How to Make a Pumpkin Spice Latte More Gut-Friendly, According to a Physician

Ginger is so good for the soul and your stomach.

pumpkin spice latte
Image: Courtesy of Heidi Kaden via Unsplash

Fall is here… meaning the annual return of pumpkin spice lattes! While it may be an anticipated drink for some, those with gastrointestinal symptoms and issues might feel the FOMO. If you’re feeling the urge to get this season’s most popular drink, we’d like to share some insights from Dr. Erin Hendriks, a board-certified Physician and functional medicine practitioner at Salvo Health, the virtual clinic to offer comprehensive and continuous care for gut-related illnesses and gut health.

The team at Salvo firmly believes in approaching diet as it relates to gut health carefully and thoughtfully – restrictive eating without understanding the full picture can cause more harm than good. Dr. Hendriks provided us with a little insight on how to make the fun drink a little more gut-friendly and gave us her thoughts on the pillars of gut health. Keep reading to learn more!

pumpkin spice latte
Image: Courtesy of Unsplash

How to Make a Pumpkin Spice Latte More Gut-Friendly, According to a Physician

Do those with an inflamed gut have to skip PSLs? Not exactly! Pumpkin spice lattes can certainly be gut-friendly with a few modifications catered to personal triggers, by using non-dairy milks or lessening the caffeine amounts. They actually have a ton of health and nutritional gut value. Pumpkins are packed with fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, preventing overeating and creating fuel for good bacteria. Ginger within the spice blend improves motility to relieve abdominal fullness and bloating after meals. Cinnamon has well documented benefits in stabilizing blood sugar.

Like all high calorie foods and drinks, this should be enjoyed in moderation. Try having one once or twice a week as a treat. If you do indulge, try to make other nutritious decisions throughout the day such as upping your intake of fruits and vegetables to offset symptoms.

What are the Pillars of Gut Health and Why?

The pillars of gut health include nutrition, exercise and movement, restorative sleep, and stress management.  Choosing a wide variety of colorful plant foods everyday provides fiber and phytonutrients which nourishes the good bacteria in the gut, improves gut motility, and eliminates toxins. Exercise has been shown to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects on the gut.

Adequate sleep regulates circadian rhythms which play a significant role in the body’s ability to move through the digestive process. And finally, finding ways to manage stress and tap into the relaxation response on a regular basis regulated the gut-brain connection.  All of these factors combined make up the foundation for strong gut health.

healthy pumpkin pie dessert
Image: Courtesy of Ambitious Kitchen

What Should People Avoid Overall for Good Gut Health?

Processed, nutrient deficient foods should be avoided when you can.  These foods often have more sugar, fat and salt, and less vitamins and minerals that help keep the body running smoothly. Additionally, these foods have been linked to unfavorable shifts in the gut microbiome.

What Symptoms May Result in Triggers from Ingredients Within the Pumpkin Spice Latte?

Caffeinated beverages can stimulate gut motility which for some, especially people with IBS, can cause cramping or diarrhea.  Most adults have lost at least some ability to fully digest lactose which means lattes made with milk may result in bloating, upset stomach or loose stools.

I think it is important to remember that there are many factors that contribute to gut health.  Oftentimes the focus is only on food, and while food is a central factor in maintaining good gut health, it is not the only factor.  Sleep, movement, stress reduction and even social connections are all important pieces of the puzzle.

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