Christina Carreau BA,ND
December is one of my favorite times of the year. The smell of wood fires, the crispness of the air, warm soup, herbal teas, scarves and hats and the hustle and bustle of the holidays. This tends to be a very busy time of year for most of us and if you are not careful, that can take a toll on your immune and digestive systems as well as your adrenal glands.
Here are a few tips to help keep you healthy over the holidays.
- Water – Staying properly hydrated is important for so many reasons and yet so many of us do not drink enough water. Drinking water helps ward off cold and flu viruses by keeping your mucous membranes moist and better equipped to fight off pathogens. Water is an easy and cheap way to flush toxins from your system. It can also help prevent weight gain. Your brain can confuse thirst and hunger causing you to eat when in fact you are thirsty. Need I say more? Drink up!
- Vegetables – Eating enough vegetables is always important but even more so over the holidays when our bodies need extra nutritional support. We tend to indulge more at this time of the year – chocolate, alcohol, caffeine, cheese, bread, snack foods, etc. Increasing your intake of vegetables will offset some of the negative immune and digestive impacts of these indulgences. Kale, Swiss chard, broccoli, red peppers, sweet potato, beets and other bright colored veggies are full of nutrients that will help keep your body healthier over the holidays.
- Probiotics – These are essentially the healthy bacteria that line your intestinal tract and optimize digestion function. Gas, bloating and indigestion are often related to imbalances in our intestinal microflora. Imbalances can result from a diet high in sugar, carbohydrates, caffeine and/or alcohol. Again, because we tend to be indulging a little bit more at this time of year, I encourage you to provide your digestive system and immune system with additional support by taking probiotics daily.
- Breathe – Try and take 10 minutes out of your busy day to focus on breathing. This is such a great way to relax your nervous system, calm your body and quiet your mind. Increased stress and elevated cortisol levels suppress immune function making you more susceptible to cold and flu bugs. So find some time each day to slow down and practice diaphragmatic breathing. Lie on your back with your hands on your abdomen. Feel your hands and abdomen rise as you inhale for a count of 5. Pause for a brief moment and then feel your abdomen fall as you exhale for a count of 5. Repeat for 5 to 10 minutes.
- Moderation – If I had one word to summarize the key to achieving optimal health, it would be ‘moderation’. Of course moderation means something different to each of us but keep this in mind over the holidays when it comes to eating, drinking, sleeping, exercising, socializing, spending money and everything else that you do. We often use the holidays as an excuse to ‘fall off the wagon’ and our New Years resolutions help get us back on track. Moderation requires us to be mindful of our actions and to recognize the consequences of those actions. As the ancient Greek philosopher Epictetus stated, ‘If one oversteps the bounds of moderation, the greatest pleasures cease to please.’ Practice mindfulness and moderation as you enjoy this holiday season.
Be sure to take time out of your busy schedule to enjoy the holidays and to rest and recuperate so that you don’t land yourself sick in bed with either a cold or flu. Whether that means curling up on the couch with a cozy blanket and a good book, sharing a warm drink with a friend, watching a movie, cooking a big pot of soup or stew, doing a puzzle, or whatever else relaxes you…try and remember to enjoy some good quality ‘down time’.