Staying Healthy Over the Holidays

6 tipsStaying healthy over the holidays… is it on your radar?

The holidays are wonderful, in their way, but they also create stress on our bodies.  When there’s stress we get run down and we’re more likely to get sick.  During the holidays we’re out of our rhythm, our eating patterns change, our diets sometimes change, and, depending on your family, there is the stress of travel and pressure added in on top!  Too often, come January, we’re sick and… quite honestly… ready for a holiday!

So…..Here are 6 tips for staying healthy this holiday season.

1. Get enough sleep.

When the routine is shot, it’s tempting to stay up late and to let your kids do the same, but lack of sleep wears a body down quickly.  Sleep is our time to rejuvenate.  Our hormones balance and our bodies detoxify when we sleep.  During sleep we regulate cortisol levels, and high cortisol levels can disrupt our immune function.  Lack of sleep also, by the way, can lead to overeating, because our hunger and satiety hormones, ghrelin and leptin, are regulated when we sleep. Sleep is our body’s way of hitting the reset button so we’re ready to go another round. Try, best you can, to maintain some sort of consistent bedtime routine over the holidays… despite all the excitement.

2. Take extra magnesium.

We all eat too much sugar over the holidays.  There are all kinds of problems with sugar… I won’t bore you with them here.  But one thing to remember is that sugar depletes us of magnesium.  The mineral magnesium is a catalyst – it is involved in making some 200-or-so reactions happen in the body.  So, low levels of magnesium can have far reaching effects ranging of fatigue to insomnia to leg cramps.  In my family we all take an extra dose of magnesium, especially over the holidays.  I like a powder form of magnesium glycinate like this one.

3. Stay hydrated.

In the winter months, as the weather gets colder, we tend to get dehydrated…. in my part of the country, anyhow.  Dehydration adds an extra burden on the body leaving it sluggish.  We are more likely to get constipated and retain metabolic waste when we are dehydrated.  We are also more likely to get headaches and feel tired, which in turn makes us more likely to sink into the couch with the TV remote.  Drink lots of water, or herbal tea to stay hydrated.

4. Eat raw fruits and veggies.

Fresh fruits and vegetables are high in antioxidants which help protect the body from stress.  The fresher the better, which, at this time of year can be difficult given the growing season.  In my family I increase our consumption of elderberry and camucamu in the winter months…. these fruits are particularly high in vitamin C which is a powerful antioxidant.  I make tea and syrup out of the elderberries and I add powdered camucamu to soups (not too hot, though, as vitamin C is killed by heat) and smoothies.

5. Take time to relax…. but avoid becoming a couch potato

Of all the things that make us ill, I’m more and more convinced that stress is the elephant in the room.  Stress – the physiological reaction to our perception of a situation – starts a cascade of hormonal havoc in our bodies that has been linked to just about every illness going. Stress also increases cortisol which negatively affects immune function, sleep, weight, and gut health.  Take some time to relax over the holiday, but try to do so in an active way.  Get outside, go for a walk, go skating with the kids, have a snowball fight.  Move your body and reconnect with your family, your spouse, and your kids.  Set some goals.  Breathe into the beauty of your life.

6. Take your probiotics.

What would a blog post from me be without a shout-out to digestion?  I harp on it.  Yes I do.  Because I have seen such amazing transformations – in kids and adults alike – when people start to take care of their gut.  If you’re into fermented foods, now’s the time to boost consumption.  If you’re not, then go get a broad spectrum probiotic and start giving it to your kids (and take it yourself).  Probiotics will ensure that the stress and sugar of the holidays will not open up a “window of opportunity” for pathogenic bacteria and yeast to proliferate in the gut.  The gut is the seat of the immune system; feeding the bacterial ecosystem “down there” with probiotics will go a long way to keeping you all healthy.  Visit any good health food store to get a probiotic, or set up an account on my virtual dispensary and have it delivered to your door.

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