The year 2020 will go down as one marked by enormous changes and uncertainty, which is why this time around, the most thoughtful gifts to give are ones that provide something we could all benefit from: health and wellbeing.
Read on to learn how to protect your health and wellbeing, and how to survive the holiday hustles and bustles with a smile on your face, even though this year’s holidays will look different than we’re used to.
1. Eat an Anti-inflammatory Diet
The holidays are full of temptations and indulgences. Unfortunately, many of our holiday classics from mac ‘n cheese to holiday roasts, from sugary cookies to sweet pumpkin pie, from egg nog to New Year’s Eve cocktails, are often promoting inflammation and therefore weaken our immune system. Eating heavy, sugary, and inflammatory foods for a month or longer can be incredibly hard on your body. These foods zap your energy, decrease immune defenses, and increase the risk of disease.
Instead, I recommend that you stick to anti-inflammatory foods during the holidays. Whole foods vegetables cooked or fresh, small amounts of seasonal fruit, warming herbs and spices, nuts and seeds, and fermented foods are your best friends. If you eat animal products, always choose organic, pasture-raised beef, free-range poultry and eggs, wild-caught fish, or wild game. There are so many healthy holiday recipes made with whole foods to enjoy nutrient-dense foods without missing out on anything. If you still want to reach for some of your old favorites, I recommend that you limit them for the actual days of the holidays instead of eating them the entire month. If you are focusing on a nutrient-dense diet, you will notice how much better you feel!
2. Take Probiotics
Since your gut is connected to all parts of your body, its health is incredibly important. Inflammatory foods and stress may both compromise your gut integrity, causing increased intestinal permeability or leaky gut. If your gut flora and gut health are out of balance, your entire health can become compromised. Your risk of increased inflammation, fatigue, stress, pain, and disease increases.
A healthy gut, on the other hand, creates a strong base that supports your entire health and well-being. While eating an anti-inflammatory diet is essential for gut health, I also recommend that you eat plenty of probiotic-rich fermented foods, such as sauerkrauts, kimchi, and kefir (dairy and non-dairy), and take daily probiotic supplements to support your gut microbiome. In my practice I use a variety of different probiotics, so feel free to call us and inquire about our monthly special for probiotics.
3. Use Adaptogens
Burning the candle at both ends during the holidays can drain your adrenals. Too much stress, too little sleep, too much sugar, and junk food, or too many holiday alcoholic drinks may force your adrenals to overwork and may lead to adrenal fatigue, which leads to a sluggish immune system.
To support your adrenal health and balanced stress response, I recommend adaptogenic herbs. Adaptogens have been used in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine for centuries. They help your body to regulate cortisol, combat stress and improve fatigue. My favorite adaptogenic herbs are Ashwagandha, Rhodiola, Licorice and Ginseng.
Exercise may be the last thing on your mind during the busy holiday season. However, it is crucial for your health and energy levels. Regular exercise can help to reduce stress, improve your mood, and boost your energy.
Ideally, you want to get some exercise for 20 to 30 minutes five times a week and stay generally active. Mix up your routine by including some cardiovascular exercise, such as swimming, running, or biking, strength- and resistance training, such as bodyweight exercises, weight lifting, or TRX, and low-impact exercises, such as yoga, pilates, and stretching. Stay active by getting a standing work desk (“sitting is a new smoking”), stretching throughout the day, going for a walk during lunch, playing with your kids, taking the stairs, or walking your dog.
5. Make Time for Yourself
If you are like most people, you try to please everyone during the holiday season and end up forgetting about yourself. It is certainly wonderful to have this opportunity to reconnect with family and friends and create beautiful memories together. But you also need some love – from yourself.
You deserve and need some quality “me-time”. Make “an appointment with yourself” time during the holiday season. Go for a nature walk. Take a hot, relaxing bath. Meditate. Breathe. Journal. Try some yoga. Curl up with your favorite book. Watch your favorite holiday movie. Even if it’s just a few minutes, try to make a little time for yourself each day. You deserve and need it.
And don’t forget that sleep is so important for your immune system and overall health. During the holidays we all cut down on sleep, but it is one of the most important parameters in a healthy lifestyle. If you have a problem falling asleep or staying asleep try some simple homeopathic medicine like Quetude or Sedalia that you can obtain at our office. If that does not help, come see me for a consultation. We have many tools to investigate sleep issues by getting to the root cause of YOUR sleep problems.
6. Practice Gratitude
Anxiety and gratitude cannot exist at the same time. Having a gratitude practice is the perfect way to improve your mood, reduce stress, and increase your zest for life. Remember the ‘little things’ throughout the day. Keep a gratitude journal jotting down the things that you are grateful for each morning and evening. Tell your loved ones that you are grateful for them and why you appreciate them. Do “daily inventory” in your mind by the end of the day and find 2-3 things you are grateful for and let this day go with appreciation.
