5 min read

Surviving the Festive Season

Published on
December 12, 2023
Zoe Summers
Zoe Summers is a degree-qualified Naturopath and Medical Herbalist.
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December and January is the time of year where weekends are filled with backyard barbeques, shifts in our exercise routine, and typically more alcohol and indulgent platter options. Often, by the time January rolls around, people can feel more sluggish and tired than usual, and suboptimal digestion. In this blog we will explore the effects of alcohol, liver detoxification, and some quick tips to keep your immune system strong, digestion firing, and hydration strategies to support those pesky hangovers. 

Nutrition Tips

Our main focus during this season of indulgence is supporting our blood sugars, hydration, gut bacteria and lining. 

Consuming a high protein breakfast before 10am

Protein supports our satiety, balances our blood sugars, reduces cravings, and helps create neurotransmitters and sex hormones. Consuming breakfast before 10am blunts our cortisol peak, and signals to the brain that we are safe. It also balances our blood sugar peak, resulting in less cravings and energy slumps in the afternoon. This step is even more important if you know you are out of the day and maybe only taking snacks, or if you are eating out with friends and family later.

Daily Movement and blood sugar regulation

Moving daily not only makes us feel good, but also helps our metabolism process the extra food and alcohol we may be consuming. It helps our muscles soak up glucose which will keep our blood sugars steady, our cravings minimal, and gets our lymphatic fluid moving throughout the body to improve our detoxification. 

Exercise after a late night is also beneficial, as we are temporarily insulin resistant after a poor night’s sleep. You don’t have to force yourself to the gym or do an intense HIIT circuit to get the benefits of exercise! It could be a 20-30 minute stroll along the beach or on your favourite track.

Hydration, hydration, hydration!

Unfortunately drinking 3-4L of straight water is not going to hydrate you effectively. We need electrolytes to maintain our cellular hydration, energy, brain functioning, and electrical gradient that runs between every one of our cells. Choosing an electrolyte supplement with higher sodium, potassium, and magnesium content will be more beneficial, particularly if you are exercising, consuming alcohol, or dancing or all night.

My favourite brand available in New Zealand is InSaltd. It contains higher amounts of  sodium, potassium, and magnesium to support your hydration and cellular energy. 

Increasing your intake of probiotic foods

Probiotics act like ‘seeds’ for our gut and can help to repopulate our microbiome post antibiotics, infection, or alcohol consumption. Add 1-2 servings of fermented food into your daily diet to support your gut microbiome.

  • Sauerkraut 
  • Kimchi 
  • Tempeh 
  • Natto 
  • Kombucha 
  • Keifer 
  • Yoghurt 
  • Apple cider vinegar (containing the mother)
Note *If you are a hayfever sufferer or naturally have high histamine symptoms like rhinitis, itchy eyes, red and itchy skin or heavy periods then these aren't the foods for you! Alcohol will already increase your histamine and therefore adding to the load with these probiotic foods won’t help.

Nutrients to support liver detoxification 

The B vitamin family comprises eight water-soluble vitamins and plays a crucial role in supporting the liver's detoxification processes for environmental toxins, hormones, and substances like alcohol. Additionally, these vitamins assist in metabolising our food and extracting energy from carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. Unfortunately, B vitamins are highly sensitive and can be adversely affected by food processing or cooking methods, and are easily depleted by the consumption of alcohol and coffee. Since our body has a limited capacity to store these vitamins, it is essential to ensure daily intake in sufficient amounts. Individuals facing severe depletion may want to consider consulting a healthcare practitioner to determine the appropriate supplementation for their specific needs.

Foods B vitamins are highest in, are:
  • Animal livers
  • Meat (red and white)
  • Dairy 
  • Legumes 
  • Wholegrains 
  • Eggs
  • Dark green leafy vegetables
Signs of a B vitamin deficiency
  • General weakness
  • Fatigue / lacking energy
  • Numbness or tingling in hands and feet
  • Loss of appetite 
  • Slow reflexes, or muscle weakness 
  • Scalloped tongue (wavy or rippled edges along the sides of the tongue)

Addressing the elephant in the room: Alcohol 

Alcohol is a neurotoxin that affects the nervous system. Aside from acting as a sedative and providing a ‘relaxing’ feeling after a hard day's work, it has some serious health implications even when drinking moderately. 

Ever wonder where hangovers come from?

Hangovers are caused by acetaldehyde accumulation, and are exacerbated when the liver is ‘busy’ dealing with additional toxins from our environment, chemicals in our skin care, caffeine, and sugar. 

How is alcohol affecting us?

We all know alcohol doesn't have any health benefits, but here are some specifics on what it is doing to our body.

Alcohol detrimental affects our gut bacteria, fostering an environment for opportunistic fungi and bacteria to over grow contributing to various health issues and systemic inflammation, including recurrent thrush, bowel disturbances, sugar cravings, and mental health disorders. Alcohol can also temporarily suppress our immune system, making us more susceptible to infection and inflammation, and flush out vital vitamins and minerals such as magnesium, zinc, iron, selenium, vitamin C, vitamin A, and the B vitamin family.

Reflecting on your personal boundaries 

While it’s nice to have a break from routine, I do encourage my clients to establish some personal boundaries for their holiday. The focus is not on perfection, unless you want it to be. The aim is to set more realistic goals for the period so we can still relax, but come back in January feeling good. Keep in mind that these goals and boundaries will look different for everyone!

In the table below you will find some examples of summer goals and personal boundaries. If you're planning to up your alcohol intake but want to be mindful of its impact on your body, consider setting a limit for yourself – like a specific number of drinks. Maybe you want to focus on a nourishing, high protein breakfast to start your day. If you don't have gym equipment at the beach or want a break from high intensity exercise, then focus on any movement that suits you, like surfing, beach walks, yoga, or paddle boarding.

Summer goals

1. Any form of daily movement (walk, yoga, run, weights, surf, paddle boarding, hike)

2. Have a high protein breakfast every morning

3. Drink at least 3-4L water + daily electrolytes 

Summer Boundaries

1. No more than 4-6 glasses of wine every week and no more than 2 in one sitting

2. Maximum 1 cup of coffee daily

3. Eating sweets mindfully and away from distractions

Most importantly, have a happy and healthy holiday season! We look forward to seeing you all back in clinic in the new year!

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