'Tis the season to be merry! We all want to look good, feel great and enjoy the festive season. Yet the temptation to overindulge in food and alcohol, coupled with the stress of travel and organising events make the festive season a challenge.
The key to enjoying a happy, healthy holiday is to take care of yourself physically, mentally and emotionally. Here are some key strategies to help you bounce through the holidays.
Protecting Your Body from Alcohol
To protect your body from the deleterious effects of imbibing too much alcohol, you need to protect your liver and prevent dehydration. The second part is easy: drink water before, during and after indulging in alcohol. Most of the negative symptoms experienced during a hangover are caused by dehydration. Alternate your drinks with water and drink a glass again before bed.
To protect your liver from alcohol, you need to take action before the party. Both Milk Thistle and vitamin C are antioxidants that protect the liver from alcohol-related damage if you take them before drinking. Milk Thistle also turns the genes in the liver on and off to optimise detoxification.
I recommend Vital Nutrients’ Liver Support, a potent, clinical-grade formula that contains Milk Thistle plus other effective herbs and nutrients for protecting your liver. However, be warned that you may stay inebriated longer than normal when you take this supplement because it can slow down the speed at which your body processes alcohol. Take two or three capsules before you go out or at bedtime to give your liver and brain even more protection.
To top up your vitamin C levels, I recommend a supplement called Ola Loa because it provides a stronger detox formula than the popular Berocca or Emergen C. It has an active vitamin B complex including B3, magnesium and zinc, along with 1,000 mg of non-acidic, buffered vitamin C and a decent flavour. Your liver needs all of these nutrients to detoxify alcohol and reduce stress. You can take Ola Loa before, during or after a party. If you take it before going out, it will give you an energy boost. Be cautious taking it at bedtime because it has a stimulating effect.
Alcohol and Blood Sugar
When we drink alcohol, our blood sugar level first soars and then sinks. The sinking stage often wakes people in the night. To prevent this roller-coaster, choose drinks with less carbohydrates and sugars like wine and distilled liquor. Stick to low-sugar spirits, such as tequila, scotch or vodka, mixed with non-sugary mixers such as soda water and lemon or lime.
Steer clear of beer, which has more carbohydrates per serving than wine or liquor. For example, regular beer has 12 grams of carbohydrate per serving while light beer has around 6 grams. By contrast, distilled liquors like gin, rum and vodka contain no carbohydrates or sugar. Mixed liqueurs are best avoided, however, as many have at least 10 grams of sugar per ounce. Also avoid mixed drinks like margaritas, pina coladas and daiquiris, which can contain more than 30 grams of sugar per serving.
Don’t drink on an empty stomach as food will blunt the highs and lows of alcohol-related blood sugar levels. Your body can also metabolise alcohol faster after you have eaten. A little fructose from fruit helps speed up alcohol detoxification, so eating grapes or melon late at night may help you to wake up feeling fresher.
Be sure to nominate several alcohol-free days every week and aim to drink three or less drinks per sitting. When you imbibe four or more drinks, you start to damage your liver. If you are light, the maximum safe level is two drinks. Drink slowly and eat before or after drinking to help your body regulate blood alcohol levels.
Eating Well Over the Holidays
To manage your food intake at parties, focus on vegetables in crudites, dips and cooked dishes. Otherwise you will fill up on high calorie carbohydrates or fatty proteins, which are too rich and acid forming.
If you are drinking, you are already ingesting sugars, so keep the carbohydrates down. As mentioned earlier, fructose from fruit is the exception to this rule because it can help your body process alcohol more quickly. Probiotics can help ease bloating and constipation caused by overindulging.
Nux Vomica 30 is a homeopathic remedy for excess partying. It can help relieve acidity from excess food and hangovers from alcohol. It should be taken hourly until the symptoms are better.
Beat Holiday Stress
Holiday stress is common, so keep your expectations balanced by not trying to do too much. Say no to any unnecessary demands. Pay attention to signs of tension and your stress levels and take a short break when you need one. Exercise is one of the best antidotes to stress and should be performed in the morning or early afternoon, not at night.
For most of us, insomnia is the best indication that we are overly stressed. With all the parties and booze of the holiday season, sleep disturbances can happen because of stomach acidity or digestive discomfort. When you wake in the middle of the night, worrying about everything that needs to be done can keep you up as your mind gets out of balance.
A group of herbs called “adaptogens” have been proven in scientific studies to help your system cope with stress while restoring your vitality.
