The Christmas Party season is a tough time for anyone who wants to stay on track, and even the saintliest among us struggle with temptation at this time of year. We posted our six top tips for a healthy party season a couple of years ago. Refresh your memory by clicking here
Once you’ve followed our advice through December, you’re already all set to be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed on Christmas day. Still, there may be some hazards along the way, so we’ve put our heads together for more tips to make sure you’re healthy at Christmas.
Fend off the common cold
If there’s one good thing that has come out of the pandemic, it’s that everyone now knows about hygiene rules. Social distancing, mask-wearing and handwashing don’t just protect ourselves and others from the Coronavirus but also the less contagious cold and flu viruses. Last year, measures brought in to “flatten the curve” also caused the incidence of colds and flu to plummet. Prevention is better than cure, so – regardless of what the government rules of the month are – it may be wise to (re-)implement those hygiene rules anyway.
Mucous membranes in the nose and throat constantly block the entry of pathogenic microbes. If you allow them to dry out, their barrier function is impaired. Fluids also help the lymphatic system to flush out waste. Avoid alcohol, tea and coffee, and go for herbal teas, green tea or water instead. Lemon is rich in vitamin C, and ginger has antiviral properties, tea made with those two is not only great to fight colds or flu, but also very tasty. If you like, you can sweeten it with manuka honey, which also has antimicrobial properties. To strengthen your defences, you could have a daily dose of fresh (!) homemade juice. Try Jason Vale’s delicious Lemon and Ginger Zinger if you have a juicer.
Try vitamin C
Many studies have looked into the ability of vitamin C to stave off the common cold. Unfortunately, the results suggest that it doesn’t. It does, however, seem to reduce the duration of cold symptoms considerably. One paper concluded that “it appears the greatest potential for benefit of vitamin C in treating the common cold occurs when supplementation is initiated within 24 hours of symptom onset and when therapy is continued for at least 5 days.” Vitamin C is safe and inexpensive, but beware that it can have a laxative effect in high doses.
If you have caught a cold or flu, rest. Stay at home, don’t go to work, don’t go to parties. You will only struggle with it for longer, and your colleagues and friends will not thank you for spreading the virus. Well rested, with any luck, you’ll be back on your feet by Christmas!
Support your digestion
Turkey, stuffing, roast potatoes and Christmas pudding – our stomachs are in for a tough time come Christmas. The food we tend to eat over Christmas is high in fat, protein, and sugar but often low in fibre. Consequently, the holidays can get tainted by bloating, heartburn, flatulence and constipation. However, you can support your digestive tract with natural remedies so that Christmas doesn’t upset your stomach.
The longer you chew, the smaller the bits, the less work left for your digestive system to do. Chewing increases the surface area of your food, meaning better access for your digestive enzymes. Chewing thoroughly makes it much easier for your digestive system to break down your food. The magic powers of chewing don’t even end there: As you chew, you taste. Your taste buds send messages to the brain to let it know what it is you’re eating. The brain then tells the gut what enzymes to produce to digest this particular food when it gets down there in a few minutes. Amazing! Lastly, proper chewing slows you down. If you eat more slowly, you are more likely to receive the message that you’re full before it’s too late and you’re stuffed.
Espresso is a popular treat after a meal, and that’s not a bad idea. The caffeine in espresso stimulates bitter receptors on the tongue and in the stomach. As a result, more stomach acid is released, improving digestion. Filter coffee works even better than espresso but is not as well tolerated. Espresso beans are roasted for longer, so more acids are broken down. This makes espresso easier on the stomach.
Nap or walk?
It’s tempting to lie down for a nap after Christmas dinner. However, the better course of action would be to set off for a Christmas day stroll because moderate exercise helps reduce the feeling of fullness and aids digestion.
Less is more
If you are generally prone to flatulence, you should pass on the sprouts because cabbage is known to cause flatulence – as are pulses, onion or leek. Unfortunately, at Christmas, we are not always in control of what’s for dinner. If you’re not on any medication, you could try and support your digestion with a good quality digestive enzyme supplement, taken just before the meal.
Dodge the hangover
Too much Baileys? The most common symptoms of a hangover are headaches and thirst, followed by tiredness, listlessness and sensitivity to light and/or noise. Some people feel nauseous and dizzy as well; others experience diarrhoea. Overall, it’s not a pretty picture. Needless to say: The only true cure is not to drink alcohol in the first place. Failing that,
try the below.
- Eat before you drink. Alcohol is absorbed straight through the lining of the stomach. If your stomach is empty, that process is swift. So, have a proper dinner first, ideally containing fat and protein.
- Drink water throughout the evening. Alcohol makes us go to the toilet more often, and we can end up dehydrated. Did you know that hangover headaches are caused by your shrinking (dehydrated) brain tugging at its tendons? Apart from providing hydration, alternating alcoholic drinks with water means that we will drink less alcohol.
- When you go to bed, make sure that there is water by your bedside.
The morning after
You will have heard of ‘the hair of the dog’ as a hangover cure. You won’t need us to tell you that drinking more alcohol is not the way to relieve a hangover. You’ll only suffer for longer.
Many crave caffeine after a night of drinking. While it may have helped with digestion after last night’s meal, this morning, it is just another toxin you are asking your liver to deal with. Take a break from caffeine today and stick to water or herbal teas.
All those trips to the toilet yesterday didn’t cause the loss of water, but also electrolytes. Electrolytes are minerals that control nerve and muscle function, blood pH, hydration, and tissue repair after injury. Both dehydration and over-hydration lead to imbalanced electrolytes, and some of the hangover symptoms are attributed to them. Top up on magnesium – one of the said electrolytes – by tucking into green leafy vegetables. A green smoothie is the perfect hangover drink. Just this once, add a pinch of good quality sea salt to replenish sodium levels as well.
After breakfast, go back to bed if you can and rest. Sleep and rest make the best cure for a hangover. For that very reason, you really don’t want to get drunk on Christmas Eve. You might miss Christmas!
Emily and Lisa wish you a very Happy Christmas and we look forward to being part of your health journey in 2022.