Yay! The holidays are here! Time to eat everything in sight, drink like a writer (heh) and sleep until the afternoon. Plus there’s all that wonderful family time you get to spend cooped up in the house while you sit around eating and drinking too much. Funnest time ever, right?
And after all this fun, fun, fun, you are of course going to feel bloated, stuffed, fat, hungover and pissed off at your brother/sister/parents/aunt/children. Because it’s just too much of everything (this is the season of excess) and it’s enough to drive you bananas.
It’s not surprising that lots of people have heart attacks at this time of year. And since the symptoms are often mistaken for indigestion, they are less likely to seek medical attention.
Nevertheless, most of us will go at the party thing whole hog. (My lampshade is at the dry cleaners as we speak.) But are there things we can do to avoid the usual traps and, if we do fall into them, things we can do to recover afterwards?
What the experts say
“The too-muchness of the holiday season has to do with the fact that we’re all desperately trying to fill the hole left by not having our expectations met. At some level we know that Santa doesn’t exist, but we like to think that someone’s there to make everything right for us. To make up for not getting the perfect gift or the perfect buzz with our siblings or parents, we eat and drink too much and stay up too late. It’s a way of denying that we feel bad at a time when everyone officially has to feel good. A very successful method of coping is to spend some time helping others who don’t have our advantages, giving to charities we’d normally ignore, spending time with people who are housebound – just reaching out.”
Stephen Van Beek, pychotherapist, founder of the Toronto Therapy Network
“Bitter vegetables such as escarole, endive or field greens stimulate liver activity, increase bile output and help with digestion in general, particularly if you’re consuming a lot of fatty foods. Artichokes are really good for the liver. Artichoke juice or juice extract is helpful; taking [some] before going to bed on a regular basis will keep people in pretty good shape through an intense partying period. Herbs such as gentian or premixed products like Swedish bitters are useful, too. Consult a practitioner before taking bitters if you are using pharmaceuticals.”
Graham Butler, herbalist, Oshawa
“Holiday heart syndrome is a term coined 10 or 15 years ago to describe a type of heart rhythm abnormality that tends to occur shortly after long weekends and festive holidays. It’s unrelated to a heart attack and is caused by rapid, irregular beating of the heart. It manifests as palpitations, lightheadedness, dizziness, shortness of breath and the unpleasant sensation of a rapid irregular heartbeat. It’s not life-threatening but is very bothersome and tends to occur in the days following higher than usual alcohol intake. If you are predisposed to having a heart attack, these things [overeating and drinking too much] are statistically slightly more likely to trigger one, but if you’re healthy, a couple of extra pieces of pie will not give you a heart attack.”
Paul Dorian, cardiologist, St. Michael’s Hospital, professor of medicine, University of Toronto
“The biggest problem with boozing is the aftermath. Carrot juice is a pretty good hangover cure. It’s rich in vitamins A, B and E and lots of other vitamins and minerals and is a decent liver support. Do a shot of lemon juice, which is a really great liver support. Having a little bit of food is important – some decent carbs with a little bit of protein. Apple cider vinegar with a tablespoon of honey in hot water is supposed to be a hangover cure. A few drops of chlorophyll in water is a great detoxer. Tymek’s pickles, made in Ontario, say on the label that [pickle juice] is a hangover cure. Think about supporting your liver with milk thistle. We do a detox party, which is a way to spend some healthy time with friends and family. It includes an infrared sauna, massage and a personalized blend of tea to suit your current health needs.”
Giselle Lily Lefebvre, naturopath, Toronto
“There are certain things you can do to avoid that holiday weight gain. If you’re at a party, go for protein and then vegetables and save dessert for dessert. The rule of thumb is to drink half your body weight in water, in ounces to pounds. For example, if you weigh 150 pounds, you should be drinking about 75 ounces of water a day. Opt for red wine over other alcoholic beverages; it has numerous health benefits, especially antioxidants. And follow every drink with a glass of water. Don’t give up your exercise routine. Keep active during the holidays.”
Patricia Gabryl, naturopath, Toronto