Can you stomach the festivities?

December 21, 2011
Can you stomach the festivities?

(Medical Xpress) -- Christmas and the New Year is the time of over-indulgence - and long may it continue. But is the season of festive feasting and making merry taking its toll on your body?

Researchers at the Department of and Nutritional Science at the University of Reading  study the effects of food on the body both with human trials and in the laboratory, using the Department's world-class research facilities.

The Department's facilities include the UK's largest pilot food processing plant - a mini food factory - a clinical nutrition unit, and labs, including a complete recreation of a human gut.

Professor Glenn Gibson, Professor of Food Microbial Sciences and an expert on the gut bacteriology of human health and disease, had the following advice to maintain a sense of wellbeing during the party season.

1. Try to eat more fruit and veg

If you eat a lot of meat then bacteria in the gut can break down the protein to produce noxious substances such as ammonia, amines and phenols, toxic substances which can cause inflammation in the gut.

"Try to increase your fibre intake by eating more fruits and vegetables," said Professor Gibson. "Fibre is also degraded by the bacteria but produces positive components as result. These can help offset the effects of a lot of protein."

Among the positive components created from fibre are energy for your muscles, fuel for gut cells, and appetite suppressors created by the liver.

2. Beware of food poisoning

With the shelves in your fridge groaning under the weight of all those tasty treats, it can be tempting to ignore normal rules on food safety. But be careful: it's all too easy to spread bugs that cause stomach upsets - a sure-fire way of ruining your and .

To avoid food poisoning, don't put raw meat above trifles or cakes in the fridge, use clean cutlery for carving and eating, throw food out that is beyond its use-by date, and do not use tea towels for more than one day.

"Bacteria can double every 20 minutes, given the correct conditions," Professor Gibson said.

"All raw meat contains harmful bacteria, such as campylobacter in chicken and E. coli in beef, and therefore needs cooking properly. It only takes 10 cells of the bacteria shigella to give someone food poisoning."

3. Try a probiotic

A probiotic and/or prebiotic supplement in your diet will help the ‘good' bacteria in the gut do their jobs properly by aiding digestion, and help reduce the effects of some of the ‘bad' bacteria that can cause an upset stomach.

Professor Gibson and his colleagues at the University of Reading have conducted research showing the positive effects of probiotic and prebiotic supplements. He is currently researching their effects on the performance of elite athletes.

4. Get some exercise

Many people swear by the benefits of the post-Christmas meal stroll to ‘help their dinner go down', and the Boxing Day football match or New Year's Day walk in the country are well-established traditions. There is evidence that exercise after eating can aid a feeling of wellbeing

But a little bit of exercise has a greater beneficial effect than simply aiding digestion.  "Exercise stokes up your immune response, helping to fight off winter bugs such as coughs, colds, or winter vomiting virus - essential if you want to have a happy holiday."

5. Drink at least as much water as alcohol

This will prevent dehydration and make the next morning more bearable. A well-known way to mitigate your hangovers - so what's the science behind that? Professor Gibson's mischievous response suggests that even leading research scientists know how to let their hair down.

"No idea. Self testing.  All in the name of research, of course.  Multiple replication is obviously crucial."

Explore further: Effects of exercise on meal-related gut hormone signals

Related Stories

Effects of exercise on meal-related gut hormone signals

July 12, 2011
Research to be presented at the upcoming annual meeting of the Society for the Study of Ingestive Behavior (SSIB), the foremost society for research into all aspects of eating and drinking behavior, finds that alterations ...

Researchers find gut bacteria teaches immune cells to see them as friendly

September 22, 2011
(Medical Xpress) -- Most people know that the gut (human or otherwise) has bacteria in it that helps in the proper digestion of food. But how these bacteria manage to evade destruction by the immune system has been a mystery. ...

In preventing vitamin A deficiency, a little friendly bacteria might go a long way

December 19, 2011
(Medical Xpress) -- Human beings need vitamin A but the human body can’t synthesize it. We have to get it from our food. Vitamin A deficiency is a serious public health problem, especially in the developing world. The ...

Recommended for you

Brain disease seen in most football players in large report

July 25, 2017
Research on 202 former football players found evidence of a brain disease linked to repeated head blows in nearly all of them, from athletes in the National Football League, college and even high school.

Safety of medical devices not often evaluated by sex, age, or race

July 25, 2017
Researchers at Yale and the University of California-San Francisco have found that few medical devices are analyzed to consider the influence of their users' sex, age, or race on safety and effectiveness.

Why you should consider more than looks when choosing a fitness tracker

July 25, 2017
A UNSW study of five popular physical activity monitors, including Fitbit and Jawbone models, has found their accuracy differs with the speed of activity, and where they are worn.

Dog walking could be key to ensuring activity in later life

July 24, 2017
A new study has shown that regularly walking a dog boosts levels of physical activity in older people, especially during the winter.

Alcohol to claim 63,000 lives over next five years, experts warn

July 24, 2017
Alcohol consumption will cause 63,000 deaths in England over the next five years – the equivalent of 35 deaths a day – according to a new report from the University of Sheffield Alcohol Research Group.

Alcohol boosts recall of earlier learning

July 24, 2017
Drinking alcohol improves memory for information learned before the drinking episode began, new research suggests.


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.