A-Z of Christmas health
Medlines is really trying hard to give you healthy tips for the Holiday Season. Stay healthy and happy through the festive season with our essential guide to winter wellbeing
Don’t try to match your husband or male workmates drink for drink. If you’re trying to cut down, Banrock Light Chardonnay Sauvignon Blanc and Rosé wines (£5.49 at Tesco, www.tesco.com) contain just 5.5 per cent alcohol, with 56 calories per unit – that’s 30 per cent less than the average wine.
‘Festive bloating is likely to be triggered by overindulging on carbs and sugar,’ says nutritional therapist Judy Watson (www.sunrisenutrition.co.uk). She recommends cutting down on bread and eating more protein, taking a quality probiotic supplement such as Bio Nutri Ecodophilus (£19.60 for 60 capsules from The Nutri Centre, www.nutricentre.com), drinking more water and taking Nutri Ltd Similase (£18.25 for 90 capsules from The Nutri Centre, www.nutricentre.com), when eating out.
C: Christmas accidents
Around 1000 of us are injured by falling off chairs and getting poked in the eye while decorating Christmas trees, according to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA). Take care!
Not only is hitting the dance floor great fun, researchers also report that it reduces stress and blood pressure and lowers your risk of heart disease and dementia, too. ‘Dancing burns 400 to 700 calories per hour,’ says personal trainer Dan Roberts (www.danrobertstraining.com). ‘And a key benefit is the improvement in body confidence.’
‘Vitamin B12 is good for nerve and muscle function and the digestive system, but it’s depleted by stress and many medications including the Pill. Long term, a deficiency can cause anaemia with tiredness, weakness and even breathlessness and palpitations. A one-week course can give you just the boost you need to feel ready for the big day,’ says naturopath Elouise Bauskis. Try Nature’s Plus Shot-O-B12 (£4.75, from The Nutri Centre,www.nutricentre.com).
F: Flu or just a cold?
Very achy joints and muscles, and a temperature of 38°C-40°C for five to seven days mean flu, says Dr George Kassianos of the Royal College of GPs. ‘You’ll have caught the infection up to three days before symptoms start and you remain contagious three days after you feel better.’ Drink plenty of fluids and take paracetamol. Only certain groups qualify for the flu jab.
Gargle with ginger tea to soothe a sore throat, sip it to ease nausea and hangovers, or soak in a ginger bath to stimulate circulation. Herbalist Philip Weeks (www.philipweeks.co.uk) says: ‘Eating a small amount of ginger every day has been found to reduce strain on muscles after a workout. Its active ingredients have anti-E.coli properties and can also help treat diarrhoea.’
If you know you’re in for a heavy night’s drinking, herbal remedy milk thistle (Thisilyn Maximum Strength Milk Thistle, £12.99 for 30 capsules from Boots), can protect the liver and prevent a hangover, says nutritionist Mary Strugar of The Strugar Nutrition Centre (www.thestrugarcentre.com). If it’s too late, drink plenty of water, take paracetamol, avoid caffeine, and eat a banana or kiwi.
Or dyspepsia, is pain in your chest or stomach soon after eating. ‘To avoid it, keep moving and don’t eat or drink within three hours of going to bed,’ says gastroenterologist Dr John de Caestecker of the University Hospitals of Leicester. ‘If you do eat late, sleep with extra pillows on your left side and use antacids such as Milk of Magnesia (£3.05 for 200ml from Boots).’
If winter weather makes your joints ache, dose up on rosehip extract GOPO, which prevents the movement of white blood cells. Find it in LitoZin (£20.42 for 120 capsules from Holland & Barrett, www.hollandandbarrett.com).
According to researchers who would like us all to pucker up more, kissing is good for the teeth – surprisingly helping to prevent plaque build-up. It creates a burst of adrenaline that gives your heart a miniworkout and pumps more blood around your body. It can even slow the ageing process, and studies show that those who kiss their partner goodbye every morning live five years longer than those who do not.
Keep the cold bugs and stress away this Christmas by laughing more, says health coach Vinay Parmar (www.vinayparmar.co.uk). ‘The brain releases natural painkillers called endorphins, as well as hormones such as cortisol, adrenaline and dopamine, all of which improve your immune systems and reduce stress.’
