It’s a time when we need to be fit and healthy, not only to cope with the demands we’re putting on our bodies but also to resist a barrage of winter germs.
If you suffer from tummy troubles, indigestion, headaches, hangovers and winter bugs, festive-proof your health by following the experts’ guide to boosting immunity and energy.
“It’s easy over the festive season to feel you’re on a constant nutritional conveyor belt of alcohol, sugar and rich foods. The combination can leave you feeling off-colour,” says Lorna Driver-Davies, a nutritionist at The Nutri Centre.
“Everyday someone brings chocolates or mince pies into the office, you’re probably eating out more often, while ‘just one more drink’ is a common refrain in the run-up to Christmas and during the holiday period.”
n Driver-Davies advises taking, throughout December, a nutritional product for liver support, such as Hepaguard Forte by BioCare, £17.10 for 60 caps, from www.nutricentre.com
An immune-supporting complex may also be beneficial, she says, and recommends Elderberry Complex by Bionutri, Â£16.05 for 90 tablets, from www.nutricentre.com
Stop seasonal sag
“If you find yourself yawning a lot, or even nodding off as soon as you sit down on a chair or sofa, you may be suffering from fatigue or what’s dubbed, ‘TATT - Tired All The Time,’ says women’s health expert Marilyn Glenville (www.marilynglenville.com).
“With many of us leading increasingly busy lives, and on top of that the extra pressure of Christmas preparations, it’s hardly surprising that more and more people are suffering from a lack of energy.”
She advises that if you feel persistently tired and lack the energy to get comfortably through a day, it is worth checking your diet to ensure it contains sufficient essential nutrients and taking a vitamin B12 supplement.
n Glenville recommends BioCare Vitamin B12, Â£10.55 for a month’s supply, available from www.biocare.co.uk
Fight festive flu
“At this time of year, most of us are concerned about our immunity and protecting ourselves from colds and flu,” says Cassandra Barns, a nutritionist at The Nutri Centre.
She advises eating foods rich in vitamin C and bioflavonoids, which are contained in dark-coloured berries such as blueberries or blackberries, dark leafy greens such as kale and spinach, red fruits such as cherries and strawberries, and vegetables including red peppers, carrots and sweet potato.
Zinc, which she highlights as another essential nutrient, is contained in pumpkin seeds, nuts, oysters, fish and other seafood, lean meats and whole grains.
If you seem to ‘catch everything that’s going;, it can be worth getting your vitamin D levels tested and taking a separate supplement if necessary, she says.
GPs can do this test, or home tests are available from The Nutri Centre.
n Barns recommends immune support supplement ImmiFlex, Â£16.75 for 30 capsules, from www.nutricentre.com
Eat and be merry
Indigestion or an upset stomach occurs when your body struggles to break down food and digest it properly.
“Discomfort or a burning feeling in the stomach, often accompanied by other symptoms such as nausea, bloating, flatulence, cramps, constipation and diarrhoea, is commonly known as indigestion,” says Marilyn Glenville.
“It’s much more common over the Christmas period when people indulge in a richer diet and drink more alcohol.”
To minimise the symptoms, she says, drink plenty of fluid.
“Chew food slowly and thoroughly to give your body time to digest it properly.
“Avoid medication containing aspirin and ibuprofen, but if you must take them, ensure you take them on a full stomach. Drinking peppermint or camomile tea after a meal may help settle your stomach,” she adds.
Stress is one of the triggers for digestive upsets, she says, and may be alleviated by yoga, meditation or deep breathing.
Head for help
Research reveals this is the peak season for tension headaches as we struggle with budgets, a never-ending to-do list and the potential for friction at family gatherings.
“Tension headaches are often triggered by stress which causes the muscles in the neck and temples to stiffen and is much more common in women than men,” says Dr Mark Cropley, professor of health psychology at the University of Surrey.
A survey by Tiger Balm, a topical remedy for pain relief, revealed 25% of Britons suffer from tension headaches on Christmas Day, and 41% said preparing the lunch is the most stressful part of the day.
“Christmas Day can heighten any underlying tensions with families and relationships, leading to a surge of emotions,” says Cropley.
“However, it’s important to remember that beneath the stress, expense and family rows, the spirit of the season still remains.
“Take a few moments on your own, try to breathe deeply and let go of any tension you are feeling, and it could help you enjoy the festive break more.”
n Tiger Balm, Â£4.90 for a 19g jar, from Boots, Sainsbury’s, pharmacies and health food stores nationwide. For more information, call 0844 243 6661 or visit www.tigerbalm.com/uk
“Taking steps to avoid a hangover is far easier than treating one,” says Shona Wilkinson, head nutritionist at The Nutri Centre.
“Before you go out, make sure you eat a meal containing plenty of protein, so fish, or meat, as well as nuts, seeds, eggs, or tofu,” she says.
“Protein takes a long time to digest so it helps to line the stomach. As a preventative measure, take a milk thistle tincture before you party as this can boost the liver’s ability to deal with toxins.”
Her tips: Drink one glass of water for every alcoholic drink, don’t mix drinks, and before bed, drink a couple of glasses of water and eat a snack which will help balance blood sugar levels.
She suggests Marmite, hummus or peanut butter on wholegrain toast.
The next morning, she advises, drink a smoothie made of banana, kiwi, flaxseed, cinnamon and spirulina to boost vitamins and blood sugar levels.
During the day, she says, keep up liquid intake by drinking two litres of still water to help flush out alcohol and toxins.
n She recommends Drinkin’ Mate, Â£3.20, from The Nutri Centre stores.
It’s an effervescent tablet containing natural wild guava leaf extract which claims to reduce the negative effects of alcohol.
“Our feet take real punishment during Christmas, whether it’s from days spent pounding the pavements in search of presents, or dancing the night away squeezed into high heels,” says Dave Wain, a podiatrist at Carnation Footcare.
“During the winter months our extremities, such as our feet, tend to suffer the most from the cold, so it’s really important to keep feet well insulated. Unfortunately, while woolly socks may keep feet warm, they tend to make feet sweat.”
n Wain recommends Carnation Footcare’s Silversocks, Â£9.54 a pair, from www.firstaidfast.co.uk. They’re made with pure silver threads which act as a natural heat thermostat.
n To avoid blisters, he suggests Carnation Footcare’s Anti-Blister Stick, Â£4.08, which creates a seal between foot and shoe, helping to eliminate friction. To help avoid sore feet, he recommends Carnation Footcare’s Tip Toes Gel Cushions, Â£4.58. Both products available from www.firstaidfast.co.uk