If like us, you know you’re going to drink, party and stuff your face over Christmas, go for it. Just build up your body’s ability to cope with the onslaught with our four week pre-Christmas pretox plan
Low-fat mince pies? A single glass of sparkling wine? Just one from the Selections box? We don’t think so. What’s Christmas without a stuffed belly, sad hangover and a crack-at-any-moment mood?
Well, we had a dream at Healthista Towers. We imagined a festivity fortnight where we could inflict the damage, without actually feeling its consequences. We’d eat for England, party till we dropped and even stay up all night gossiping with our favourite aunt over mulled wine and cold turkey – and still feel reasonably healthy at the end of it? Could it really be possible?
We took our dream to Healthista favourite, nutritional therapist Charlotte Watts, co-author of The De-Stress Diet, whose clients include city bankers, busy professsionals and mums without too much time on their hands to spend fussing over food.
By building up your metabolism, bolstering your adrenal glands (they govern stress, energy and sleep) and liver function (to help detox alcohol and handle fatty foods) as well as pumping up serotonin (mood-elevating) levels, Charlotte says it’s possible to survive Christmas healthy and happy.
Here’s the aim: in the four weeks before Christmas follow Healthista’s week-by-week Pretox plan. We have emphasised things you could add to your lifestyle and do when you can rather than things you should give up (hardly the time of year for it is it?). Then do what you like during the Christmas break. Chances are, by then you’ll have built up your health to such a degree that your body will not only survive Christmas, it may be ready to do it all again come January.
BANK UP SLEEP AND ENERGY – BOLSTER ADRENAL FUNCTION
There’ll be a few late nights if not an all-nighter or two. Your adrenals are two little endocrine glands that sit above the kidneys and help govern our adrenalin levels in and fight/flight responses when we’re under stress – like now. If you tick more than four of the symptoms below, chances are you’re living more often in this flight/flight mode than is healthy and your adrenals are depleted as a result. Build them up before Christmas and you could feel more relaxed, have more restful sleep and feel less like boiling your cousin’s head along with the pork shoulder.
Are my adrenals depleted? A checklist
- Waking regularly in the early hours, normally between 2am and 4am
- Not wanting to go out as much
- ashen face or grey palour
- Irritability, mood swings and poor concentration.
- Blood sugar problems, especially blood sugar lows with sudden cravings and energy drops
- Fluid retention and weight fluctuations
- Dry skin and poor wound healing
- Low blood pressure, or fluctuating blood pressure
- joint inflammation or muscle pain
- bloating and flatulence
WHAT TO ADD: Magnesium. This mineral is vital to adrenal function and our ability to soothe and calm ourselves. It’s found in supplements or almonds, avocados, fish, lean red meat or millet, a whole grain from health food stores (also available as flakes for cereal or porridge). Chromium This blood sugar support mineral is found in brown rice, dried beans, chicken, eggs and mushroom. Siberian ginseng as a tincture can also help boost energy by regulating adrenal function, not depleting it.
WHAT TO DO: Relax every day. Don’t wait for that holiday or even for the weekend. Do something every single day that has no other function than emptying your mind of chatter and helping your body let go – preferably with silence. This could be meditation, writing in a journal, gardening, painting, swimming or walking. Just do it for its own sake and forget goals or ends to meet. Remember it’s about relaxation, not competition. (read more: Meditation for Busy People)
GET CHAMPAGNE-READY – SUPPORT LIVER FUNCTION
From now and onwards there will be a few nights on the tiles. Your liver’s job is to deal with and expel the daily toxins that come it’s way – chemicals, fat and yes, alcohol. It produces enzymes that break down and neutralise toxins, but if it has to deal with too many toxins for too long, it too can become overloaded. Follow our liver-supporting and cleansing tips for the next three weeks you’ll help your liver’s ability to detoxify Christmas excess.
Is your liver overloaded? A checklist
- Overweight and/or puffy
- Lacklustre skin and hair
- Smoking or drinking too much
- Taking a lot of GP prescribed medicines
- Acne and oily skin
- Terrible hangovers
- General aches and pains
- Dark or yellow circles under the eyes
WHAT TO ADD: Dandelion A potent liver cleanser, use the greens in salads or try taking 30 drops of the herbal tincture morning and evening (try Fushi’s Dandelion Leaf Tincture £7.50 ). You can also drink dandelion coffee – buy the root from health food stores, it looks like dark brown cardamon pods, grind it in a blender and then make like normal coffee in a plunger. Add almond milk and you’ve a delicious dairy-free alternative to coffee that supports, rather than depletes your liver. Beetroot A potent detoxification supporting vegetable. Grate the fresh, raw variety in salads or juice it with carrot, apple, cucumber and ginger twice a week for the ultimate blood and liver cleanse. Or buy it as shots in Beet-It Sport £7.09 for a pack of five.
