How to survive during the holidays? How to live through Christmas undamaged?   

The last month of the year is coming with its whole snow beauty, full of holidays and vacation days: Students’ day, Christmas parties, St Nicholas’ day, Christmas, New Year’s Day and many name days. December is also probably the month in which people gain most kilograms. Usually, we exercise less and eat more in winter, and the holidays often contribute to much more abuse.

In Christian countries (catholic and orthodox), there are traditions for almost compulsory intake of serious quantities of food, together with alcoholic beverages in the course of several days. The frequent abuses with foods and beverages together with endless parties for the younger or uneventful bedsore for hours in front of the TV at home for the older, logically lead to numerous unpleasant symptoms from the organism, starting from the lightest stomach complaints – heartburn, heaviness, swelling, bloating, diarrhea and leading to nausea, vomiting, high blood pressure, food intoxications, hypertensive crises, allergic reactions, severe hangover and whatnot.

Too much food and alcohol reflects badly mainly on the gastro-intestinal tract – stomach, gallbladder, liver and pancreas. Consumed in inappropriate quantity and proportions after serious heat treatment, the tasty but “dead” food turns into poison for our cells. It depletes our reserves of digestive enzymes which causes the unprocessed food to break down into toxic substances which are distributed via the bloodstream to all organs and systems and harm them. Thus, as a result of only several days of overeating and the occurred intoxication, forgotten health problem can emerge or we can become more vulnerable to new diseases.

Here are the diseases we can provoke from overeating:

  1. Gastro-esophageal reflux disease (GERD)

GERD is the most frequent disease of the esophagus, presenting with a return (reflux) of stomach content in it and results in damage of the lining. The main cause is relaxation of the lower esophageal sphincter (situated at the border between the esophagus and the stomach).

Sphincter’s pressure is lowest in the period of feeding and highest during the night. The increase of the intra-abdominal pressure, stomach dilatation, some foods and medications lower this pressure and provoke reflux. Foods which provoke complaints are fatty foods, citruses, alcohol, coffee, chocolate, mint, tomatoes and tomato juice. Reflux can occur when lying on the back, lifting heavy things or body tightening right after meal.

Hygiene measures in GERD:

– elevation of the upper part of the body

– change of the diet

– early dinner; no food before going to bed

– intake of low-caloric and low-fat food for dinner

– exclusion of citrus juices, tomatoes and tomato juice, coffee, alcohol and chocolate

– losing weight

– limit the use of medications provoking reflux

– avoidance of early going to bed after eating

– not to wear narrow, tight clothes

– avoidance of smoking

In cases of reflux what the specialists recommend is not only a change in lifestyle but also careful selection of the menu and a possible intake of antacids – H2 blockers (Ranitidine, Famotidine) or proton-pump inhibitors (Omeprazole, Nexium).

  1. Gallstones (Cholelithiasis)

Cholelithiasis is a disease which goes with the formation of stones in the bile ducts. They obstruct them and eventually cause inflammation. Foods which provoke complaints are bacon, yolks, chocolate, fat meats, meals rich in fats, alcohol, coffee, cold or highly carbonated drinks. Symptoms are usually provoked after large meals, but it is characteristic they occur after a dietary mistake in people with predisposition to this disease. The mentioned foods possess cholecysto kinetic effect (they stimulate bile movement) and thus the preformed stones start to move in the bile ducts and usually obstruct them in a narrow place where they cannot pass through.

Symptoms of biliary colic usually begin with a feeling of heaviness and stretching in the right hypochondrium, flatulence and nausea. The pain occurs most often suddenly and in the night, and can be constant or colic-like. It may last from 15 minutes to 24 hours and disappears spontaneously or after analgesics. Frequently the pain moves from the right hypochondrium to the back and the right shoulder. Patients may vomit in very strong crisis.

It is necessary to make echography to obtain the diagnosis – you can see quite clearly the stones and the biliary sludge.

The treatment of cholelithiasis in light cases includes restriction of the above mentioned foods which provoke crisis, taking more vegetable foods which are rich in fibers and frequent and small in amounts meals. In all other cases surgery is the only solution for this type of disease.

In biliary colic analgesics, spasmolytics or a combination of both is applied in cases of biliary colic (Papaverine, No-Spa, Buscolysin).

  1. Acute pancreatitis

Acute pancreatitis is an acute inflammation of the pancreas in which under the influence of outside factors the glandular enzymes are activated and start to auto digest the gland. The abundant overeating and/or the consumption of large amounts of alcohol are one of the main causes for acute pancreatitis. This is a disease which requires emergency medical care and often is a reason for acute abdomen. It affects men more frequently and women with gallstone disease as well.

