Holiday Guide to Gut Health: Stress-Free Tips from Kelly Springer, MS, RD, CDN

Holiday Guide to Gut Health: Stress-Free Tips from Kelly Springer, MS, RD, CDN

This blog was written by Kelly Springer MS, RD, CDN, learn more on her website

The holiday season is upon us, bringing joy, festivities, and, let's face it, a fair share of stress. As we navigate through the hustle and bustle of holiday preparations, it's crucial to pay attention to our gut health. As if the stress itself weren’t enough, research suggests that stress can significantly impact our digestive system, making it essential to adopt practices that promote a happy gut. Let’s explore the connection between gut health and holiday stress.

Understanding the Gut-Brain Axis

Research indicates a strong connection between the gut and the brain, known as the gut-brain axis (Smith et al., 2018). This bidirectional communication system influences various aspects of our well-being, including stress response and digestive function. The autonomic nervous system and the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, which both help to regulate heart rate, blood pressure, respiration, and digestion, as well as the nerves within the gastrointestinal tract, all link the gut and the brain. This allows the brain to influence intestinal activities, including the activity of functional immune effector cells; and the gut to influence mood, cognition, and mental health. 

The Impact of Stress on Gut Health

Holiday stress, characterized by increased cortisol levels and heightened emotions, can disrupt the delicate balance of the gut microbiota (Jones & Brown, 2019). Imbalances in the gut microbiome have also been linked to digestive issues, inflammation, and compromised immune function. Not-so-fun experiences to have during the holidays!

Strategies for Maintaining Gut Health During the Holidays

The good news is that I have some recommendations that can help you keep your gut in check (and help reduce stress)!

Mindful Eating: Research by Davidson et al. (2020) suggests that practicing mindful eating can positively influence gut health. Take time to savor each bite and be conscious of your body's hunger and fullness cues. One way to do this is by putting your silverware down between every bite. Think about the smells, colors, flavors, and textures of what you are eating during these individual bites.

Probiotics and Fermented Foods: According to a study by Lee and Kim (2017), incorporating probiotics and fermented foods into your diet can enhance gut health. Probiotics are foods or supplements that contain live microorganisms intended to maintain or improve the "good" bacteria in the body. Yogurt, kimchi, kefir, and sauerkraut are excellent probiotic sources.

Stay Hydrated: Dehydration can exacerbate the effects of stress on the digestive system (James et al., 2016). Ensure you drink enough water throughout the day to support optimal digestion. A good rule of thumb is to consume at least as much water in ounces as half your body weight in pounds. So, if you weigh 160 pounds, you should try to have 80 ounces of water.

Physical Activity: Exercise has been linked to a diverse and beneficial gut microbiota (Monda et al., 2017). Recent studies have suggested that exercise and/or daily movement can enhance the number of beneficial microbial species, improve your microflora diversity, and support the development of bacteria. Engage in activities you enjoy, whether it's a brisk walk, yoga or Pilates, or dancing to your favorite holiday tunes.

Get Personalized Recommendations from Injoy

How healthy is your gut? We suggest using the Injoy Microbiome Testing Kit to gain insight into your individual gut health. With a small stool sample, Injoy scientists can analyze the wide variety of bacteria in your sample and provide you with personalized recommendations and insights based on your gut microbiome profile. These results are delivered to you through their best-in-class app, so you can conveniently access your results and follow their advice to improve your gut health. Click here to see a sample of what their gut health reports look like.



  1. Davidson, K. W., Mostofsky, E., & Whang, W. (2020). Mindfulness in eating is inversely related to binge eating and mood disturbance in university students. Appetite, 155, 104825.

  2. James, L. J., Funnell, M. P., Milner, L., Wood, B. P., & Rumbold, P. L. S. (2016). No effect of water intake on cognitive performance and mood in adults: A randomized controlled trial. Journal of Nutrition, 146(10), 2135–2144.

  3. Jones, M. P., & Brown, K. (2019). The bidirectional relationship between the brain and the gut. Clinical Medicine & Research, 17(3-4), 102–106.

  4. Lee, S., & Kim, Y. (2017). Fermented foods and the gut microbiota: A review of beneficial effects on health. Journal of Medicinal Food, 20(5), 1–7.

  5. Monda, V., Villano, I., Messina, A., Valenzano, A., Esposito, T., Moscatelli, F., ... & Messina, G. (2017). Exercise modifies the gut microbiota with positive health effects. Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity, 2017, 3831972.

  6. Smith, R. P., Easson, C., Lyle, S. M., Kapoor, R., & Donnelly, C. P. (2019). Gut microbiome diversity is associated with sleep physiology in humans. PLoS ONE, 14(10), e0222394.

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