On the 22nd December, we have the Summer Solstice. On the 23rd December the sun moves into the Zodiac sign of Capricorn. Then on the 25th December we have Christmas Day! Hurrah!
There are lots of celestial events to celebrate in December, and by golly, even hermits find they have back-to-back nights out. So, how does one cope with the physical after effects of the Festive Season?
Herbs and nutritional supplements can be your companions during December’s party season, delivering a multitude of benefits. You will be the envy of your peers, looking bright eyed-and bushy tailed when they look grey, puffy and exhausted.
Herbs and Foods for the Liver
The liver is a vital organ in the body, undertaking a multitude of functions including:
• Making proteins and breaking down carbohydrates and fats (i.e. digestion)
• Production of cholesterol (the foundation of most hormones)
• Bile production to emulsify fat so we can excrete it via the bowels
• Breakdown of insulin and clearance of hormones such as oestrogen and progesterone
• Modification of toxic substances so they can be excreted by the body quickly and effectively
When we drink coffee and alcohol, the liver focuses on “modification of toxic substances” as coffee and alcohol are toxins to the body and a top priority for excretion. So, the other functions of the liver get de-prioritised, leading to:
• fatty stick stools (fat emulsion is low priority)
• upset stomachs and poor digestion (protein synthesis and manufacture of digestive enzymes are low priority)
• sugar cravings and energy highs and lows (carbohydrate metabolism and insulin issues)
• increased PMS and painful periods (hormone clearance is a low priority)
• fatigue due to early waking (in Traditional Chinese Medicine 1-3am is “Liver Time”).
To protect your liver during the Christmas period, Milk Thistle (botanical name “Silybum marianum”) is a great herb to take. It protects the liver cells against alcohol damage and it also regenerates the liver. Milk thistle is also known for its anti-nausea effect, and nausea is common in hangovers. There are no special warnings and precautions as regards its use, and no known interactions with pharmaceutical drugs. Hence it is a safe herb for everyone.
Foods that can help the liver include bitter leaves such as rocket, chicory or radicchio. They can help stimulate bile production, and help with fat metabolism. The juice of ¼ of a fresh lemon in warm water first thing in the morning after a big night out will also benefit the liver. If you want a coffee, see if your local cafe offers dandelion coffee, as that will nurture your liver and improve your digestion the day after a big night out.
Herbs and Foods for Fatigue
Having interrupted sleep due to late nights and drinking can make you feel fatigued during the festive season. Your body will react to this stress by producing adrenaline. As you continue to party with consecutive nights out, your body continues to produce adrenaline to keep you going. This can disrupt cortisol levels in the body, leading to fat around the abdomen. Adrenaline can also disrupt the thyroid which is responsible for metabolism. By improving how your body copes with stress, you can reduce your visceral fat and increase your energy levels during the Christmas period.
Siberian ginseng (botanical name “Eleutherococcus senticosus”) can improve mental and physical performance when you are tired at work. It can also minimise environmental and occupational stress. Siberian ginseng can also strengthen your body’s immune system, preventing you from getting sick when you are on holiday. It is also a tonic for the body, helping with exhaustion and fatigue from consecutive late nights.
Siberian ginseng should not be used when you are suffering from a cold or flu (as it can make you feel worse), but there are no known interactions with pharmaceutical medications.
Foods that are good for the kidney (in Traditional Chinese Medicine the kidney is associated with energy) include adzuki beans and kidney beans. Salty foods such as miso, seaweed, tamari and celtic sea salt are also good for a kidney that is low in energy. Walnuts and chestnuts are also beneficial for the kidney.
Herbs and Foods for Upset Stomachs
The stomach is thrown in at the deep end over the Christmas period. People who were once zealous about maintaining a “bikini” body are suddenly eating rich foods and doing Black Sambuca shots! So, are there strategies for protecting the stomach from attack during the Christmas Season? The herb Meadowsweet (Filependula ulmaria) was one of three herbs held sacred by the druids. It was a herb that played a role in the manufacture of asprin in the 19th century. Meadowsweet reduces stomach acidity and reduces indigestion and gastric reflux. It also protects and heals the mucosa in the upper gastrointestinal tract. It also benefits the urinary tract as it is an antiseptic, and it is anti-inflammatory.
Meadowsweet should be avoided by people who are allergic to asprin, or salycliates in general. Aside from this, it is a safe herb to use and should be taken before meals to balance stomach acid.
Herbal teas can also help with upset stomachs, and teas such as chamomile and peppermint are very calming and soothing to the stomach. Chamomile is also beneficial for the nerves which can feel frayed over the “Silly Season”. Something as simple as chewing food properly during Christmas meals can also alleviate upset stomachs. Put your knife and fork down in between mouthfuls, as this can help you eat slower during mealtimes.
Other general tips to ensure you can have fun and feel good the next morning include:
• Don’t drink on an empty stomach
• Drink lots of water to keep you hydrated during the evening
• Don’t accept every invitation you receive, try to rest in between parties
• Volunteer to be the designated driver so you are forced to have an alcohol free night
A few herbs, some beneficial foods and a few sensible nights amongst the chaos of Christmas can help you look good, and feel good, and be the envy of your peers!