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Holiday season is upon us, and in addition to the holly and jolly, one less-than-festive thing is to be expected: a few extra belly aches. It happens to the best of us: Espresso martinis, shopping stress, and hosting family holidays will “sit” quite right together—especially as far as your gut microbiome is concerned.

Truth is, you should never pass up enjoying some of your favorite holiday foods if they bring you joy, especially considering that gut health experts agree balancing your microbiome and getting your digestion back on track after (or even during) the holidays is more than achievable. To that end, we caught up with Supriya Rao, MD, a board-certified physician specializing in gastroenterology and lifestyle medicine, who shared some of her top tips for maintaining gut health during the holidays. Plus, her favorite go-to gut-healthy holiday dish that’s filled with cheer (and gut-friendly fiber).

The top nutrient for boosting gut health during the holidays

According to Dr. Rao, the gut essentially serves as the body’s well-being management headquarters. “[So much] of your health starts in your gut microbiome and all the bacteria that’s present there. It essentially determines your body’s inflammatory levels and the state of your overall health and immunity,” Dr. Rao says, emphasizing how often she reminds her patients (and loved ones) of the important of better understanding one’s own gut microbes. “My friends and family always want to know what they should be eating for gut health. And this is not even just during the holidays, it’s all the time,” she says. Her answer 99 percent of the time? More fiber.

Bummer news is that Dr. Rao says nearly 97 percent of the U.S. population isn’t getting enough fiber as it is. “97 percent is a ridiculous number,” she says, which is even more problematic since it’s typically her first line of defense in terms of nutrients for maintaining a healthy gut. That said, the doc understands that meeting a suggested 30 to 40 grams of fiber daily via healthy food alone can be extremely challenging for some, which is why Dr. Rao

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