low fat, almond, or soy milk is a better option
- Chai tea lattes can be made at home with a low fat milk and using a small amount of honey or agave to add just enough sweet to compliment the spice.
Trim Down Your Sides
Cold months usually come with some delicious side dishes, but most have a lot of butter and a lot of starch or sugar added to it. Here are some suggestions on what we make to lessen the blow to your gut. Most are roasted veggies. They are my favorite way to cook vegetables! I’m sure at some point I’ll be sharing my version of these recipes with you. *Bread stuffing I haven’t figured out yet… you’re on your own with that one for right now.
- Green Bean Casserole made with Cream and Fried Onions
- Roasted Green Beans with Sliced Almonds, Sprinkled with Parmesan
- Sweet Potato Casserole with Brown Sugar, Marshmallows, & Butter
- Roasted Chopped Sweet Potatoes with Pecans and a Drizzle of Honey & Cinnamon
- Mashed Potatoes made with Cream and Butter (oh man…)
- 1/2 it with Mashed Cauliflower and use a Low-Fat Creamer
- Roasted Rosemary Potatoes with a small amount of Olive Oil
- Yeast Rolls
- Whole Wheat Yeast Rolls without Excessive Butter or Olive Oil (One of the best moments of my life is when I saw these in the frozen department… whole wheat and I don’t have to make them!)
Some other healthy side ideas to keep in mind:
- Roasted Carrots with Dill and Paprika
- Roasted Brussel Sprouts with Grapes
- Apple & Fennel Salad
- Roasted Beets
- Sauteed Kale with Lemon Juice and Garlic
- There is a time for everything including your starchy fattening dishes. Just not with every meal or every week.
- Balance is needed, so choose your starchy, sugary, fattening meals sparingly.
- Increase your stomach acid to help break down your food better with apple cider vinegar with mother.
- Increase your probiotics and keep a good routine of having them in your diet.
- Reduce the amount of fat and sugar eaten during the fall and winter, and try not to have them together.
- Turn your “bad tempered” gut into a happy gut!