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Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Holiday Survival Kit



Is it the best of times or the worst of times? When it comes to the holiday season, the decision can be difficult. Some people look forward to the bustle of family, friends and festivities. Others dread the stress, travel and insomnia that often accompany. To minimize the negatives, maximize the positives and stay healthy this holiday season, get your survival kit ready.

Lavender Essential Oil

Wherever the holidays take you this year, essential oil of lavender should follow. The most versatile of essential oils, it is gentle enough to be applied directly to the skin. Lavender essential oil can be used as a fragrance, an antiseptic for cuts and scrapes, or an anti-inflammatory agent to relieve pain and itching associated with insect stings. It can also be used as aromatherapy to promote relaxation and good sleep.

The quality of the oil can have a significant impact on its therapeutic effects, so choose essential oils carefully and avoid “fragrance oils.” There are many ways to reap the benefits: dab a drop on your skin, place a drop or two on a cotton ball next to your pillow, add several drops to a warm bubble bath or use an aromatherapy diffuser.

Rescue Remedy

A homeopathic dilution of flower essences, Rescue Remedy is formulated to correct emotional imbalances. It is most commonly used in situations of acute anxiety, such as fears of flying and hosting in-laws.

Rescue Remedy is safe, well-tolerated and available in most health food and supplement stores. It will not interact with pharmaceutical or natural medications, but it may interfere with other homeopathic remedies.

Alternatively, a homeopathic doctor can prescribe a constitutional remedy tailored to meet your individual needs, from holiday stress to chronic ailments.

Multiple Vitamin and Mineral Supplement

Whether you’re at home or away, your body needs at least seven servings of vegetables each day. If you can’t meet that goal, take a multiple vitamin and mineral (MVM) supplement to ensure that your body gets the nutrients it requires to stay healthy, especially during times of stress when your needs are greater.

But don’t use MVM supplements as excuses to eat poorly. When holiday meals present a challenge, sample rich dishes in small portions to make room on your plate for healthier choices. Eat slowly, chew your food well and finish the meal feeling satiated rather than stuffed.

Walking Shoes

Just as holidays are not an excuse to skip out on a healthy diet, neither are they a reason to skip regular workouts. But exercise doesn’t always have to involve a trip to the gym. Walking, carrying packages and running errands can count too, as long as your heart rate increases and you are on your feet for at least 30 minutes.

If you are traveling for the holidays, pack your walking shoes so you can exercise whenever and wherever the opportunity arises. Regular physical activity will improve energy, sleep, mood and your ability to handle holiday stress.

Green Tea

Traditionally, green tea has been used to improve resistance to disease. Research studies concur and scientists have found compounds in green tea called catechins. They have anti-bacterial, anti-cancer and anti-oxidant properties. Catechins can lower cholesterol, improve lipid metabolism and protect the liver against harmful free radicals generated by drinking alcohol. (If you’ll be drinking alcohol at a holiday party, increase your green tea consumption before and after the event.)

When you are short on time and sleep, choose green tea over coffee. Both contain caffeine, but green tea contains significantly less. Overuse of caffeine can have negative effects on your adrenal glands and the balance of stress hormones they produce. If you do drink coffee, limit yourself to one cup per day and drink green tea as well. If you are still tired, schedule more sleep.

Ginger

Ginger helps alleviate nausea and motion sickness associated with travel. It also stimulates digestion while protecting the lining of the stomach. Ginger has anti-inflammatory, anti-parasitic and anti-cancer actions.

For ginger tea, add ½ teaspoon fresh grated ginger (or more) to a cup of boiling water, cover for fifteen minutes, then strain.  Drink it hot or chill it for iced ginger tea.

Encapsulated ginger supplements are convenient for travel, but they are also more potent. If you will be taking ginger in a concentrated supplement form, ask your doctor about the best dosage for you.

Probiotics

Healthy bacteria, generally referred to as probiotics, are important for travelers. They help digest food, produce vitamins, aid the absorption of nutrients and reduce the risk of gastrointestinal infections.

Regular use of probiotics can help prevent colds and flu as well as digestive disturbances associated with food borne illness and travel to places with unfamiliar microbes. (Before you traveling to distant lands, educate yourself on any particular health risks in the areas you plan to visit.)

Melatonin

Whether you’re going by bus, train or plane, bring along an eye mask and ear plugs if you will be traveling during nighttime hours. Getting as much of your regular sleep as possible makes it less likely that you will suffer from jet lag, a common side effect of time zone changes.

The bigger the difference between your home zone and the one you visit, the bigger disruption in your daily circadian rhythm. To minimize adverse effects, never nap on the day you arrive in a new time zone. Stay awake until after dark to let the natural sunlight re-calibrate your internal clock.

If jet lag progresses to insomnia, melatonin can help your body get back on track. If you anticipate the need, talk to your doctor before you leave about the best dosage for you and ask about potential interactions with any medications or supplements you may be taking.