WHAT TO DO: Drink hot water and lemon on waking every morning. Lots of us know this but few actually do it. Lemons contain natural chemicals that help clean out the liver, similar to the way Fairy liquid works on your dishes. Try and keep this tip going throughout the Christmas period for a simple, extra boost.
PREPARE TO STAY ANNOYINGLY HAPPY – PUMP UP SEROTININ
If you have a tendency towards moodiness, Christmas is probably a bit a red zone for you. The problem might be low serotonin levels (see below). Serotonin has a direct effect on the nervous system and it’s ability to make us feel relaxed, sociable and happy. Your diet needs high levels of the amino acid tryptophan which it then converts to serotonin, and large amounts of vitamin B6, which aids this process. High sugar intake can cause this process to become unbalanced, leading to mood swings and yet more sugar cravings.
Are my serotonin levels compromised? A checklist
- Depression and mood swings
- Feelings of despair
- Emotional instability
- inability to cope with change (especially small changes or small mishaps during the day)
- Feeling unable to cope at home or at work
- Dreading winter and the lack of sunlight
- Problems with sleep
- Withdrawal from friends and family
- Stimulant abuse (especially alcohol and coffee) in an effort to feel good again
WHAT TO ADD: Low GI foods These will help keep your blood sugar stable. Try apples, berries and cherries, lentils, beans, sheeps’s or goat’s yoghurt, almonds, walnuts and jumbo oats. Tryptophan-rich foods Tryptophan is abundant in shrimp, snapper, salmon and scallops. If you’re not eating animal protein there are also vegetarian sources such as tofu, raw mushrooms, mustard greens, spinach, asparagus, cauliflower, kidney beans, Brussels sprouts and green string beans. (READ : Can’t Go On Without Chocolate?)
WHAT TO DO: Get out more. Whatever the weather, try spending an hour everyday outdoors, doing brisk exercise such as walking – for the next two weeks. Both sunlight and exercise are essential to boosting serotonin levels; both even more so with friends and laughter.
GO AHEAD, HAVE SECONDS – BOOST DIGESTIVE OOMPH NOW
Good digestion depends on a host of factors from whether you take time to chew your food to the amount of pure water you drink throughout the day. Additionally stress and tension affect digestion by shifting blood and circulation essential to digestion away from the intestines to the muscles and brain, leaving the digestive tract without enough blood to complete its work. Prolonged over time, this can lead to the following symptoms.
Is my digestion overloaded? I get:
- bloating and flatulence
- reflux and burping
- constipation or diarrhoea
- tired after eating, possibly with food allergies or sensitivities
- tummy aches and pains
- inflammation in other areas like skin and joints
WHAT TO ADD: Soya, almond, goat’s or sheep’s milk products. Cut back on dairy foods and experiment with dairy alternatives like these that are easier to digest for most people. Even supermarkets such as Waitrose and Sainsbury’s are now stocking sheep and goat’s milk products. When it comes to almond milk, our favourite is the unsweetened variety now available in supermarkets. Probiotics Good intestinal flora is essential to strong digestion. Take the highest quality probiotic supplement you can afford and ensure it contains lactobacillus acidophilus and lactobacillus bifidus and at least two billion live organism (the label should specify).
WHAT TO DO: Double the veggies. This week, eat twice the number of vegetables as protein at lunch and dinner and have them steamed, baked or raw. This will boost the amounts of digestive enzymes your body produces. Cut down on grains/starches at night This eases digestion and allows you to rest well. As the stomach produces acid to break down proteins and alkaline for carb digestion, these can neutralise each other in a weakened digestive tract and lead to you lying awake at night, with full-tummy insomnia. Don’t drink with meals Drinking water dilutes your known digestive juices and therefore slows down the process. If you avoid drinking while you eat, you’re forced to chew better, therefore creating more of your own essential digestive juices in the mouth. Hydrate between meals, leaving an hour either side so your body has enough fluid to create digestive juices.
For consultations, workshops, retreats and yoga classes with Charlotte Watts see www.charlottewattshealth.com
Publisher : Hay House UK
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