With the holiday season upon us and preparations in full swing, one of our readers who is a longtime dentist and health and wellness enthusiast has shared 10 tips for how to stay healthy, improve immunity and celebrate the start of a new year.
The Athens-born, Edinburgh-based Dr. Lena Kantzou suggests keeping a strong digestive system, balanced microbiome and a body that sleeps and recovers to make this Christmas a happy memory.
“We are going to need a strong body for the coming year too,” Kantzou says. “Possibly more than ever before.”
“Connect, communicate, move, sleep and eat well. Keep your body happy, and it will pay you back in multiple ways,” she says. “You are the most valuable asset you have so comfort and nourish yourself with positive thoughts and acts of kindness. Be the positive light this Christmas.”
10 Tips to Stay Healthy During the Holidays
1. We are 70% water. Start your day by drinking water; 2 glasses first thing in the morning are ideal to rinse the toxins out of your body, hydrate and prepare you for the day. And keep going, you need up to 6-7 glasses per day, ideally taking 1 glass before meals. (We may not want to think about it but this helps with poop)
2. Take a brisk walk every day, ideally after a meal, or exercise daily. If you feel too full after eating wait for 10-15 minutes. Do you know that dancing helps lower blood sugar and balances insulin? Our bodies need movement. It also helps our social skills.(And it helps with poop – are you noticing a theme?)
3. Goats do it right! Part One: Eat LOTS of plants! A Mediterranean diet is considered the best for health! Use loads of plants in your dishes and amazing Greek extra virgin olive oil (an excellent source of heart protective monounsaturated fats!). The extra meat or fish can be the accompanying part that gives the flavour. (And guess what it helps with? Yep, poop)
4. Goats do it right! Part Two: Start your meals with a colourful salad! It is good for digestion and decreases (hopefully), the main dish food intake, so we don’t wake up after Christmas feeling like balloons ready to explode! (This is going to get repetitive – helps with poop too)
5. Oh, my sweet! Try limiting your indulgence to one meal a day! Enjoy your kourabies and melomakarona (or chocolate, ice-cream, or whatever you fancy) but limit it to once a day and after a meal. Brush your teeth after you finish eating to keep a fresh taste and fresh breath for the social part that follows. (“And it helps with..?” No, you’re wrong, it helps with smiling)
6. You are not going to like this one! Moderate your alcohol intake. Red wine is full of goodness and antioxidants (resveratrol) with heart protecting qualities though too much alcohol would mean next morning hangovers, plus too many extra calories! Our wise ancestors added water to their wine in order not to lose control and have all the fun and goodness out of it. (This helps with sleep)
7. Balloon alert: Ideally, stop eating BEFORE you feel full. It is a really good habit for digestive health and leaves space for the dessert! Our digestive system tends to suffer from the festive extravaganza. If you do feel bloated, some grated ginger with a lemon juice and some honey as a tea will really help. (This too will help you sleep)
8. Sleep, baby sleep: Don’t go to bed directly after a meal. Leave at least 30 minutes before bedtime and perhaps try taking a walk. It keeps away most nightmares. Dream of the Greek islands in the summer and plan your vacations!
9. Boring but proven gold: Wind down, listen to some music, read a book, get out in the garden and engage in positive conversations with people you love and appreciate. Turn off social media notifications. The news is not going anywhere even if we don’t listen and stress about it today!
10. Dirty talk: Make your toilet routine a priority! A bloated uncomfortable tummy can affect your mood. A nice morning relief contributes to a happier day. Veggies in the diet, plenty of water, and exercise all help to maintain good gut health and strong immune system. If you need a little extra help, a magnesium supplement before bed with a glass of water does the job for most people. (Carefully read the labels and, or ask your physician if in doubt)
Wear your masks, isolate when necessary and follow the rules! We have a new beginning ahead, so let’s start it right and be our best selves!
About Dr. Lena Kantzou
Born in Athens and living just outside of Edinburgh, Scotland, Lena is a doctor of dental surgery, mother, forager, cook and dog owner. As a girl in Greece, she was taught the art of foraging and preparing delicious food from her grandparents. In Scotland, the abundance of wild edibles got her interested in gathering food from nature once again. Considering the health benefits from eating fresh, natural, unprocessed plants, sustainably harvested, in connection with nature, Lena changed her diet to a traditional Mediterranean one (consisting mostly of plants). She passionately started studying nutrition and the effects of lifestyle in health in 2018. She became a member of the British Society of Lifestyle Medicine, now holding a certificate from Winchester University. Having always been passionate about health, Lena now augments her dentistry with food-based lifestyle advice. Her latest commitment is culinary medicine studies in the United Kingdom.
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