Christmas is usually described as a time that we can switch off, relax, and enjoy all that is Christmas. In reality, for many of us it is a time in which we have heighted stress levels as we are trying to get somewhere need to the end of any work to do lists, buy and wrap presents and organise our holiday events to ensure we have time for friends and family. This becomes even more intense if we have children and / or relatives that we have responsibility for.
To help you get through the festive period, we have summarised twelve healthy tips / habits that will hopefully support you through the Yuletide period.
Healthy Holiday Tip 1: Though we maybe don’t need research to confirm what we may already know, our weight gain during the holiday season is reported to be consistently be between 0.4 kg to 0.9 kg.1 Our first tip involves stop eating 4 hours before our planned bedtime. Such a simple habit (you do it or don’t do it) has been shown to both reduce our tendency to gain weight through higher total calories and increases our likelihood of optimal sleep duration.2 3
Healthy Holiday Tip 2: We should be all aware that sleep is essential for our health. If we can remember our own childhood or currently have children, we know that having a bath before bed can help us and / or our children sleep. The reason for this sounds contradictory, though taking a hot bath (and maybe a shower) can help drop our body temperature once we are in bed, in addition to making us feel sleepier and more relaxed.
Healthy Holiday Tip 3: If we have holidays over the Christmas period, what better time to reignite friendships and meet with friends and family. Why is this important for our health? According to the Kings Fund (an independent think tank, which is involved with work relating to the health system in England), A person’s social networks can have a significant impact on their health. The research showed that if we have an adequate social network, we have a 50% greater survival, compared with those who had poor social relationships. The benefits of being part of a community include increased motivation, more learning opportunities, make friends, networking, and stress relief.4
Healthy Holiday Tip 4: With the continued risk of COVID and now our understanding of the benefits of social networks on health (Healthy Holiday Tip 3), we can help ourselves through the judicious use of Zinc lozenges. We have written about the benefits in our blog here and understand that using Life Extension Zinc Acetate lozenges can help inhibit viral replication at the back of our throats (spreading Zinc through the tissues of the nose, mouth, and throat). We can use these lozenges when we have mixed with others in environments that are busy and potentially indoors.
Healthy Holiday Tip 5: With a plate full of lovely food, does it matter what we eat first? According to research, “food order presents a novel, simple behavioural strategy to attenuate glycaemic excursions in prediabetes.”5 In basic terms, this paper showed that eating your protein first, then vegetables and finally carbohydrates reduced the amount of glucose, in the plasma after a meal. Which is good for your metabolic health.
Healthy Holiday Tip 6: What you stop eating has a bigger impact on your health than what you start eating. If you start eating a lot more broccoli or something you think is healthy for you, though if you don’t stop eating that pizza, there is no amount of broccoli that you can eat that will offset the potential damage of eating the pizza that isn’t working for you.
Healthy Holiday Tip 7: Our mental health in terms of managing depression, enhancing life satisfaction and wellbeing can all be positively influenced by us volunteering. Research has explored the link between volunteering and mental wellbeing. Indicating that volunteering can be of real valuable for the volunteer, as well as for the people who benefit from their help. Want to get involved? Do-it.org is a database of UK volunteering opportunities. You can search more than a million volunteering opportunities by interest, activity or location and then apply online.
Healthy Holiday Tip 8: After we have had our fill at the Christmas table, our blood glucose increases, especially if the meal contains lots of carbohydrates. This is a temporary rise in blood sugar and is managed through releasing insulin. If we are healthy, our pancreas releases enough insulin to regulate our blood sugar. However, there are other diet and lifestyle modifications we can make to support our blood sugar control, which is key to our overall health. What simple thing can we do to help this process? Move! In 2018, researchers Reynolds and Venn investigated this very topic and concluded that, the timing of light physical activity shortly after eating affects the time-course of postprandial (after a meal) blood glucose…..these results support that activity, even for 10 min at very low intensity, may assist in the management of postprandial blood.
Healthy Holiday Tip 9: Magnesium is involved in 300+ enzyme systems including protein synthesis, muscle and nerve function, blood glucose control, and blood pressure regulation. ‘Various studies have shown that at least 300mg magnesium must be supplemented to establish significantly increased serum magnesium concentrations…’ In other words, most people need an additional 300 mg of magnesium per day in order to lower their risk of developing numerous chronic diseases.6 What could you expect with increasing your intake through your diet or supplementation? Better, deeper sleep (low magnesium often leads to restless sleep and waking frequently during the night). Magnesium also plays a role in supporting our deep, restorative sleep by maintaining healthy levels of GABA (a neurotransmitter that promotes sleep).
Healthy Holiday Tip 10: A low cost, no cost health habit that can easily be factored into the busiest of lives is …….don’t rush….it’s meditation. Described as the habitual process of training our minds to focus and redirect our thoughts, meditation is increasing in popularity as it has many health benefits. Seen as a way to reduce stress and develop concentration, we can also see benefits in our mood and outlook, discipline, healthy sleep patterns, and even increased pain tolerance. Using an App (App Review Here) is probably the quickest and easiest way to start to develop this new healthy habit.
Healthy Holiday Tip 11: We know that Vitamin D deficiency is common in the UK, probably due to lifestyle changes and lack of sun exposure. Vitamin D is actually a hormone rather than a vitamin and is involved in many functions and roles within our bodies. The Society for Endocrinology tells us that a lack of vitamin D is linked to an inability to fight infections effectively, muscle weakness, fatigue and the development of diabetes, certain cancers, multiple sclerosis, depression, heart disease, high blood pressure, and stroke. It is never more important to ensure we have optimum levels of this essential vitamin when we are approaching the shortest day. With this in mind, supplementation is recommended with further details within a previous post here.
Healthy Holiday Tip 12: Potentially not your main topic of conversation over the Christmas period. However, constipation affects approximately 1 in 5 of us. With the incidence increasing with age, in women more than males and is more common during pregnancy. Symptoms may include infrequent bowel movements, hard faeces, frequent straining to poop, and the sensation of incomplete emptying. Published self-management guidelines by NICE7 include information on fibre, fruit and vegetable intake and fluids. In addition, Functional Medicine MD Mark Hymn recommends 2000mg to 4000mg per day of Vitamin C as “another great poop inducer”.7 The MD provides further detail…. gradually increase the dose until you go once or twice a day. If you take too much, you will get loose stools. If that happens, back off a bit. We have discussed the tremendous benefits of Vitamin C elsewhere8; this is just another valued contribution.
Hopefully all these Yuletide tips will help you nudge your way to a healthier more relaxed Christmas with family and friends. Happy Christmas!
This blog series is meant for educational purposes only and does not constitute medical or nutritional advice or act as a substitute for seeking such advice from a qualified health professional. In order to make the blog series easier to read, I have used a conversational tone in many places with personal pronouns, such as “I” and “you.” This is meant only to make it more pleasant to read, and is not meant to imply that the information constitutes any form of advice, whether personal or general.