Three Tips to Survive the Holidays

By Jen Morganti, ND, NEEDS Education Director

The holidays are a time to spend with family and friends and create lovely memories, but do you ever feel like it’s all too much? Sometimes an excessively packed schedule and juggling family events can just cause too much stress! Then there are the challenges of resisting abundant unhealthy food choices, lacking time to exercise, and maybe not getting enough sleep. All these factors pile up and can throw off your mood, energy, and weight. There are a few simple tips you can try to minimize the unwanted side effects of the holiday season to help make it the fun and enjoyable season that it was meant to be.

TIP 1 Maintain your Outstanding Self-Discipline

Let’s face it, even the most disciplined person will feel challenged by the delicious treats that are kindly left on every table you pass during the holidays. Beautifully decorated holiday cookies, sweet and creamy eggnog, or rich and cheesy dips with crisp crackers tempt us as we go through the day. There’s a good trick to help dampen these temptations: if you don’t let yourself get hungry, you are less likely to indulge. So keep a stash of fresh veggies on hand and use them to prevent hunger. Filling up with low-calorie, high- fiber, healthy snacks will at least cut back the amount of treats you want to reach for. If you’re going to a holiday party, you can also take a natural appetite suppressant such as Hoodia to prevent overindulging.

Also, make sure you keep enzymes on hand wherever you go, to help deal with digesting large quantities of foods or foods you might be sensitive to.  Use a high-quality general enzyme formula, and  if you have a sensitivity to gluten, you might benefit from an enzyme formula that contains the Glutalytic enzyme to help break it down more effectively.

TIP 2 Maximize your Opportunities for Rest

Staying out too late, drinking too much alcohol and caffeine, or staying up wrapping gifts all night can interrupt your much needed sleep, leaving you groggy, fatigued, and possibly grouchy. Do your best to get eight hours every night, and if not, at least try to squeeze in a quick cat nap—they really do help! But if you have trouble sleeping and find yourself tossing and turning all night, herbs like valerian or hops will provide a relaxing sedative effect. If anxiety and excessive thoughts keep you awake, try anxiolytic herbs and nutrients such as holy basil, kava, GABA, and               L-theanine to calm your mind and prepare for rest. These are also great for daytime use because they do not have sedative properties.

TIP 3 Take Time for YOU 

If you find that you have too many social activities planned to the point of exhaustion, be sure to balance it with a little alone time too. Go for a walk, or sit and meditate to rebalance, or just take some time to appreciate all the blessings in your life. After all, isn’t that what the season is really all about?   

My Favorite Supplements for Stress Relief

By Shannon Morehouse, MA, CHHCShannonHeadshot

This is my top-choice. Magnesium is a natural relaxant. It relaxes your muscles and your mind.  Because it is a sedative, I recommend taking before bed. It helps combat insomnia; it also helps with headaches. Take an Epsom salt bath; you will get the benefits of YOU time and the magnesium from the salts will not only relax your sore/tired muscles, but also, will seep into your skin and enter your bloodstream quickly. Recommended Dosage: 300-400 mg.

Omega-3 Fish Oil
Our brain is highly reliant on healthy fats to function optimally. Several studies point to fish oil for cognition and relief of depression and anxiety. Omega-3s have been shown to help produce dopamine and serotonin. I recommend Nordic Naturals, Wiley’s Finest, or the Minami brand. A good dosage is around 1,000 mg a day.

Holy Basil
Holy Basil (aka Tulsi) is something I take daily in the form of Organic India’s Tulsi tea…over 20 flavors to choose from! It is an adaptogenic herb that helps reduce cortisol and regulates blood-sugar. If you take it in supplement form, research confirms that 500 mg twice a day is extremely effective at reducing anxiety.

The B vitamins are essential when it comes to reducing stress. These vitamins regulate the nervous system. Because all the B vitamins are effective for boosting energy and reducing stress. I recommend taking it in complex form. Here is a summary of the major B vitamins:

B1 (Thamine):
          B1 can increase energy and improve fuzzy thinking (University of Wales Study)
          Recommended Dosage 50 mg + a day
          Note: Excess carbohydrates deplete B1 levels

B-5 (Pantothenic Acid):
          Mood-enhancing and calming effect by helping in the production of serotonin and reducing secretion of cortiso
          Helpful for fatigued adrenal glands
          Helpful for people with migraines, chronic fatigue syndrome, or trying to curb drinking or smoking
          Helps to convert fat, protein, carbs into energy
          Recommended dosage: 50-250 mg once or twice daily

          Reduces irritability, tension, and anxiety
          B6 works with folate, B12, and tryptophan to make serotonin
          Can reduce PMS symptoms
          Dosage: 50-120 mg, especially helpful when taken in B complex form 

An adaptogenic herb, Rhodiola uniquely prompts a relaxing energetic state. It helps with many coinciding symptoms of depression, such as difficulty concentrating and mental fog. A good dosage to take is 100-400 mg a day.  Because of its energy-prompting properties, it’s best to take Rhodiola in the morning. 

