christmas tree decorated

9 Tips to Stay Healthy During Holidays

The holidays are supposed to be a season of love, joy, and happiness. This is easier said than done.

Sure, good food, parties, gifts, and family gatherings are beautiful. However, just thinking about setting up the decorations, sending out holiday cards on time, shopping for gifts, attending holiday events, hosting guests, planning, cooking, and cleaning up can be incredibly overwhelming.

Do you want to enjoy this holiday season without overwhelming, fatigue, and health complaints? Do you want to experience more ease, joy, and health than the years before? You’ve come to the right place. Read on to learn how to protect your health, energy, and happiness, and how to survive the holiday hustles and bustles with a smile on your face.

9 Tips to Stay Healthy During the Holidays

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 inflammatory. Eating heavy, sugary, and inflammatory foods for a month or longer can be incredibly hard on your body. These foods zap your energy, create inflammation, and increase the risk of disease.

Instead, I recommend that you stick to anti-inflammatory foods during the holidays. Leafy greens, vegetables, fruits, 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 around 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!

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 health. If your gut flora and gut health are out of balance, your entire health can become compromised. Your risk of inflammation, fatigue, stress, pain, and disease increases.

A healthy gut, on the other hand, creates a balanced 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, 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.

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.

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 include Ashwagandha, Rhodiola, Licorice and Ginseng.

Exercise

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 during the day by stretching throughout the day, going for walk during lunch, playing with your kids, taking the stairs, or walking your dogs.

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.

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.

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.

Keep It Simple

The holidays can be an incredibly stressful time. If you have a large family, out-of-town guests, or too many holiday parties, it can be quite a hassle. Try to keep it as simple as possible.

Try not to set unrealistic expectations for yourself. Don’t be a perfectionist. Ask for help if you need to. Ask everyone to bring 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.

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 attend holiday parties, 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.

Final Thoughts

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 slowing you down this holiday season, I recommend that you seek help from a 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 a functional medicine consultation, please call my office at 212-696-4325.


References:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/smart-habits-highly-successful-people/200912/7-tips-relieve-holiday-stress
https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/6_simple_practices_to_handle_holiday_stress
https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress/art-20047544
https://adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/related-illnesses/other-related-conditions/stress/physical-activity-reduces-st
https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/pharmacology-toxicology-and-pharmaceutical-science/adaptogen
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
http://www.herbs-for-menopause.com/ginseng/articles/siberian-ginseng.htm
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21793317
https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/pa-health/index.htm
https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/taking_in_the_good/

Heal GERD Naturally

You’ve just enjoyed a southwest burrito at your favorite restaurant. Now, you’re feeling as if someone has lit a fire in your upper abdomen and the flames are reaching up your throat. That’s acid reflux. It’s triggered when stomach acid backs up into your food pipe (the esophagus). Acid reflux (commonly called heartburn) is a painful and aggravating condition that affects about 60% of the adult population in a given year. A more persistent and serious condition, Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) afflicts as many as seven million Americans.

Symptoms of GERD

A variety of symptoms accompany reflux – not everyone has them all. People with GERD typically experience symptoms from intense irritation to burning pain in the lower mid-chest or behind the breastbone. Other common symptoms are stomach ache, nighttime cough, and inflammation. Persistent reflux can erode tooth enamel, damage the lining of the esophagus, cause sore throat/laryngitis, interfere with swallowing, and increase risk for diseases of the esophagus.

You may be familiar with prescription and over-the-counter medications for reflux disease, such as proton-pump inhibitors and antacids. At best, these drugs only mask symptoms, providing short-term relief rather than getting to the root cause. From a holistic medicine perspective, possible underlying causes of GERD range from the food you eat to factors such as imbalances in stomach acid, food sensitivities, hiatal hernia, overuse of antibiotics and stimulants such as caffeine and nicotine.

To get to the root cause of GERD, a holistic physician may test for food sensitivities, evaluate your diet and lifestyle habits, and consider a number of other possible causes. Once the underlying cause has been determined, your doctor may recommend diet changes, herbal and homeopathic remedies, as well as nutritional supplements and physical therapies such as abdominal massage and stress management techniques. Your doctor will use therapies and help you make changes that will restore balance and health to your gut.

Below are a few of the supplements and lifestyle changes that can help you maintain a healthy gut and reduce your risk for heartburn and GERD.

Ginger: Treats various gastrointestinal ailments, including heartburn. It acts as an anti-inflammatory, which can reduce irritation in the esophagus.

Licorice Root: Helps increase mucus production and digestive activity, protecting the stomach and esophagus from acid. Licorice root has been known to increase blood pressure in people diagnosed with hypertension. Be sure to discuss use of this supplement with your health practitioner.

Probiotics: Helps maintain balance in the digestive system between good and harmful bacteria.

Adopt healthy habits: Exercise 30 minutes daily. Boost your diet with whole, fresh fruits and veggies, fermented foods, and organic meats. Drink 6-8 glasses of filtered water daily. Maintain a healthy body weight. Properly care for other medical conditions such as diabetes. Don’t smoke or overuse alcohol, as this can trigger and aggravate reflux.