7. Show Your Support While You Show Your Appreciation
One of my favorite things about the holidays is gift-giving.I am making a conscious effort to support as many small-owned businesses as possible and suggest curating a basket of some of your local favorites or industry-specific items.
This month we are giving thanks and support to our delicious friend, Stylish Spoon.
If you are looking for a healthier way to satisfy your sweet tooth, visit Stylish Spoon (stylishspoon.com/order). Stylish Spoon is a gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free and refined sugar-free online bakery located in Harlem and they ship right to your door. Their signature baked OatMEAL Cups are a healthy and satisfying breakfast option. Pop them in your freezer to reheat and eat in the mornings or for dessert. Stylish Spoon is offering 15% off with code DRK15.
8. Be Present
When you spend too much time in the future, it increases anxiety and stress. Being in the present moment, on the other hand, can decrease anxiety and stress, and increase happiness. Spending only 15 to 30 seconds in the present being aware of your body can make a difference. Savoring positive experiences can stimulate and strengthen neural connections in your brain, increasing positive emotions. Meditation and breathwork are fantastic ways to spend some time focusing your awareness on the present moment. You can also set your timer a few times a day reminding you to stop and slow down and check-in with the moment for 30 seconds.
9. Keep It Simple
Even though this year’s holidays will look different than we’re used to, the holidays still can be an incredibly stressful time. If you have a large family, it can be quite a hassle. Try to keep it as simple as possible. Your family loves you no matter what, so by doing less, you are doing more.
Try not to set unrealistic expectations for yourself. Don’t be a perfectionist. Ask for help if you need to. Ask everyone to bring/make a dish or dessert instead of doing everything by yourself. Make decorations a family event. Involve others in planning games and other holiday activities. Most importantly, know your limitations and say “no” when you have to.
10. Remember to Have Fun
During the holiday season, we tend to spend too much time running around and trying to make everything perfect. You have to take care of your holiday shopping, plan your holiday meals, and decorate your house. It can be a lot when you are a busy person.
But remember the time when you were a kid? The holidays were fun! All the decorations, lights, holiday cookies, movies, and music. It was magical. Be a kid again for a moment. Allow yourself to have a bit of fun. Dance to your favorite song. Sing along with the radio. Play some games with your family. Be silly. This is what the holidays are all about.
11. Ensure You Wear Your Face Mask
Ensure you wear your face masks when you travel. Here is a great site if you’re searching for a cloth mask to shop. But a simple disposable KN95 is still the best protection from increasing virus.
12. Be Smarter than the COVID-19. Take the Right Supplements and Minerals
Giving your body key supplements is also extremely important when you are supporting your immune system or battling Covid-19. I suggest the following:
- Zinc: 30 to 50 mg per day (It can cause nausea, so take it with food.). If you can’t get your hands on the supplement, these food sources are rich in zinc:
- Ground beef
- Alaskan king crab
- Cooked lobster
- Pumpkin seeds (raw)
- Vitamin D: 5,000 IUs per day. (Ideally, you would have your level checked and keep the blood level between 50-80 ng/mL).
- N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC): 600- 800 mg twice a day. It protects the lungs and supports the production of the master antioxidant glutathione in the body.
- Glutathione. Have it handy and start using it only when you feel you are getting sick. Take 400mg 1-5 times per day (sicker you feel, more you need). It will help your immune system function optimally.
- Vitamin A: 5,000 IUS per day.
- Vitamin C: 500 mg every 1 to 2 hours with big glass of water until irregular bowel movement
- Herbs like Echinacea, Andrographis and Elderberry
- Homeopathic Silver and Homeopathic Oscillococcinum
Take these supplements to support your immune system. If you are running low, you can order them from our office at 212-696-4325.
Remember, the holidays don’t have to be stressful. You can enjoy this season with your loved ones in happiness and health. If fatigue, chronic pain, health complaints, or health issues slow you down this holiday season, I recommend that you stay home and call your functional medicine doctor, like myself.
As an experienced functional medicine doctor with an integrated expertise of both Western medicine and traditional Eastern practice, I can assess all the factors, including diet, lifestyle, stress, toxicity, allergies, sleep habits and medication that may affect your body in order to uncover the root cause of your health issues and prescribe a personalized and effective plan to improve your thyroid condition, repair your body and regain your health and well-being.
If you would like to get more information about autoimmune thyroid treatment or to schedule an integrative medicine consultation, please call my office at 212-696-4325.
Stay healthy and strong!
Dr. Elena Klimenko
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25857501 https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0378874109005728 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5628357/ http://www.brainlife.org/fulltext/2001/kelly_gs010600.pdf