Keeping healthy for Christmas time

NOTE: The information contained in Megan Sheppard's column is not a substitute for medical advice. Always consult a doctor.

¦ I would appreciate some ideas on how to keep healthy over the Christmas period.

It is so difficult with work functions, family gatherings, and Christmas dinner.

>> For most people who eat healthily, exercise regularly, and generally look after themselves, a few excesses at this time of the year will not undermine their health. For those who have a tendency towards excess then indulgences carry a higher price.

As far as alcohol goes, it always pays to pace yourself by alternating alcoholic beverages with water, juice or even sparkling water with a twist of citrus. This serves to slow down the rate of intoxication, keep you hydrated and ensures you aren’t chugging back drinks simply because you’re thirsty.

It is also worth keeping an emergency electrolyte drink in the fridge, should you find yourself with a hangover despite your best efforts not to overindulge. I prefer to make my own by soaking eight to 10 dates in a litre of water overnight, then straining off the water (you can use the soaked dates to sweeten a smoothie) and adding 30ml of citrus juice, 1½ teaspoons of baking soda, and 1½ teaspoons of sea salt. You can add honey or agave to sweeten further if you prefer.

Many a Christmas dinner table leaves guests sleepy, bloated and in digestive discomfort, yet still unable to stop themselves from taking just one more bite of the delicious once-a-year delights on display in front of them.

Manuka honey, well-known for its antibacterial properties, is an excellent treatment for digestive disorders. Take a teaspoon before your meal to prevent indigestion and fight the bacteria responsible for stomach ulcers, gastroenteritis, and diarrhoea.

Manuka honey also has a prebiotic action, which simply means that it provides a food source for the beneficial gut bacteria. It is worth taking a probiotic supplement for at least a week leading up to Christmas to build up a supply of the good bacteria in your gut.

Instead of munching on bread and crackers which can trigger inflammation, blood sugar imbalances, and fluid retention, load up your plate with vegetables, add a moderate portion of protein, and go easy on the starchy and refined carbohydrates — this should keep your energy levels up and satiate the tastebuds at the same time.

By all means, enjoy your cake or dessert — if you have already filled up on vegetables your blood sugar shouldn’t spike and drop as it would if you were eating carb snacks before your meal.

To build energy levels, consider the supplement, CoEnzymeQ10 (CoQ10). It works as an antioxidant to protect the body from otherwise damaging free radicals — perfect for the festive season.

¦ I have recently developed a boil on my neck, which is painful and doesn’t seem to be clearing. How can I get rid of this?

>> Recurrent boils indicate that your immune system is not functioning as well as it should, and in some cases is an early sign of diabetes. One-off boils are often caused by stress, burning the candle at both ends or not eating as healthily as usual.

You can bring the boil to a head using neat tea-tree oil directly on the boil, re-applying two to three times a day. Tea tree is antibacterial and anti-fungal and will help to dislodge the infected material from the skin. Help soften the tissue by using a hot compress over the area.

Internally, make sure you are getting plenty of vitamin C, either through your diet or by using a supplement.


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