Remember, supplements alone do not address underlying lifestyle habits and health conditions that cause GERD. It’s important to work closely with a holistic physician to understand the root cause and your best individualized treatment.

Elena Klimenko, MD, a certified functional medicine physician, will help you choose the right course of action to identify the root cause and relief your unsettled symptoms. Call today to find out more about functional medicine and speak with Dr. Klimenko at 212-696- HEAL(4325).
If you want more information about Functional Medicine, contact us to receive a FREE copy of Dr Klimenko’s E-book.

 

References:

Mayo Clinic Online. GERD. Accessed October 10, 2016: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/gerd/basics/definition/con-20025201

University of Maryland Complementary and Alternative Medicine Database. GERD. Accessed October 10 2016: http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/condition/gastroesophageal-reflux-disease

Ginger. (2012, April). Retrieved October 10, 2016 from https://nccih.nih.gov/health/ginger

Kandil T. S., Mousa, A. A., et al., “The potential therapeutic effect of melatonin in gastro-esophageal reflux disease [Abstract].” BMC Gastroenterology (2010 January 18): 10(7). Retrieved October 7, 2016 from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20082715

Lukic, M., Segec, A., et a.l., “The impact of vitamins A, C, and E in the prevention of gastroesophageal reflux disease, Barrett’s esophagus, and esophageal adenocarcinoma [Abstract].” Collegium Anthropologicum, (2012) 36(3), 867-872. Retrieved October 7, 2016 from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23213946

Patrick, L., “Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD): A review of conventional and alternative treatments.” Alternative Medicine Review, 16(2), 116-133. (2011). Retrieved from http://altmedrev.com/publications/16/2/116.pdf

Photo Credit: Stockbyte/Gettyimage

What Your Bowel Movements Reveal about Your Health?

What Your Bowel Movements Reveal about Your Health?

While discussion of poop is probably not a hot topic in your household, in our home it is the most important topic of discussion. “Honey,how was your poop today? Did you have a good one?” Jokes aside, composition of what you deposit into the toilet has important implications for health. Did you know the features of fecal matter–such as the size, color, shape, odor, and consistency indicate how well the gastrointestinal (GI) tract is functioning? Those same features also provide clues about how your body is (or isn’t) faring against threats of infection and more serious diseases like celiac disease, hepatitis, urinary tract infections, malabsorption disorders, inflammatory bowel disease (IBS), pancreatitis, and cancer.

To give you an idea of what healthy, normal stool looks like, check out the Bristol Stool Chart (see attached picture and diagnosed yourself). The healthy range for fecal matter is of a consistency that is not too hard, not too soft, and mostly solid–as opposed to lumpy, pellet-like, or liquid. Normal stool color is in the light-to-medium brown range and is not offensively odorous. Also, bowel movements (BMs) should pass easily from your body to the toilet.

5 BMs that Require Medical Attention (Unless you are aware of dietary changes or a medication that could produce the following types of stool, it’s advisable to seek medical attention if you observe the following changes in BMs).

Stool that is hard to pass, requires straining, or is accompanied by abdominal pain.

Black, tarry stool might indicate infection or GI bleeding, while bright red stool could indicate infection and/or bleeding in the GI tract or anus. Seek immediate medical attention.

White, pale, or grey stool could indicate problems with the liver, bile ducts, or pancreas.

Yellow stool could indicate serious infection or gallbladder problems.

Mucus in the stool can indicate inflammation, infection, or even cancer.

How Often Should You Go?

How frequently you have a BM is important, too. And, what’s typical for you may be different for other people in your family. For most people, daily BMs are considered the norm. No matter how often you poop, you should not have to strain or experience pain while excreting. Additionally, be aware that the appearance and frequency of BMs will vary based on what’s in your diet, sleep and exercise patterns, hormonal changes, travel, stress, hydration level, medications or supplements you are taking, and exposure to toxins (from nicotine to industrial toxins).

How Low Should You Go?

There’s also evidence that the position you take to evacuate the bowels has health implications for the physical structures of the GI tract. So much so that some scientists indicate sitting to poop is a contributing factor in the development of colon and pelvic diseases. Before potty training, young children squat to poop in their diapers–they don’t sit. Yes, there’s a difference between squatting and sitting. The modern toilet places the thighs at a 90-degree angle to the abdomen, whereas squatting has a much deeper angle that gives more motility to the intestinal muscles and organs. Evacuating the bowels is much easier on the body in the squatting versus seated position. Toilet position should be a consideration for everyone over the age of five, but is especially important for the elderly, the disabled, and individuals with compromised mobility.

You can learn more about proper toilet position in this video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5P8L0r4JVpo

Resources

Mercola, J. “What You See in the Toilet Can Give You Valuable Insights into Your Health.” Accessed February 2015.

Monastyrsky, K. “Gut Sense: What Exactly Are Normal Stools?” Accessed February 2015.

Sikirov, D. “Comparison of Straining During Defecation in Three Positions: Results and Implications for Human Health.” Abstract. Digestive Diseases and Sciences 48, no. 7 (July 2003): 1201-5.

Step and Go. “Step and Go Ergonomically Correct Toilet Position.” Accessed February 2015.