The weather outside may be frightful, but that’s no reason to feel equally bad on the inside. When people think of the holidays, they often picture sitting by the fireplace, surrounded by loved ones, as snow gently falls outside. But for many, it is a hectic time, filled with last-minute shopping, family obligations, financial strain and many other stresses that spoil our days and plague our nights.

Here are five tips to help you stay healthy and happy all through the holidays:

1. It’s all about moderation: This year, opt for one glass of wine rather than five, and one slice of pie instead of the whole thing. While studies suggest an average holiday weight gain of just over one pound[i], it was also shown that those already overweight tended to gain much more, with a cumulative effect over the years. Not surprisingly, alcohol consumption also tends to spike during the holidays[ii]. The bottom line? Enjoy yourself, but balance the junk with enough healthy choices.

2. Don’t stress: Holiday stresses, along with the shorter, darker daylight hours associated with seasonal effective disorder (SAD), often contribute to anxiety and depression[iii]. To help beat the winter blues, many people turn to vitamin D3 supplementation, as well as full spectrum light therapy[iv]. Additionally, consider relaxation-promoting nutrients like magnesium bisglycinate[v], and gentle, non-sedating natural compounds like GABA and L-Theanine[vi].

3. We can work (it) out: Another great remedy for beating holiday stress is exercise. Hopping on the treadmill, lifting weights, or even taking a brisk walk can help you cruise through the season. Regular (30 minutes, 5 days a week), moderate intensity exercise can improve sleep, support digestion, and alleviate anxiety[vii].

4. Listen to your gut: When our gut isn’t happy, we aren’t happy (literally), with digestive imbalances linked to higher rates of anxiety and depression[viii], as well as a host of immune issues. Heal the gut with a healthy diet, high in fibre and probiotic-rich foods like yogurt and kimchi. Probiotic supplementation may also help reduce rates of respiratory infection and flu-like symptoms[ix], so consider a clinically-validated strain like Lactobacillus plantarum 299v[x].

5. “C” the difference: Nothing can stop holiday cheer in its tracks like a cold or flu. So this year, be sure to give your immune system a boost with vitamin C, whether from dietary sources like citrus fruit, berries, broccoli or sweet potato, or a high quality supplement. When choosing a supplement, consider a less-acidic form like Ester-C® that’s easy on digestion[xi], and proven to support the immune system for up to 24 hours[xii].

[i] Schoeller DA. The effect of holiday weight gain on body weight. Physiol Behav. 2014;134:66-9.
[ii] Kushnir V, Cunningham JA. Event-specific drinking in the general population. J Stud Alcohol Drugs. 2014;75(6):968-72.
[iii] Sansone RA, Sansone LA. The christmas effect on psychopathology. Innov Clin Neurosci. 2011;8(12):10-3.
[iv] Melrose S. Seasonal Affective Disorder: An Overview of Assessment and Treatment Approaches. Depress Res Treat. 2015;2015:178564.
[v] Boyle NB, Lawton C, Dye L. The Effects of Magnesium Supplementation on Subjective Anxiety and Stress-A Systematic Review. Nutrients. 2017;9(5)
[vi] Hidese S, Ogawa S, Ota M, et al. Effects of L-Theanine Administration on Stress-Related Symptoms and Cognitive Functions in Healthy Adults: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Nutrients. 2019;11(10)
[vii] Anderson E, Shivakumar G. Effects of exercise and physical activity on anxiety. Front Psychiatry. 2013;4:27.
[viii] Clapp M, Aurora N, Herrera L, Bhatia M, Wilen E, Wakefield S. Gut microbiota’s effect on mental health: The gut-brain axis. Clin Pract. 2017;7(4):987.
[ix] Zhang H, Yeh C, Jin Z, et al. Prospective study of probiotic supplementation results in immune stimulation and improvement of upper respiratory infection rate. Synth Syst Biotechnol. 2018;3(2):113-120.
[x] Herías MV, Hessle C, Telemo E, Midtvedt T, Hanson LA, Wold AE. Immunomodulatory effects of Lactobacillus plantarum colonizing the intestine of gnotobiotic rats. Clin Exp Immunol. 1999;116(2):283-90.
[xi] Lee JK, Jung SH, Lee SE, et al. Alleviation of ascorbic acid-induced gastric high acidity by calcium ascorbate and . Korean J Physiol Pharmacol. 2018;22(1):35-42.
[xii] Moyad MA, Combs MA, Vrablic AS, Velasquez J, Turner B, Bernal S. Vitamin C metabolites, independent of smoking status, significantly enhance leukocyte, but not plasma ascorbate concentrations. Adv Ther. 2008;25(10):995-1009.

About the Author: Dr. Erik Boudreau, ND

Dr. Erik Boudreau, ND

Dr. Erik Boudreau, ND is a Naturopathic Doctor practicing in Fort Langley, BC. He maintains a focus in immune support, men’s health, and integrative cancer care, and recently served as contributing author and associate editor for The Textbook of Naturopathic Oncology.