Natural Medicine Q&A
Ask Dr. P
by Kasra Pournadeali, ND
Natural Medicine Specialist
Hurray!? It’s the holiday season once again! It’s time for travel, schedules, gift giving, and entertaining. It's also a time of dietary excess, increased stress, and colds or flu. Should we be surprised that more of us get sick this time of year compared to any other? December is the most stressful month of the year! That and the cold weather together can wreak havoc on your immune system. Add overconsumption of food, alcohol, overexertion, inadequate mental and emotional self-care, and the result is "burnout". Rest assured, there are things you can do to prepare yourself for the holidays, and prevent much discomfort that often accompanies the season.
Q: Dr. P., I often overeat (during the holidays), how can I stop?
Growing up, in my family, it was considered impolite to not sample food being offered, especially when visiting relatives. Regardless of appetite, and depending on the host, sometimes a full plate of food was required! Some of you no doubt identify with this. You might have other reasons to overeat like: "…it was there," "…it looked so good," or "…it was so tasty…” If you overeat during the holiday, have hope, as you can avoid doing so with a few simple steps.
First, avoid starving yourself the entire day to "save room" for your holiday meal. The easiest way to overeat is to create maximum hunger by starving yourself. Small frequent meals are always better. Second, remember to drink plenty of water. Have several tall, full glasses throughout the day, and especially 5 minutes before every meal, (before you serve yourself). This can prevent you from serving and eating a huge portion which you will "have to finish", since you "don't want it to go to waste." Third, decide on a maximum and reasonable portion size for the meal and stick to it. For example: one plate of food (not piled high,) with taste-sized portions, and a small serving of dessert. Avoid going back for “seconds,” and instead have some hot herbal tea, to promote relaxation.
Q: Dr. P., some holiday foods irritate my stomach and give me heartburn. How can I prevent this?
Of course, avoiding the foods that bother you is the best way. If you’re not sure which they are, testing for food allergies may be appropriate. Until you can get tested, avoid gastric upset by using deglycyrrhized licorice (abbreviated DGL). Licorice is an herb that stimulates the cells lining your digestive tract to produce mucus. The mucus then lines the stomach and esophagus protecting them from acid. DGL can help tremendously with heartburn, or excess stomach acid, when it’s food related or if you have esophageal reflux (backflow of stomach acid). Follow the dosage pattern listed on the label, or ask your natural medicine specialist for dosing is appropriate for you. You might also consider avoiding or limiting caffeine, mint, and alcohol, as each of these can aggravate heartburn.
Q: Dr. P., when my family gets together during the holiday, wine is served. Are there any ways to prevent the harmful effects of the alcohol?
Although it's true that constituents in red wine have been shown to benefit the blood vessels, alcohol is still harmful to the liver. In fact, the liver, which filters the blood of toxins with a 99.8% efficiency, temporarily loses up to 90% of its filtering ability after consumption of just one or two drinks. This is why it's unsafe to mix alcohol with certain medicines like Tylenol, which are metabolized (or cleared) by the liver. Protect your liver by moderating your alcohol intake. When you do drink, consider using a standardized extract of milk thistle (Silybum marianum). Milk thistle is a plant medicine that increases liver glutathione, which prevents damage from toxic substances (like alcohol). One study even showed milk thistle to prevent death from poisons, which kill, by causing liver failure. The Typical dosing for milk thistle is a standardized extract of 140mg two or three times daily. Again, talk to your natural medicine specialist if you have special health conditions or are on other medications.
To reduce your risk of colds & flu this holiday season, take a high-quality (3-a-day) multivitamin, with extra vitamin C, and remember to get enough sleep. Also, make "moderation" your word of the month. Whether it's moderation in spending, food, alcohol, work, or exercise, decide where you need moderation in your life, and reinforce it daily to help you get and stay on track. Have a safe and healthy holiday season!
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