The holiday season can become an endless parade of parties, deadlines, and moments of frantically juggling work, shopping, entertaining, and family. Even though it’s the season for joy and celebration, it’s easy to feel below par thanks to overeating, drinking, lack of sleep, and viral infections. Here is my holiday survival guide to help you get through the season of goodwill in good health:
1. Download a food tracker app.
I love the My Net Diary app. It includes nutrition facts on every food you can imagine, from goat kefir to Starbucks Pumpkin Latté. And, it’s a very easy way to check that you’re ingesting the appropriate amounts of carbohydrates and protein. This means getting no less than 130 grams of carbohydrates and about 75-80 grams of protein from your diet, each day. Great for the days when you’re running around and not eating enough, this app helps encourage you to grab a nutritional snack, like a piece of fruit, but also keeps overeating in check.
2. Support your liver.
Your liver is the second biggest organ in your body and is tasked with processing fat, alcohol, and sugar—which you are most likely consuming at an all time high, during the holidays. Taking an herbal aid to protect your liver cells is a smart way to reduce any morning-after ailments. Milk thistle is a great herb for this job. The active ingredient silymarin normalizes liver enzymes and protects hepatic cells from damage, thanks to its strong antioxidant effect.
3. Supplement seasonally low vitamin D.
Vitamin D levels tend to be low in the winter months. In fact, in the northern latitudes, your body can’t naturally make vitamin D from September through March because of the lack of sun! It’s a safe bet that by December, unless you’re regularly jetting off to Miami, your vitamin D levels are significantly low. Vitamin D has many positive effects, such as boosting your mood and energy levels. It also has anti-viral properties, meaning that people with a lot of vitamin D are less likely to get viruses like the flu. The Vitamin D Council recommends 5000 IU a day.
4. Boost energy and immunity with an adaptogen.
Adaptogenic herbs help the body cope with stress, reducing fatigue, improving recovery time, as well as having a regulatory effect on the immune system. Taking an adaptogen over the holiday season will help you have more energy to go to parties and reduce the stress hormones circulating your body as you plough through your pre-vacation to-do list. It can also keep you from getting sick with symptoms like sniffles and sneezes. Siberian Ginseng, a good adaptogenic all-rounder, helps boost energy and immunity and reduces stress levels.
5. Take a probiotic and a prebiotic.
Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that help reduce bloating and bowel dysregulation (i.e. constipation or looseness). Prebiotics are the indigestible starches that promote the good bacteria. I recommend taking a prebiotic dietary fiber—like Jarrow Formula’s Inulin-FOS—with a Women’s RAW Probiotic. This will help keep you regular through the pies, cocktails, cookies, and roasts.
6. Keep some strong digestive enzymes at the ready.
If you eat so much that you feel like you have a brick in your stomach, take a dose of the enzymes and notice how well you’ll digest that brick. I like Source Naturals Daily Essential Enzymes, $31.
7. Make sleep a priority in spite of all the tasks and commitments.
The aforementioned adaptogens are great for giving you energy and keeping cortisol down, helping you sleep. However, if poor sleep is really an intractable issue, consider valerian. Valerian, if taken regularly, improves the quality of sleep. So, even if you get just a couple hours of sleep, it helps make them deeper and more restful.
8. Book yourself for acupuncture.
Acupuncture is great for relieving the stresses and strains of life and can help calm or energize you, depending on what you need. Your acupuncturist will become your best friend, as you discover the benefits of this ancient healing art.
9. Always eat a healthy breakfast.
With all the cookies, drinks, and parties at the office and with friends, one thing you can control is breakfast. Keep this meal super healthy to keep you going throughout the day. For example, blend together a fruit smoothie of protein powder, prebiotic powder, oat bran, coconut oil, and a handful of spinach to kick start your morning.
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