Festive Season Health
Staying healthy amidst the festivities!
The festive season is rapidly upon us and that generally means an increase in social engagements. While for most of us this is a fun time of year, it can also result in health issues such as sluggishness, weight gain and fatigue. So let’s look at what goes on and how we can stay healthy during the Christmas and New Year period.
Alcohol is certainly the first thing most people think of when they think of the ‘silly season’. Most of us know that alcohol and our livers are not good friends. In fact, alcohol consumption can affect many different systems not just the liver. Alcohol directly damages the stomach wall causing inflammation and alcohol is also a nervous system depressant, which can lead to mood change, irritability and depression – especially over time or with excess consumption.
The amount of alcohol that a person can safely consume is highly individual, depending on age, sex, weight and family history. So the festive message is to be mindful of the effects that alcohol has on your body and take it easy. (Check out this article for more info on alcohol and cancer risk). Pace yourself with drinks (no more than one per hour) and drink hydrating water in between alcoholic drinks to avoid dehydration which is the major cause of hangovers. You can easily make festive non-alcoholic drinks with plain mineral water by adding lime, mint and berries. Alcohol is rapidly absorbed on an empty stomach, so be sure to always eat something when you are having a drink. Women who are pregnant or planning to get pregnant should completely avoid alcohol. Supplementing with a multivitamin that contains good amounts of B vitamins is also a good idea to support your health especially at this time of year.
With all the socialising that comes with the festive season, many people not only drink too much but often end up eating too much food and more of the wrong kinds of food. Finger foods at functions are often high in refined flour products and sugar and may be cooked in trans fats. Try to avoid foods with artificial flavours, colours and preservatives which stress the liver and kidneys. Choose where possible healthy options such as raw vegies with dips, cheese, wholemeal pitta breads, succhi, fruit platters and nuts. Avoid over eating by not eating lots of nibbles before dinner. When planning your menus think about choosing lighter alternatives such as fresh seafood, salads, fruit and cheese instead of a hot, traditional festive lunch or dinner. Also try to keep up your exercise routine, and think of swimming when the weather is too hot for other exercise.
Many of my patients find the festive season very stressful emotionally. Some people are not close or compatible with their family and find getting together very difficult. While others might feel lonely spending Christmas miles away from their family. Regardless of our situation, nearly everyone gets a bit overwhelmed with the sheer busyness of the festive season. However, we can approach Christmas with a different attitude and take time out for ourselves to reflect on the year, our friends and family. This is particularly helpful with children who can get too easily caught up with the commercialism of the season.
Remember what the underlying meaning of this time of year is and seek to be more peaceful and content with simple pleasures. We are lucky enough to live in a beautiful natural environment – so connecting to nature through the sea or the bush can bring much needed peace. Try not to fill the social calendar to capacity, allow some time for a quiet night or day. Lastly, it is essential to try and get good quality and sufficient sleep as this will help recharge your batteries. This might even mean taking a siesta – something we shouldn’t feel guilty about at this time of year!