Tom Durkin
Special to The Union

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December 2, 2013
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5 tips for staying healthy during the holiday season

Now that Thanksgiving has kicked off the holiday season, The Union surveyed several local health experts by phone and email to learn what you can do to stay physically, mentally and emotionally healthy during what some people call the “holidaze.”

‘Take care of yourself’

Dr. Brian Evans, emergency room physician and vice president of Medical Affairs at Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital, doesn’t want to see you in the hospital. He offered this advice:

“First of all, take good care of yourself,” he said. “So often, you try to be everywhere and do everything during the holidays … and invariably get run down. Get plenty of sleep, exercise, eat nutritious food and stay hydrated.”

Also, “Protect against illness! Flu season is here, so hopefully you got the vaccination. Even if you didn’t, everyone should make a habit of washing hands with soap and warm water and avoiding unnecessary contact with anyone who has a cold.”

Finally, “Practice restraint! Many of us will enjoy a glass of wine or cocktail during the holiday parties. In fact, some of our relatives seem a lot easier to tolerate after a drink or two! But be careful. We see many patients who overdo the alcohol and wind up with an illness or injury. And if you are planning to drink, please designate a sober driver.”

Don’t abandon healthy habits

“The single best thing to do to take care of yourself during the holidays is to keep to your healthy routines,” stressed Dr. Marc Halpern, founder and president of the California College of Ayurveda in Nevada City. Ayurvedic (translated as “the science of life”) medicine is based on the 5,000-year-old tradition of Indian medicine.

“Don’t let the busyness of the holiday interfere with how you take care of yourself. If you work out or practice yoga on a regular schedule, continue to do so on the same schedule,” he said.

Eat right to stay right

“To help people stay healthy for the holidays I recommend that they follow the natural rhythm of the winter season. This means balancing the holiday activities with internally focused and quiet time, high-quality sleep and deeply nourishing foods,” advised Dr. Ilene Cristdahl, a naturopathic doctor and licensed acupuncturist.

“To support the immune system, I suggest fermented and cultured foods like yogurt, kefir and sauerkraut along with a good normal flora probiotic.”

Additionally, “Winter is the time of year for soups made from bone broths with dark green leafy vegetables, garlic and onions to provide the nutrients needed to handle the stress of the holiday season.”

Forgive the turkeys

Dr. Emmett Miller, a holistic physician who is one of the pioneers of mind-body medicine, had advice on eating healthy and thinking healthy:

“All of the food tastes good, but don’t just go for the most high-calorie things,” he said. “Save the stuff that’s not really on your diet, just for a little taste, after your belly is full. You’ll still enjoy it, but you won’t feel as much need to eat more.”

On a more spiritual note, he said, “It’s not really about the turkey. It’s about gratitude. By remembering gratitude, it creates mental, spiritual and emotional health.”

And, “We should also practice forgiveness. It shouldn’t be just President Obama’s turkey that gets forgiven. Extend it to all the other turkeys in your family,” he laughed.

Don’t wash that bird!

Unfortunately, it doesn’t have to go without saying: It is imperative to prepare food properly and store it safely. See Food Safety Tips for Holiday Feasts at http://mynevadacounty.com.

Along with the usual food safety advice, “The newest thing to come out from the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) in the last year is not to wash the poultry,” said Bill Lawrence, director of environmental health for Nevada County.

“You’re not really washing it. You’re just getting it wet,” he explained. Besides, cooking the bird correctly will kill any germs like salmonella. The problem with washing a bird, especially a big one in the kitchen sink, is that — if there are harmful bacteria on the bird — the splashing water could contaminate whatever it lands on, Lawrence explained.

Emotionally healthy

Psychologist Mollie Wilmot offered this advice for families in conflict:

“When painful memories from the past come up, instead of reacting and responding with a painful remark, say something kind and breathe deeply,” Wilmot said. “Then you will not only save yourself from pain, you will relieve the relative’s pain and begin the process of family healing.”

Wendy Conway, marriage and family therapist, offered a parable:

A young girl asked her grandmother what was the secret of her long and happy marriage.

The grandmother said, “I don’t take it personally.”

The granddaughter asked, “Take what personally?”

The grandmother replied, “Anything.”

Tom Durkin is a freelance writer and photographer in Nevada City. He can be contacted at tdurkin@vfr.net.


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The Union Updated Dec 3, 2013 02:21AM Published Dec 4, 2013 10:08PM Copyright 2013 The Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.