We all indulge over the holidays, how can you not? This time of year it seems like there is one occasion after another where there are massive amounts of delicious food and drink to be had. The treats you consume during this time can be rough on digestion and quickly stored as fat, so why not try to do as much damage control as you can? Below are 8 supplements that are great for your body year round, however, are especially helpful during the heavy meals of the holiday season.
1. Apple Cider Vinegar
What? Apple cider vinegar is a type of vinegar made from cider and has a pale to medium amber color. Unpasteurized or organic ACV contains “the mother” of vinegar, which has a cobweb-like appearance and can make the vinegar look slightly congealed. This is the kind you want to get, the one that has the most nutritional properties, such as Braggs Organic Raw Apple Cider Vinegar. Apple cider vinegar with “the mother” helps improve digestion by increasing stomach acid, is a rich source of potassium and can aid in curing a number of diseases.
Why? The acetic acid apple cider vinegar contains helps to suppress your appetite, increase your metabolism and reduce water retention. The vinegar actually blocks some of the digestion of starch, preventing it from raising your blood sugar. It also contains many antioxidants to help keep your body healthy and running smoothly.
When? BEFORE HOLIDAY MEAL. 1-3 teaspoons of raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar, 15-20 minutes before a meal. Mix with water, soda water or add to dressings.
Gut Check: It is important to dilute the apple cider vinegar to prevent the acid from affecting your tooth enamel and irritating the esophagus. Also, if you have diabetes and want to try apple cider vinegar, let your doctor know, and keep an eye on your blood sugar levels.
Gutsey Food Recommendations:
- Organic Apple Cider Vinegar with “The Mother”
What? Probiotics are a culture of good bacteria, living organisms, that typically come from dirt and food, and used to promote digestive and overall health.
- Improves digestion of food
- Helps eliminate constipation and diarrhea
- Improves Liver Function
- Improves resistance to allergies
- Improves vitamin synthesis and absorption of nutrients
- Helps eliminate bloating and heartburn
Why? As we age things such as antibiotics, artificial chemicals, GMO’s, medications, sugar can cause an imbalance in our intestinal tracts that affect our health and digestion.
When? IN THE MORNING AND AT NIGHT. The ideal time to take probiotics is first thing in the morning and at night before bed. On an empty stomach.
Gut Check: It’s important to choose a reliable, tested brand, potency should be 10 billion or higher, and choose probiotics that have strains that will benefit you the most. It's a good idea to keep your gut guessing by taking a variety of probiotics and strains.
Gutsey Food Recommendations:
- Grass Fed or Greek Yogurt
- Fermented foods: Sauerkraut, Kefir, Miso, Kombucha, Kimchi
- Micro Algae: Spirulina, Chlorella & Blue Green Algae
3. Digestive Enzymes
What? Digestive enzymes help to digest fats, starches and proteins and break down undigested food particles and potential allergens that may cause inflammation. They also improve the absorption of minerals and nutrients, and decrease bloating, gassiness and constipation.
Why? Over the years our enzyme reserve becomes diminished, therefore, our body may not be digesting foods as well as it used to. Poorly digested food ferments in the digestive tract, stimulating the growth of unfriendly bacteria and the creation of their toxic by-products and waste, which then become absorbed into the blood and deposited in tissues all around the body, especially soft tissue areas such as joints. Toxins in the blood also negatively affect our skin and physical appearance.
When? BEFORE HOLIDAY MEAL. Can be taken daily right before meals. Especially with heavy, hard to digest meals.
Gut Check: Be sure to look for a quality brand that is plant-based, with a blend of Lipase, Amalase and Protease to help efficiently digest fats, carbs and proteins.
Gutsey Food Recommendations: Raw, unprocessed foods are highest in digestive enzymes.
- Papaya, Pineapple, Mango, Kiwi, Grapes
- Raw Honey and Bee Pollen Granules
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Coconut Oil
4. Glutathione (N-Acetyl Cysteine)
What? Glutathione is a substance produced naturally by the liver. It is also found in fruits, vegetables, and meats. Glutathione is the body’s most important antioxidant because it’s within the cell and is essential to maintaining a healthy immune system, known as “the master antioxidant”. N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) is a precurser to Glutathione and has also been found to raise glutathione levels.
Why? Glutathione is needed to help bind and remove toxins from every tissue in your body. If you don’t have enough glutathione, toxins may build up in the body. Natural glutathione production is easily disrupted, and stores can become quickly depleted by the ravages of poor diet, stress, medications, infections and radiation and other toxins.
When? BEFORE HOLIDAY MEAL. Best to take on an empty stomach or 20 minutes before a meal.
Gut Check: Be aware that cooking reduces the glutathione content of vegetables by 30-60%, and canning eliminates it completely.
Gutsey Food Recommendations:
- Sulfur rich vegetables: bok choy, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collard greens, kale, mustard greens, radish, turnip, watercress
- Whey protein, brazil nuts, yellow fin tuna , halibut, sardines, grass-fed beef , turkey, beef liver, chicken
5. Betaine HCL with Pepsin
What? Betaine HCl and pepsin are gastric-juice components essential to the digestion of food and absorption of most nutrients.
