10 Tips On Staying Healthy Through The Holidays
Author: Elson M. Haas, M.D.
A general note: Because our main holidays, from Halloween through New Year’s Day occur in the darker wintertime of the year, we have a built-in conflict. This time of year is a more inward time, with more rest and quiet required, and a simple warm, nourishing diet. Yet, this time of year there are more treats at work or wherever we go, and we are asked to attend parties and family events where we are exposed to and consume more sugar and flour products, rich foods, alcohol and more. We go out more often at night during the holiday season, when we would be better off resting and recharging at home or sitting in front of a fireplace, visiting with a friend. It’s important to pay attention to this dimension of this magical time of the year and do you best to find your own unique balance. Below are my general health tips for Staying Healthy through the Holidays.
- Do not be in a daze these holidays. Be aware and be fair to your body. Most of us can get away with some treats or indiscretions to our usual eating habits. However, if we vary too much and go to extremes, we may suffer the consequences and get sick. Get to know yourself and find the right balance for you.
- This is a good time to deepen and clarify your love and family connections. Emotional nurturance offers a satisfaction that may allow less emotional eating and drinking and avoid the other excesses of the holidays. Be a supportive friend, and ask for support if you need it. Take care of one another. Give it a try and your spirit will be calmed and can also fly free of the burdens of time.
- Stay open to your creativity. Do new things to improve your health, such as a treatment like massage or trying new, healthy foods. The first part of December is a good time to look at doing some nutritional clean up. Soon there will be many tempting sweets, baked goods, and alcohol beverages.
- Maintain your cornerstones of health. These include a good diet, regular exercise, adequate sleep, and minimal stress, including being able to relate well to family, friends, and co-workers.
- Find the basic supportive foods. It is important to find supportive foods for your diet that provide the energy and nutrients your body needs to stay healthy. In the colder months, it is important to focus on heat-generating foods, such as cooked grains and legumes, hard squashes, some nuts and seeds, and protein foods. Also, include some garlic, onion, and ginger, plus the energizing spicy peppers such as cayenne and chili. These will keep your blood and energy moving. Know what works for you.
- Exercise. Exercise activity is crucial now as in any season. As the weather cools, stretching is even more important, as is having indoor exercises you can do. Yoga and other flexibility-enhancing exercises are helpful at keeping us feeling youthful. “We are as young as our spine is flexible.” Working with weights and doing aerobic exercise are also vital to staying fit and strong to support immune function and circulation. A vital body gets sick less often. Also, meditate and explore your inner world and dreams in your restful and recharging sleep.
- Use nutritional supplements. They can be used to support your health as well. Immune supportive nutrients may help you prevent common illnesses. Taking some echinacea now can be helpful, as can the Chinese herb astragalus. Takin vitamins C and E along with selenium and zinc daily can also offer some immune support and help clear your body of certain toxins. Some people are helped by other herbs or animal gland extracts, such as thymus, spleen, and liver.
- Enjoy safe travels. Many people travel this time of year and your health and safety can be improved by preparing well and being aware and cautious. Plan your trips. Avoid dehydration and eat well, which may involve bringing water and appropriate food/snacks with you on the plane or in your car. Take a few key supplements with you to help combat the germ exposures, including garlic, vitamin C, and others. You can also carry a natural hand sanitizer. Factors that can weaken immunity include stress, nutritional deficiencies, excess sugar and alcohol, and overwork. Good sleep, a healthy diet, regular exercise, and feelings of love and appreciation can also help support your immune system.
- Prepare for the cold season. Gather your fuel and food, breathe, and exercise as you should. In Chinese medicine, the fall season focuses on the lungs and large intestine. Overdoing work or eating, experiencing stress or lack of sleep, can lead to congestion and toxicity, as well as constipation and the clogging of the nose and sinuses. This can lead to upper respiratory infections as the germs grow in the mucus and then inflame the membranes. Try a facial steam and breathe in the herbal mist (you can use mints, rosemary, chamomile, lemon verbena, and other herbs) to help clear the sinuses. Staying clean and clear this season, along with a healthy immune system, will help keep you well.
- Take a rest. It is important to rest when you can because the holiday season can be demanding. Do not run down your batteries before December 31. Kindle your inner flame and firepower, which is protective from the invasion of harsh climates and germs. The winter blues comes partly from a loss of this fire energy. Shifting and balancing with the seasons is vital to Staying Healthy.
Some Extra Notes on Cold & Flu
Should you get any colds or symptoms of influenza (flu), it is best to jump on those immediately. I start with hourly vitamin C of about 1000 mg, increased doses of vitamin A (not beta-carotene) 25,000-30,000 IUs, three times daily for just 3 to 4 days and then lower that dosage to 10,000-20,000 IUs twice daily for about a week (then take a break, because excess vitamin A can be toxic if taken too long)
I also use fresh garlic—I dip several cloves at a time in honey and chew them. I may repeat this several times the first day. That is a spicy and aromatic natural antibiotic and immune defender; you can alternately use the odorless garlic caps, several capsules three times daily if you do not want to smell like garlic, but they are not quite as effective.
Echinacea and goldenseal alcohol extract can also be used to support immunity and purify/disinfect the membranes. Some help may also be achieved with olive leaf extract as a mild anti-viral herb. Of course, drink lots of water, herbal teas, and hot soup. You can press several cloves of garlic into your bowl of soup before you eat, instead of eating the garlic straight.
You can read more on strengthening the body to support immunity and fight infections in my new book, Ultimate Immunity: Supercharge Your Body’s Natural Healing Power, published and available through Rodale.
Overall, take care of your self; you are worth it!