The holidays are a wonderful time of joy, togetherness, and goodwill… but they can also be a time of stress, anxiety, digestive maladies, and weight gain. I put this Holiday Wellness Survival Guide together to hopefully cope with the latter so we can experience more of the former.
Stress and Anxiety
December usually heralds in party after party while we joggle work and family. While these get togethers can be wonderful, they can also cause a great deal of stress and anxiety. L-Theanine is an amino acid derived from green tea that works very well to curb anxiety, without tiredness. Studies have shown that theanine stimulates alpha brain waves, which are associated with relaxation and mental clarity. Theanine can be taken daily or just on days when you know you’ll be going into a situation that can be stressful. Another supplement that many people find helpful for stress and anxiety is the herb valerian, which is known by many as “nature’s Valium”. Valerian is best known for its benefit as a sleep aid, but in lower doses it is very effective at reducing anxiety, though unlike Xanax or valium it is completely non-addictive.
The holidays are a time when we eat many foods that we ordinarily don’t, and that fact can bring on many digestive complaints like bloating, stomach upset, and gas. Digestive enzymes are very effective in treating digestive complaints at the cause instead of simply trying to mask a symptom of poor digestion. Our bodies naturally contain digestive enzymes, though the number of digestive enzymes naturally present in our bodies decrease as we age, increasing digestive problems. Digestive enzymes work by helping to naturally break down food in the stomach, so that food is digested more easily. How many times have you overeaten and then felt like there was a brick in your stomach? Digestive enzymes help with that problem. By helping food to digest properly, they can help keep problems like bloating, stomach upset, and gas away since food is more easily digested.
Avoiding Weight Gain
Weight loss, or wanting to avoid packing on holiday pounds is on many people’s minds this season. It’s easy to overeat and consume many more calories than we ordinarily would at holiday parties. A good suggestion is to avoid “grazing” at holiday buffets. When you take the time to fill up a plate and sit down to eat it can help you realize how much you’re eating instead of mindlessly eating calorie after calorie standing over the appetizer table. One supplement that can be especially beneficial to prevent holiday overeating is glucomannan.
Glucomannan is a type of fiber (available in easy to swallow capsules) that expands many times its size in a person’s stomach, helping them to feel more full. By taking glucomannan before a holiday party it can help you to feel more in control of your eating, since you won’t feel as hungry. Glucomannan is nice because it’s stimulant free, so it can be taken at night and won’t keep you up when it’s time for sleep.
As the weather gets colder, sickness becomes more and more prevalent- a lack of fresh air and being indoors is a big contributing factor. There has even been recent research that has suggests that much of the increase in illness during winter is as a result of vitamin D
deficiency (our body manufactures vitamin D from skin exposure to sunlight). One recent study involving African-American postmenopausal women found a 60% reduced risk of colds and influenza for those taking 800 IU/d vitamin D3 and 90% reduced risk for those taking 2000 IU/d.
Elderberry syrup is another supplement which is great for the immune system- especially
combating against viruses, specifically the flu. In one study, a clinical trial on patients
displaying full-blown flu symptoms took place in Israel in the middle of a flu epidemic. Half were given the black elderberry extract and half a placebo. Within 48 hours 75% of patients who had been given elderberry had clearly improved and within 72 hours 90% were symptom-free. Only 16% of patients on placebos had shown any improvement after two days, and the rest took at least six days to recover.
Another supplement that is especially effective on viruses is a mushroom complex called AHCC. AHCC is a common supplement to be taken by cancer patients, for its anti-tumor benefits, but is beneficial in combating the flu as well. AHCC is commonly prescribed in Asia for immune health. Both human and animal studies have shown AHCC’s ability to enhance the activity of natural killer cells (NK cells). Those NK cells are the first defense for the body’s immune system and are able to launch a rapid attack against foreign invaders like bacteria and viruses while the other parts of the immune system are still mobilizing. A quick immune response to bacteria and viruses can often make the difference between getting sick or staying well.
The last supplement I’d recommend that’s a favorite of ours for immune health is Irwin Naturals Immuno Shield, which is a very well put together combination of several different herbs, probiotics, and more to help boost the immune system. It can be taken in low doses as a preventative measure, or in higher concentrations if you do get sick. We’ve found it really does help to get you better faster.