Ashwagandha, also known as Indian Ginseng, contains an active ingredient called Sensoril. Studies have shown that Sensoril effectively reduces the stress hormone called cortisol, improves a strengthening hormone called DHEA, and improves sleep quality.1-2
Researchers from Russia have found that Siberian ginseng can protect against many stressors and enhance endurance capacity and cardiovascular function, significantly reducing the number of sick days off work.3
Rhodiola rosea has been shown in a human study to be able to alleviate fatigue, irritability, distractibility and headaches. It helps regulate the levels and activity of serotonin, dopamine and noradrenalin, the mood-related neurotransmitters in the brain.4
Lavender is commonly used for its relaxing and mood-uplifting aroma. It affects the calming GABA receptors in the brain. It helps us stay calm and positive under stress, and improves sleep.5
One product combining these adaptogens, Sereni Pro, is our favourite herbal formula. Our clients find it improves their sleep, energy levels and concentration, helping them feel more serene and productive. I usually augment Sereni Pro with Vital NutrientsVitamin B Complex and Magnesium Glycinate, as these supplements work on other levels to support and relax overworked nerves. The Ola Loa vitamin C supplement mentioned above is another option as it contains B complex and magnesium as well as adaptogenic vitamin C.
I also recommend an encapsulated lavender essential oil for worry and sleeplessness called Lavela WS 1265. It has been shown to promote relaxation, assist sleep and calm nervousness with safety and efficacy.6-9 I use it myself when I am under a lot of pressure, and it helps me sleep better and stay calm.
Staying Healthy While Travelling
Holiday travel can be hard: changes in time zones and climates, exposure to airborne pathogens, difficulty finding healthy food, dehydration, poor sleep and over-tired or over-excited children. It's not surprising that many people get sick during a trip, especially during the festive season when your immunity is already challenged by the change in weather.
To keep your immune system strong, you should replenish key nutrients during and after long-haul travel. I always carry a few sachets of Ola Loa with me on my trips. Long haul travel, at least in economy, means loss of sleep. Vitamin C protects against stress-induced upper respiratory tract infections. One study found it halved the number of colds in physically active people.10 Ola Loa's electrolytes will help you rehydrate and B vitamins will help with energy production too.
It is also important to replenish your probiotics, the friendly bacteria that help restore regularity and boost immunity. For people who stay at home, I recommend high potency probiotics such as Klaire Labs Ther-Biotics Complete or BioCeuticals UltraBiotic 45 but OptiBac Probiotics is ideal for travel because it needs no refrigeration.
Valerian Super Calm is an herbal liquid formula designed to promote relaxation and soothe tattered nerves in children. The excitement—and physical demands—of holiday travel can leave children restless and anxious. Valerian root is commonly used for problems associated with sleep, tension, stress and anxiety. Adults can also take this supplement.
Melatonin has shown clinical benefits for inducing sleep or adjusting sleep cycles,11 shortening the duration of jet lag and improving perceived quality of sleep.12-13 Supplemental melatonin is considered the standard treatment for jet lag but please note that it halves the number of days one has jet lag. It does not provide immediate benefits for the first couple of nights. A meta-study on melatonin concluded, "Melatonin is remarkably effective in preventing or reducing jet-lag, and occasional short-term use appears to be safe. It should be recommended to adult travellers flying across five or more time zones, particularly in an easterly direction, and especially if they have experienced jet-lag on previous journeys. Travellers crossing 2-4 time zones can also use it if need be."4
Another supplement I recommend is Mg Optima Relax, a magnesium powder formulated to promote relaxation, relieve muscle tension and calm the mind through the action of theanine. L-Theanine—extracted from tea—has been proven by several studies to uplift our mood and calm our mind by inducing alpha wave activity.15
I hope offering all these options provides you with choices for overcoming the common ill effects we suffer during the festive season.
To recap, the most robust options include Liver Support, which can be taken protectively and is our clients’ favourite liver formula. Ola Loa is a handy Vitamin C drink with added nutrients for detoxification support. Sereni Pro is a popular and effective herbal formula that helps us adapt to stress. At times of extra stress, the magnesium supplement Mg Optima Relax or the Lavela lavender oil capsules are helpful.
Happy holidays from IMI!
- Kasper S, Gastpar M, Müller WE, et al. Int Clin Psychopharmacol 2010 Sep;25(5):277-87.
- Woelk H, Schälfke S. Phytomedicine 2010;17:94–99.
- Kasper S, Gastpar M, Müller WE, et al. Int J Neuropsychopharmacol. 2014 Jun;17(6):859-69.
- Kunz D, Mahlberg R, Muller C, Tilman A, Bes F. Melatonin in patients with reduced REM sleep duration: two randomized controlled trials. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2004 Jan;89(1):128-34.
- Wade AG, Ford I, Crawford G, McMahon AD, Nir T, Laudon M, Zisapel N. Efficacy of prolonged release melatonin in insomnia patients aged 55-80 years: quality of sleep and next day alertness outcomes. Curr Med Res Opin. 2007 Oct;23(10):2597-605.
- Wade AG, Ford I, Crawford G, McConnachie A, Nir T, Laudon M, Zisapel N. Nightly treatment of primary insomnia with prolonged release melatonin for 6 months: a randomized placebo controlled trial on age and endogenous melatonin as predictors of efficacy and safety. BMC Med. 2010 Aug 16; 8:51.