Staying Healthy Through The Holidays

I have had so many patients call in sick this week, I decided to bring to my blog one of my recent enewsletters.
We look forward to the holidays, to the long weekends, the time with friends and family, and to the foods customary to the winter holiday season. The media and store advertising tell us this is the time to be “happy” and generous.

Yet, many of my patients come to me after the holidays terribly sick with bad colds, flus, coughs, stomach upsets, and even depression.

These are times that stress our bodies!

echinacea  floretUnder the best of conditions, we are exposed to more sick people than usual. Please see my September, 2006 newsletter for the tools we can use to avoid getting the flu. To summarize quickly: we need adequate sleep, good handwashing, a good diet, basic nutrient supplementation, and at least extra vitamin C.

There are extra stresses at this time that we need to be aware of. The change of season and cooler weather makes us more vulnerable. Chills, dampness, and nighttime coming earlier seem to reduce our immunity.

Thus we need to be cautious about wearing appropriate protective clothing (including rain or snow shoes) and about getting enough sleep.

In addition, the parties we attend tempt us with more alcohol, more sugar, and other foods we may not commonly eat. Workplaces are infamous for having boxes of candy or cookies sitting out, daring us to take “just one.” For those of us who normally avoid wheat or gluten grains, the stuffings and the pies and cakes look especially tantalizing. The alcohol flows freely. Thus this is the time we need to be aware of our limits, whether they are no sips or 40 sips. It is also essential that we be aware of what we can drink.

menorahSome of us have specific dietary requirements. We need to discuss in advance with our host/hostess what the menu is and ensure there will be “safe” food for us to eat. I offer to bring dishes that I know others will enjoy yet I can eat without worry. I also bring drinks that agree with me, whether or not this is my “assignment.” For example, club soda or sparking fruit juice satisfy me and satisfy others that I am drinking something.

Travel at this time is particularly stressful. It exposes us to extra toxic chemicals and to whatever viruses are going around. I try to give myself extra time so I am not rushed and to recover from the demands of traveling.

This brings up the people issue. We are supposed to love our relatives, no matter how obnoxious some of them might be. I advise my patients that if their family is particularly nasty, critical, or unsupportive, perhaps they should not visit them. Find more compatible people to spend the time with. Others have found that, if they discuss with their relatives in advance about what topics are ok and bell and hollywhich are not, helped to make the visits much more enjoyable. With some relatives, I have even declared some topics off limits and refuse to discuss them because I know they will lead to explosive disagreements.

I think it is most important to remember whom we are visiting. It is futile and inappropriate to expect people to change. Rather, we can recognize who they are, their good points and their foibles, and choose to ignore those habits that really bothered us in the past. I sometimes make a game out of it. That is, I guess how quickly some person is going to try to antagonize me and am prepared with a patient answer to defuse the situation.

Thus, this is the time to be judicious in our eating and drinking, to have a good time, and to let ourselves enjoy the spirit of the holidays.

Best wishes for a wonderful holiday season.

About Cathie Lippman, M.D.

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