NOTE: Because our main holidays, from Halloween through New Year’s Day occur in the darker, wintertime of the year, we have a built-in conflict. This is a more inward time with more rest and quiet required, and a simple warm, nourishing diet. Yet, there are more treats at work and wherever we go, we are also asked to attend parties and family events where we are exposed to and consume more sugar and flour products, rich foods, alcohol and more. And we often go out at nights when we would be better off resting and recharging at home or sitting around a fireplace visiting with a friend. So, pay attention to this dimension of this magical time of the year and do your best to find your own unique balance. Here’s my general health tips for Staying Healthy through the Holidays.
- Do not be in a daze these holidays. Be aware and be fair to your body. Most of us can get away with some treats or indiscretions to our usual eating habits. However, if we vary too much and go to extremes, we may suffer the consequences and get sick. Get to know yourself and find a balance.
- This is a good time to deepen and clarify your love and family connections. Emotional nurturance offers a satisfaction that may allow less emotional eating and avoid the excesses of the holidays. Be a supportive friend, and ask for support if you need it. Take care of one another. Give it a try and your spirit will be calmed and can also fly free of the burdens of time.
- Stay open to your creativity. Do new things to improve your health, such as a treatment like massage or trying some new, healthy foods. The first weeks of November are good to look at some clean-up time. Soon there will be many tempting sweets, baked goods, and alcohol beverages.
- Maintain your cornerstones of health. These include a good diet, regular exercise, adequate sleep, and minimal stress, including being able to relate well to family, friends, and co-workers.
- Find the basic supportive foods for your diet that provides the energy and nutrients your body needs to stay healthy. In the colder months, it is important to focus on heat generating foods, such as cooked grains and legumes, hard squashes, some nuts and seeds, and protein foods. Also, include some garlic, onion, and ginger, plus the energizing spicy peppers such as cayenne and chili. This will keep your blood and energy moving. Know what works for you. I have found that my five keys to Staying Healthy are:
—Do not eat too much too late in the day
—Drink plenty of good water
—Exercise regularly and stretch too
—Chew my food very well, and eat more slowly
—Focus my diet around vegetables
- Exercise activity is crucial now as in any season. As the weather cools, stretching is even more important, as is having indoor exercises you can do. Yoga and other flexibility-enhancing movements are helpful at keeping us youthful. 'We are as young as our spine is flexible.' Working with weights and doing aerobic exercise are vital to staying fit and strong to support immune function and circulation. A vital body rarely gets sick. Also, meditate and explore your inner world and dreams in your restful recharging sleep.
- Nutritional supplements can be used to support your health as well. Immune supportive nutrients may help you prevent common illnesses. Taking some Echinacea now is helpful, as is the Chinese herb, astragalus. Maintaining daily vitamins C and E along with selenium and zinc can also offer some immune protective and helps clear your body of certain toxins. Some people are helped by other herbs or animal gland extracts, such as thymus, spleen, and liver.
- Enjoy safe travels by preparing well and being aware and cautious. Plan your trips. Avoid dehydration and eat well; this may involve bringing water and appropriate food/snacks with you on the plane or in your car. Take a few key supplements with you to ward off all the germ exposures. This includes garlic, vitamin C, and others. You can also carry a natural hand sanitizer. Factors that can weaken immunity include stressful emotions, nutritional deficiencies, excess sugar and alcohol, and overwork. Some Immune Supporters include good sleep, a healthy diet, regular exercise, and feelings of love and appreciation. (See the Immune Enhancement section in Chapter 16 of Staying Healthy with Nutrition.)
- Prepare for the cold season. Gather your fuel and food, breathe, and exercise, as you should. In Chinese medicine, the fall season focuses on the lungs and large intestine. Overdoing it can lead to congestion and toxicity, as well as constipation and the clogging of the nose and sinuses. This leads then to upper respiratory infections as the germs grow in the mucus and then inflame the membranes. Staying clean and clear this season along with a healthy immune system will help keep you well. Try a facial steam and breathe in the herbal mist (you can use mints, rosemary, chamomile, lemon verbena, and other herbs) to help clear the sinuses.
- Take a rest now because the demanding holiday season is just around the corner. Do not burn your batteries out before December. Kindle your inner flame and firepower, which is protective from the invasion of harsh climates and germs. The winter blues comes partly from a loss of this fire energy. Shifting and balancing with the Seasons is vital to Staying Healthy.
Extra Notes on Colds & Flus
Should you get any colds or flus, it is best to jump on those immediately. My personal plan starts with hourly vitamin C of 500–1000 mg, increased doses of vitamin A (not beta-carotene) 25,000–30,000 IUs three times daily for just 3–4 days and then lower that dosage to 10–20,000 IUs twice daily for about a week (then take a break since excess vitamin A can be toxic if taken too long). I also use fresh garlic as several small cloves at a time dipped in honey and chew them; I may repeat this several times the first day. Another option is to press uncooked garlic into a hot bowl of soup. Garlic (containing allicin) is a spicy and aromatic natural antibiotic and immune defender; you can alternately use the odorless garlic caps, several capsules three times daily if you do not want to smell, but they are not quite as effective. Echinacea and goldenseal alcohol extract can also be used to support immunity and cleanse/ disinfect the membranes. Some help may be achieved with olive leaf extract as a mild anti-viral herb. Of course, drink lots of water, herbal teas, and hot soup. Overall, take care of your self; you are worth it!
Elson M. Haas, MD
Elson M. Haas, MD is a medical practitioner with nearly 40 years experience in patient care, always with in an interest in natural medicine. For the past 30 years, he has been instrumental in the development and practice of Integrated Medicine at the Preventive Medical Center of Marin (PMCM), which he founded in 1984 and where he is the Medical Director. Dr Haas has been perfecting a model of healthcare that integrates sophisticated Western diagnostics and Family Medicine with time-honored natural therapies from around the world.
This educating, writing doctor is also the author of many books including Staying Healthy with Nutrition: The Complete Guide to Diet and Nutritional Medicine, 21st Century Edition, The NEW Detox Diet: The Complete Guide for Lifelong Vitality with Recipes, Menus, & Detox Plans and more. Visit his website for more information on his work, books and to sign up for his newsletter.