Around 3000 people a year in the UK are affected by bacterial meningitis and around 300 of those die. It can kill in under four hours, so it’s vital to recognise the symptoms: fever, vomiting, headache, stiff neck, aversion to bright lights, drowsiness, difficulty supporting own weight, and a rash that doesn’t fade when pressure is applied. If you suspect meningitis, seek help immediately. Call Meningitis UK on 0117 373 7373 or visit www.meningitisuk.org.
Brazils give you a dose of cancer-cutting selenium, almonds are rich in magnesium for healthy heart and bones, and walnuts contain copper which may stop hair going grey.
O: Oral hygiene
Good oral hygiene gives you sweeter breath – and a longer life. According to research at the American Centers for Disease Control, people with gum disease are up to 46 per cent more likely to die prematurely because of its link to heart disease, stroke and a weaker immune system. And the British Dental Health Foundation has found that around 72,000 people a year miss work because of mouth and dental problems.
Don’t accidentally overdose by taking cold remedies that contain paracetamol when you’ve already taken it for a headache. ‘Too much can cause liver damage and even death,’ warns Boots pharmacist Angela Chalmers. ‘Always read the labels on all over-the-counter medicines so you know how to take them safely, and take aspirin or ibuprofen with food to avoid stomach irritation.’
Queasiness can result from overeating rich food, excess alcohol or from eating undercooked or infected foods, says Prima’s Dr Sarah Brewer. ‘Use a meat thermometer to ensure your turkey is cooked through. A probiotic supplement can help to reduce the chance of food poisoning.’
Stress is a major health saboteur, causing everything from insomnia and headaches to eating disorders and anger-management problems. And according to a poll by Rescue Remedy, 37 per cent of people find Christmas the most stressful celebration, just behind weddings. Look after yourself, take time out for exercise and rest and, in an acutely stressful situation, dose up on Rescue Remedy (£6.90 for 10ml from health-food stores) to help you keep calm and carry on.
If you’ve given up, don’t let yourself be sucked back in to the habit this Christmas. ‘A few puffs can make you want to finish the whole cigarette,’ says Dr Sarah Brewer. Remind yourself that smoking causes over 100,000 deaths a year. For help quitting, call Quitline on 0800 002 200.
Turkey is a very lean source of protein and has been shown to keep insulin levels in check. Among other festive foods, low fat chestnuts are packed with potassium and make a healthier stuffing base than sausage meat, and Brussels sprouts are a good source of vitamin C and the B vitamin folate, and are also high in fibre
U: Urinary tract infections
Don’t let a UTI strike when surgeries and pharmacies are closed. If you know you’re susceptible, stock up on Cystipret (£14.25 for 60 tablets from Boots). It’s a licensed herbal remedy and contains rosemary, lovage and centaury which can help prevent cystitis, and treat it in the early stages until the GP surgery reopens.
Use disinfectant around the home to keep your family free of Christmas bugs. Zoflora (£1.35 for 120ml from supermarkets) kills 99.9 per cent of the bacteria and viruses that are at their peak during Christmas, including H1N1 virus and salmonella. It comes in a festive cinnamon scent.
‘Drink 1.5 litres of water a day to increase your metabolic rate and lose excess Christmas weight,’ says diet expert, Jane Michell (www.janeplan.com). ‘Dehydration slows your metabolism rate, making weight loss harder.’ Fruit, vegetables and soups are all good sources of water.
Stay sweet while cutting down on sugar. Xylitol is low GI and has 40 per cent fewer calories than sugar. Use on food or in cooking just like sugar. Try Higher Nature ZyloSweet (£5.20 for 300g from health-food stores).
Promote a good night’s sleep with a warm bath and drink, a set bedtime and a dark room. For insomnia, Elizabeth Williamson of Reading University recommends a registered valerian product, such as NiteHerb (£5.99 for 30 tablets from www.niteherb.co.uk).
Take not just one deep breath, but six. Japanese research has found that taking six deep breaths in 30 seconds will lower your blood pressure.