Foods which provoke complaints are bacon, meals rich in fats, overeating and alcohol as a main cause.

Symptomatology is dominated by pain which is very strong, begins sharply, with permanent character and lasts for hours without relief. It often moves to both hypochondria and the waist. Patients vomit but without any relief. In order to relief the pain a little they stay in a pose called “Mohammedan praying position” (with knees bent towards the body). Usually patients are scared, anxious and sweating, the conscious may be impaired or they are disorientated, and many of them may become icteric soon after the onset of symptoms.

The diagnosis may be set right after the physical exam or with echography. Laboratory tests are also necessary to be made.

Treatment is mandatory in hospital settings. When such a pain occurs it is necessary to seek medical help. Patients should restrict the intake of foods and liquids for 3-5 days. After discharge from the hospital they should follow a light regime, i.e. to choose carefully their menu and to restrict maximally alcohol intake.

 

  1. Acute gastritis

Acute gastritis is inflammatory disease of the stomach which is caused by different exogenous and endogenous factors and goes with the formation of multiple erosions of the stomach lining.

Alcohol and different types of medications may cause inflammation and provoke abdominal pain. The intake of excessive amounts of food also can cause symptoms.

The symptoms are abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting, weakness and lack of appetite.

Treatment: The disease usually has a favorable course and the patient gets well fast with a light dietary regime. It is necessary to consume mainly liquids in the first days – tea, rosehip infusion, apple juice and not to eat food. Light soups, curd, steamed meat are included in the diet the following days. Coffee, strong tea, carbonated drinks, alcohol and irritating spices are excluded. It is possible to take H2-blockers, proton pump inhibitors or analgesics in cases of severe pain.

 

  1. Irritable bowel syndrome

Conditions like swollen abdomen, meteorism (increased intestinal gas production), malaise and impaired regimen of defecation often occur during the holidays. They also occur frequently in stress conditions or food intolerance – towards carbohydrates, milk etc., but also in cases of impaired daily habits.

The symptoms are abdominal pain, which is localized around the umbilicus and decreases after defecation. Alternation of constipation with diarrhea and increased gas formation is often seen.

Diagnosis is set on the base of the symptoms but organic disease should be excluded.

Treatment includes a change in the process of eating – patients should eat slowly, exclude carbonated drinks and artificial sweeteners, avoid fatty food, beans, alcohol, caffeine. It is necessary to add fibers in the food and to consume more vegetables and fruits.

It was found that the amount of food that doesn’t lead to overeating and stomach distention is 800 g together with the liquids. This is the mean volume of the stomach and that’s why it’s not healthy to let it take more.

Most of the orthodox Christians do the Nativity Fast and it is important to mention that there should be a period of time after the fast in which the organism to be fed carefully with normal meals in small portions, with more liquid foods, bouillons and less spices.

Here are some healthy rules and tricks to go through the coming holidays in the most unharmed way:

 

Be careful with alcohol!

Alcohol is classified as macronutrient. One gram contains 7 kcal which means it has almost two times more calories than proteins and carbohydrates. In addition to its high caloric nature, alcohol is consumed with aromatized, carbonated and sweetened drinks in most of the cases. Although it is a macronutrient, it cannot be metabolized in the same way as fats, proteins and carbohydrates. On the contrary, it prevents the proper absorption of the other nutrients. Drinking relaxes, but its overuse leads to excessive intake of calories, body intoxication, and the result is a hangover, you will receive on the next day. Alcohol induced headache is officially incurable according to the last materials published in British Medical Journal – neither aspirin and bananas, nor water can help. There’s no scientific proof any of these works. The only solution which works is not to drink or to drink less.

Look at the following example:

4 sweetened Light alcoholic drinks 200ml each = 1080 kcal

2 vodka’s cocktails = 278 kcal

2 vodka’s shots with ice = 138 kcal

Total: around 1500 kcal only from drinks

It is easily seen that moderate alcohol consumption at one party is equivalent to the energy intake which is recommended in normal condition for A WHOLE DAY!


Don’t miss a meal

Try to provide four- or five-fold food intake in order to avoid overeating with the main courses. So, have at least two middle courses in between. I give you several examples to ease your choice:

Breakfast: 250-350kcal in the form of any slow carbohydrate and some protein or oatmeal desserts with milk – 200g, oatmeal pancake, wholegrain sandwich with olive paste, a piece of salmon, cheeses.

Middle course can be a fresh – 300ml, fruit – middle-sized apple, cappuccino – around 100-200kcal, fruit yoghurt – 200g /beaten yoghurt with a fruit/.

