Party-proof Your Body
Try these health-boosting steps in the run-up to Christmas to stave off potential health problems
Christmas might feel like the most magical time of the year but let’s face it – it also tends to be an intensely booze-filled, glutinous and exhausting season. While we’re letting our hair down and having fun, let’s not forget to look after our bodies because, hey, Christmas is not an excuse to abuse it. Try these sure-fire strategies to power through the parties like a pro!
Prime Your Immune System
Get a massage! It helps to ward off bugs by boosting your “natural killer cells” (the immune system’s first line of defence against invading illness). The Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami School of Medicine found that massage reduces cortisol in both saliva and urine samples, indicating reduced stress. “Cortisol destroys natural killer cells,” says Tiffany Field, Ph.D., director of Touch Research Institute, “Therefore, since massage decreases cortisol, your immune cells get a boost.” According to the American Massage Therapy Association, research also shows that massage therapy leads to increased endorphin levels, which help bolster your immune system along with the reduction of your stress levels.
Choose Red Over White
Did you think that red wine is the worse teeth-staining culprit? Apparently it isn’t. According to a study from New York University College of Dentistry, white wine is actually more acidic so it creates grooves and rough spots on your teeth. These then allow red wine, berry stains or black coffee to penetrate more deeply.
“Not drinking enough water can leave urine concentrated with E.coli bacteria. These can stick to the bladder walls and cause infection,” warns Dr Lee Keen Whye, consultant obstetrician at KW Lee Clinic & Surgery for Women. The solution? Drink plenty of water and consider adding sugar-free cranberry juice to your diet. Cranberries contain proanthocyanidins, which stop the bacteria from attaching to the urinary tract walls. Research suggests you need 80mg a day (around two glasses).
Cold weather blunts your thirst mechanism, but your body still needs moisture and you can become dehydrated without even realising it. “Feeling tired and headachy are classic symptoms of dehydration. An easy check is the colour of your urine – if it’s pale and straw-coloured, you’re drinking enough,” says dietician Helen Bond of the British Dietetic Association. “Remember that, unless you drink more than five or six cups a day, both tea and coffee count towards your liquid intake.”
Power-feed Your Digestion
“Help your digestive system to cope with all the rich Christmas foods by giving it a break so that it’s in the best shape for coping with all the rich Christmas fare,” says dietician Angela Teo. “For five days, try to avoid sugar, dairy, caffeine, wheat and red meat, and instead eat mainly vegetables, fish, beans and pulses.” This will allow healthy bacteria to flourish in your gut, which will then strengthen your immune system, meaning you’re less likely to come down with colds, flu and food poisoning. “A day of two before attending a big event, consume lighter meals,” she adds. “And just before heading out, have a light snack, such as a fruit, so that you don’t arrive at the gathering feeling totally famished – and end up overeating.”
Stay On The Health Wagon
Between cross-country travels, seasonal cakes and temptingly delicious Christmas desserts, many of us tend to switch off when the holiday mood hits. The struggle is real – it can be pretty tough to stick to a fitness regime during the holiday season, so be adaptable and drop the “all or nothing” mindset during this period. Whether you’re into jogging, HIIT workouts, or yoga, even 15 minutes a day will keep your metabolism running. In fact, with known benefits such as stress reduction, improved digestion, and increased blood circulation, yoga is one of the most effective ways of boosting immunity. On the days when you really don’t have time, schedule in three minutes of daily meditation to ground yourself and regulate your breathing. A study by the University of Wisconsin found that meditation builds antibodies, our natural defence against bacteria and viruses.
And while you’re at it, why not do yoga or meditation together with a friend? After all, researchers say that socialising and engaging in positive interactions with others helps boost our immune systems, so grab a buddy the next time you head to The Yoga School for a class and gift yourselves the ultimate care package this season.