- Betaine HCl is necessary for adequate absorption of protein, calcium, vitamin B12 and iron
- Restores gut levels of acidity to optimum levels
- Acts as a protective barrier, killing many potentially harmful micro-organisms in our food
- Enhances digestive function
Why? One of the most common causes of heartburn, acid reflux, and GERD, is not too much stomach acid but too little stomach acid and bacterial overgrowth in the stomach and intestines.
When? WITH HOLIDAY MEAL. Start with 1-2 capsules prior to each meal, if you feel burning (similar to heartburn) then drop down to 1 capsule, if no burning occurs then work your way up to 3 capsules per meal.
Gut Check: When choosing a Betaine HCL supplement it’s important to choose one that includes pepsin. ALSO – not everyone needs to supplement with HCL, if one capsule with a meal gives you heartburn then you most likely have sufficient amount of acid in your stomach and do not need to add more. HCL should never be taken (and this test should not be performed) by anyone who is also using any kind of anti-inflammatory medication such as corticosteroids, aspirin, Indocin, ibuprofen (e.g. Motrin, Advil, etc.) or other NSAIDS. These drugs can damage the GI lining that supplementary HCL might aggravate, increasing the risk of gastric bleeding or ulcer.
Gutsey Food Recommendations: A hydrochloric acid deficiency is usually caused by a poor diet consisting of processed carbohydrates, dairy products and sugar.
- Apple Cider Vinegar, Lemon Juice
- Black Olives, Celery
- Spinach, Chard, Kale
- Ginger, Sea Salt
6. Alpha-lipoic acid (ALA)
What? Alpha-lipoic acid is a “free radical scavenger”. Free radicals are waste products that weaken our immune system, they’re made by our bodies while converting food into energy. ALA improves insulin function by reducing fasting blood sugar, post-meal blood sugar, and overall insulin level. In sufficient quantities, Alpha Lipoic Acid acts as an antioxidant and also has the ability to regenerate other antioxidants such as vitamins C, E, and glutathione.
Why? Because ALA helps to increase your cell's ability to accept insulin, it will helps you store the carbohydrates you eat in your muscle or in your liver as opposed to in fat.
When? BEFORE HOLIDAY MEAL. ALA is best absorbed on an empty stomach, one to two hours before eating.
Gut Check: People with diabetes should be careful to check their blood sugar levels because alpha-lipoic acid might lower blood sugar. Alcohol can lower the amount of thiamine (vitamin B1) in the body. Taking alpha-lipoic acid when there is a shortage of thiamine might cause serious health problems, so if you drink a lot of alcohol and take ALA too, you should supplement with thiamine.
Gutsey Food Recommendations:
- Spinach, broccoli, yams, potatoes, yeast, tomatoes, brussels sprouts, carrots, beets
- Rice and bran
- Red meat, particularly organ meat such as liver
What? CLA is a naturally occurring fatty acid, found in beef and dairy products. It’s also known as the “good” trans fat. Research has shown the best source of CLA comes from fresh grass and therefore from grass-fed beef. You can also find high levels of CLA in free range eggs and safflower oil.
Why? The human body does not make CLA and we need to rely on other sources to get it. Unfortunately, the modern diet, due to processed food intake and changes in farming, has much lower amounts of CLA content.
When? BEFORE, DURING OR AFTER HOLIDAY MEAL. You can take 3 grams/day of CLA in three divided doses with meals for the fat-melting effect in its supplement form. As safflower has a higher content, you want to make sure your supplement uses safflower, not sunflower oil.
Gut check: Most of the studies that were done of the effects of CLA lasted a minimum of 12 weeks. It appears that a CLA supplement is safe to take for 24 months, though there did not seem to be additional benefits after 12 months. If you have diabetes, make sure you check with your doctor as we are not sure what sort of effects CLA has on insulin sensitivity and resistance.
Gutsey Food Recommendations
- Grass Fed Beef, Turkey, Lamb
- Grass Fed Butter
- White Button Mushrooms
- Pomegranate Seed Oil
8. Activated Charcoal
What? Charcoal is made from coal, wood, or other substances. It becomes "activated charcoal" when high temperatures combine with a gas or activating agent to expand its surface area.
Why? Regular use of activated charcoal can remove unwanted toxins from your body, relieve digestive issues, gas, and bloating. Charcoal is an age-old remedy for counteracting poison in the body, serving as an antidote for drugs, chemicals, and poisons by helping your body flush out the poison faster. Activated charcoal adsorbs most organic chemicals, many inorganic chemicals, drugs, pesticides, mercury, and even lead, before they harm your body.
When? BEFORE OR AFTER HOLIDAY MEAL. Take 2 or more capsules when you eat questionable food, restaurant food or low quality foods like processed junk foods, sugar and alcohol.
Gut Check: Everyone responds differently to different doses, so to avoid potential undesirable effects, such as constipation, start with small doses and increase slowly or consult your doctor.
Gutsey Food Recommendations: Activated charcoal is a manufactured product. You cannot find it naturally in foods.