Lunch should always include a salad or steamed vegetables, leafy, tomatoes, cucumbers, 20g cheese – a portion around 250-300g and dressed with one tablespoon olive oil and very little or no salt.

Soup is a good choice for lunch (300ml vegetable minestrone or cream soup – around 300kcal), pasta, pizza and rice are good to be consumed at lunch – if we can choose, we prefer integral flour and few or no sausages on the dough, and rice – no more than 200g per serving!

The afternoon middle course may be fruit again, cheeses by choice but up to 100g and low-fat if possible, yoghurt, dark chocolate – max 4 bars or 28g.

For dinner eat pure meat, cooked in all manners except frying. Be careful with the sauces. They are very caloric, especially those with cheese and the BBQ sauce which has a lot of sugar. So, do not overdo, just for taste, and don’t forget the more additives we put in food the more its real taste is lost.

Hydrate yourselves!

Cells need water to work properly. When the body is dehydrated, metabolism slows down, headaches, cramps etc. occur.

The recommended daily dose for most of the people is 8 glasses a day. Of course, this dose may vary for the different days depending on whether and how you will exercise. Another low-caloric hydrating alternative is herbal tea /green, ginger, mint/.


Every offence should be compensated with certain amount of movement, however in time.

Here is a short reference :

Offence Quantity kCal Fast walking
Running Bicylce Swimming
Chips 100 g 545 3 h 1:20 h 1:40 h 1:05 h
Chocolate 60 g 270 1,5 h 38 min 50 min 33 min
Sausage 130 g 373 2:05 h 53 min 1:09 h 45 min
Muesli bar 31 g 129 43 min 18 min 24 min 16 min
Jellybeans 18 candies 162 54 min 23 min 30 min 20 min
Blueberry muffin 1 normal 447 2,5 h 1:04 h 1:23 h 54 min
Ice cream 2 топки 256 26 min 37 min 48 min 31 min
Chocolate smoothie 650 ml 446 2.5 h 1:04 h 1:23 h 54 min
Black chocolate 4 парчета 210 1:11 h 30 min 39 min 25 min
Chocolate biscuit 2 бр 198 1:06 h 28 min 37 min 24 min
Popcorn Small-36g 186 57 min 24 min 31 min 20 min
Pizza 1 piece 362 2 h 1:07 h 52 min 44 min
French fries Middle portion 405 2:16 h 58 min 1:15 h 49 min
Soft drinks
600 ml 244 1:22 h 35 min 45 min 30 min
Red wine 150 ml, 1 glass 244 1:22 h 35 min 45 min 30 min
Vodka shot 30 ml 69 23 min 10 min 13 min 8 min

 

Reduce stress

Christmas month is said to be the best day of the year. So it’s hard not to fall into the trap of huge expectations – which means you will feel terribly stressed and dissatisfied. The more regular amounts of stress during the Christmas holidays may be overcome with yoga, walking, running and swimming, or taking a warm bath.

Physical exercises reduce anxiety and mild depression and increase self-esteem – things that are useful at any time of the year.

Don’t reduce sleeping time – it often happens in regard of parties, alcohol and excitement.

Be prepared:

  • Combine meals with large volumes and less calories /salads, soups and beverages/ with concentrated meals /stuffed cabbage or vine leaves, beans, casseroles, pasta, dried fruits and nuts/. In this way, the water content and fibers in the low-caloric large meals will slow down carbohydrate and protein absorption in the first phase of digestion and will prevent overeating.
  • We would not have thought of activated charcoal if we don’t have stomach discomfort. However, it is much more valuable as it removes immediately all harmful substances gathered in the previous evening. If we are provident, we can have one or two pills before a “heavy” evening and thus we will hardly feel any discomfort on the next morning because toxins will be “destroyed”.
  • Always carry enzyme medication with you. Overeating, especially with protein foods, leads to depletion of digestive enzymes and increased acidity in the blood.

 

THE BIGGEST MISTAKES OF HOLIDAY OVEREATING:

  1. To overeat with sweet, chocolate or dried fruits – leads to hyperglycemia which causes excitability, fatigue, fluctuations in blood pressure.
  2. To overeat with nuts /walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds/ and legumes /beans, lentils, peanuts, cashews/ – leads to stomach aches and swelling, flatulence and serious constipation. They may cause poisoning, and the nuts are hardly swollen.
  3. To overeat with meat /dry, grilled/ is the commonest mistake especially in combination with alcohol. This combination leads to decreased liver function as it has to metabolize the amino acids and toxic products.

 

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