GABA (Gamma-aminobutyric acid)
GABA is a neurotransmitter in our Central Nervous System. GABA is unique in that it functions in the adult human brain as the primary inhibitor and calmng agent for excitatory neurotransmitters which are firing too rapidly. Some things we do can produce GABA (such as yoga), but many find it to extremely beneficial to supplement GABA-producing lifestyle choices with GABA in supplement form. In fact, this is my top-choice for an “as needed” supplement for many situations: periods of having difficulty sleeping, periods of lacking the ability to concentrate, and also just before your menstrual cycle. It has been referred to as “nature’s valium” because of the calming effect it can exert. Many correlations have been established between low GABA levels and people who have trouble sleeping, those with depression, inability to focus or maintain attention, people with anxiety disorders, drug and alcohol addicts, and those suffering with panic attacks. Many research studies also demonstrate its ability to ease premenstrual moodiness and depression. Studies also show that it balances blood-sugar. Because of GABA’s beneficial calming ability, increasing GABA production results in an improvement in symptoms among those with deficiencies. I recommend taking it in sublingual form as it helps you to absorb it quickly. You can take this in varying dosages; I find that 250 mg in sublingual form works similarly to 750 mg in tablet form.

An adapotogen like Holy Basil and Rhodiola, Ashwaganda helps combat both physiological and psychological stress. An effective dosage is 300-600 mg a day. 

Ignatia is a homeopathic to take when struggling with grief. It is also helpful for nervousness and general moodiness. Dosage: three 30 c pellets every 6 hours. In times of extreme distress, three 200 c pellets every 8 hours. 

Shown to increase levels of GABA and dopamine in the brain, L-Theanine is helpful for those struggling with anxiety. A safe dosage is 200-400 mg a day or you can start by drinking decaffeinated green tea to see if that helps.

Stress and Your Health

By Laurel Sterling Prisco, MA, RD, CN

StressedI have read that stress-related issues account for 90% of doctor’s visits per year. Oh my! Now…is anyone TRULY stress-free?? I highly doubt it, but how we choose to manage it plays a huge part. Some people release it in healthy and constructive ways and others do not. Some individuals may internalize their stress, and in these individuals it will eventually manifest in one way or another in their body. For instance, have you ever noticed when you’re stressed out and you suddenly feel an ache (headache, backache, stomach ache, etc.) somewhere in your body?

Stress is not only emotional, but also, it has many physical and chemical effects.

How does the cascade happen?? Well, in the brain, the hypothalamus signals the pituitary gland, which then increases its production of the adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH). The ACTH signals the adrenals to release the stress hormone cortisol and cortisone; these tend to inhibit white blood cells and suppress the immune system. This entire process initiates a pro- inflammatory cascade of events. This response triggers the body to excrete amino acids, and many minerals/electrolytes. The body ends up becoming deficient in many nutrients and it cannot replace them quick enough!

How do you prevent this cascade from causing such brutal effects?

  • First of all, a high-quality, well-absorbed multi-vitamin should be the basis of your supplemental regime.
  • B-vitamins are crucial in these higher times of stress. They replete the adrenals which use them up at a fast rate. All B vitamins are necessary in the proper functioning of the nervous system. A well-absorbed B-complex like Nature-Tyme’s B-Healthy would be a great recommendation.  Take one in the mid –afternoon with a meal.
  • Magnesium regulates more than 325 enzymes in the body. This mineral is actively involved in enzymes’ energy production, helps synthesize protein, aids in the transmission of nerve signals, and helps relax muscles. It helps to keep adrenal stress hormones under control. Our soil is severely depleted in this mineral, and thus our foods are as well. That is unless the food is organic (Rutgers University study). Start with 300 mg of a citrate or glycinate form at bedtime, and then gradually add 300 mg more in at another point in the day as bowels tolerate.
  • Vitamin C with bioflavonoids is essential to the adrenal gland functioning. Try anywhere from 2-4 g/day in divided doses. Too much of this can cause the bowls to loosen similar to the magnesium; therefore, start with 1 g and then work your way up.
  • Try adaptogenic herbs, which help the body to adapt to various stresses. Ashwaganda assists the adrenals in normalizing stress levels and acts as a sedative and nerve tonic. Holy Basil helps lower cortisol levels and regulates blood sugar. Rhodiola rosea supports the functioning of the adrenal glands and also helps normalize cortisol levels and other stress-related hormones.
  • Relora is a blend of Phellodendron and Magnolia extracts. Researchers discovered a synergistic anti-anxiety effect, as well as, improvement in sleep, and a decrease in sweet cravings.
  • L-theanine is an amino acid found in green tea that exerts a relaxing, yet non-drowsy effect.
  • PS phosphatidylserine is a natural phospholipid that is an essential component of our cell membranes. It protects against stress and decreases cortisol levels.

There are combination formulas as well like: Stress Assist by Futurebiotics, Adrenal Health by Gaia Herbs, MegaFood’s Adrenal Strength, and others. These formulas coordinate many of these elements into a single formula making the effort to relieve stress a bit easier.


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