Tips for a Healthy Holiday Season
By Dr. Michael Murray
In this article:
The Holiday season can spell doom to your health goals if you don’t plan ahead. It is common for people to overindulge, get off their regular routines including their exercise routine, and experience more stress. So, the Holidays can be anything but healthy. To buffer against the undesirable effects of the Holidays, there are several natural products that I think are critical to consider: immune support supplements, soluble dietary fiber, digestive enzymes, and natural sleep aids.
Each day everyone one of us is exposed to organisms that have the potential to make us sick, yet we don’t always fall prey to these “bugs” because our immune system is generally stronger than the organism. If the “bug” is extremely powerful, or our immune system is compromised by stress, nutrient deficiency, or not getting enough rest, then an infection can occur.
To protect against cold and the flu, the first goal is to make sure that you provide the immune system with all the vital ammunition by consuming a health-promoting diet and taking a high potency multiple vitamin and mineral formula. Vitamins C and E, B vitamins, zinc, and selenium are especially important. It is also a good idea to take extra vitamin C and D. Everyone knows about vitamin C’s benefits against the common cold, take 500-1,000 for prevention, but few people know how important vitamin D is. Low levels of Vitamin D levels increase the risk for colds and the flu. Since we can make vitamin D in our skin when it interacts with sunlight, there is obviously a natural tendency for many people to make less vitamin D during the winter months. Supplementing the diet with additional vitamin D can help prevent this winter-time drop in vitamin D levels. Beyond that, it appears that vitamin D functions in the body in a way that prevents viruses from infecting cells. Research has shown that vitamin D supplementation prevents respiratory infections in adults and children. During the winter months, most vitamin D experts recommend taking 5,000 IU per day for adults and children over 10 years of age. For children under the age of 1 year the dosage is 1,000 IU; for children between the ages of 2-4 years 2,000 IU; and for children between the ages of 4 through 9 the suggested dose is 3000 IU daily.
It is also a good idea to have zinc lozenges on hand during the winter months. Keep them in your car or purse. There is good scientific data to support using zinc lozenges to shorten cold symptoms as well as provide relief of a sore throat due to the common cold. Zinc is a critical nutrient for optimum immune system function and also possesses direct antiviral activity. Use lozenges supplying 15 to 25 mg of elemental zinc. Dissolve completely in the mouth if you feel a bit of a tickle in your throat and every two waking hours up to 6 lozenges daily during a cold. Just do not use at the high dosage for more than 7 days.
Do you want to enjoy yourself during the holidays without gaining weight? If so, here is the secret: taking a soluble fiber supplement before or with your meals can dramatically increase your feeling of fullness, leading to a dramatic reduction in calories consumed. In addition, it can also help reduce after-meal blood sugar levels thereby helping to avoid one of the big consequences of eating a big meal – stress on blood sugar control.
When taken before a meal with water, a soluble fiber supplement expands in the stomach to form a gelatinous mass. As a result, it slows stomach emptying, produces a mechanical sensation of being full, and also exerts powerful effects on reducing the level of compounds that stimulate appetite while at the same time increasing the level of compounds that block appetite. The result is that you will end up eating fewer calories. But, eating fewer calories does not mean that your enjoyment of your Holiday meal will be diminished. What you get is all of the pleasure without the guilt – that is a great trade-off. Examples of soluble fiber are PGX, guar gum, pectin, or even psyllium seed husk powder. Take 3-5 grams before you enjoy that Holiday meal.
The stress of the Holidays along with an altered schedule of eating and more sugar, alcohol, and overall calories can disrupt blood sugar control. That can lead to ups and downs in our mood causing us to be more irritable or emotional. To combat this situation, it is a good idea to take a multiple vitamin and mineral formula that provides a sufficient level of critical essential nutrients for proper sugar metabolism. The trace mineral chromium is especially important, be sure to get 200-400 mcg per day. Also important are B vitamins, zinc, and magnesium. Be sure to get at least 100% of the recommended dietary intakes (RDIs) for these critical nutrients.
Another important supplement to have on hand during the Holidays is a good digestive enzyme formula. Whenever a person overindulges it stresses proper digestion. If that happens, you need extra digestive enzymes – otherwise, you will be in distress or uncomfortable. Digestive enzymes are secreted by our body to breakdown the food to provide the necessary nutrients for energy and various other biological processes. During times of stress or overeating, we may not produce enough enzymes and this can lead to gas, bloating, and indigestion. Taking supplemental digestive enzymes can overcome this insufficiency much like taking supplemental thyroid hormone or insulin helps when the body is not making enough of a hormone. Choose a well-respected brand and follow label instructions.
During the holidays, sleep disturbances can be a real issue. Sometimes it’s due to stress, sometimes it’s due to overindulgence, and sometimes it can be the result of alterations in a person’s daily routine. Whatever the cause, I recommend using a natural sleep aid to help you maximize the sleep that you do get. Look for one with a combination of melatonin, 5-HTP, and L-theanine. These three ingredients work together to decrease the time required to get to sleep and to decrease the number of nighttime awakenings. It is definitely a critical natural aid for many people during the Holidays.
Loneliness is a major issue for many people during the Holidays. Be sensitive to that and reach out to those who may appreciate or need an act of kindness to brighten their day. Doing so, will not only warm their hearts but yours as well.