Health

Balance your hormones over the holidays with sleep, moderation, and protein

Stress and parties during the holiday season can throw our hormones completely out of whack. Here are four tips to keep your body balanced

hormonal stress, holiday stress, stress management

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Perhaps it’s the mall crowds or the endless family gatherings, but somehow the supposedly joyous holiday season seems to throw our stress levels, and our hormones, completely out of whack. The hustle and bustle of this albeit short season can leave much of our hard won healthy lifestyle choices of the past year in the dust while also setting us up for a range of setbacks – and all just in time for our New Year’s resolutions. But have no fear – there are several simple tips you can use to stay balanced in the coming final weeks of 2010.

Focus on the Benefits of a Good Night’s Beauty Sleep: Let’s face it, no one feels good after endless nights of tossing, turning, mulling over to do lists and staring at the ceiling. The holidays are a prime time for those restless nights, often causing changes to our normal daily schedule. The result? Difficulty falling asleep, frequent waking, waking too early in the morning or simply a lack of refreshing sleep. No matter what the cause, or how it presents itself, a lack of sleep results in problematic daytime fatigue, poor concentration, low energy and motivation, irritability, compromised immunity and accelerated aging. After only a few nights of sleep deprivation, glucose tolerance tests make otherwise healthy people appear pre-diabetic, in that regulating blood sugar after a high- carbohydrate meal can take up to 40% longer than normal. Not a good thing in the sugar-laden holiday season! Besides making us feel lousy, even short-term sleep debt can certainly make us fat. So even if your days are hectic and your evenings are frenzied, making a good night’s rest a priority will make your days more manageable. Try to keep your sleep schedule on track by getting up and going to bed at the same time each day. Aim to be in bed before 11pm on most nights. It will also ensure you enjoy the most recuperative benefits of sleep since your body tends to recover most from stress in the hours before 2 am.

Toast the Holidays – In Moderation and With the Help of Additional B Vitamins: When filling your glass to toast the holiday season, strive to limit your consumption of alcohol, especially if you suspect an ensuing New Year’s resolution for weight loss. Alcohol is empty calories. It also tends to make us overeat because of its propensity to lower our defenses as well as our blood sugar levels, which later only leads to nasty junk food cravings after consumption. Alcohol depletes B vitamins essential for combating stress and maintaining your energy, mood and metabolism. Women should watch their intake as more than 1.5 glasses of wine at one time is not promoting for breast-health, nor is more than 4 glasses per week. While men should avoid more than 2.5 glasses in one sitting. If you do have an alcoholic drink with your dinner, you can avoid consuming too many carbohydrates by skipping the starch with your meal (like bread, potatoes, rice or pasta), keeping to lean protein and vegetables instead. Always take a B complex before and/or after having alcohol. If you find drinking has disrupted your sleep in the past, have some protein, like a handful of nuts, before going to bed to prevent the drop in blood sugar which can increase cortisol and lead to frequent waking.

Holiday Stress Is Inevitable – So Take Relora: The stress of the holidays is bad for your body composition, especially right around your tummy area. Stress causes cortisol to be released, which fuels appetite and makes us feel hungry, particularly for sugary and carb-laden treats, even when we have eaten enough. Overeating calorie-rich, nutrient-poor food then causes our blood sugar to spike, our insulin to soar and, eventually, more unwanted fat to collect around the abdomen. High cortisol levels weaken the body’s immune system, raise blood pressure and cholesterol, increase appetite, disrupt our normal sleep patterns, lower your libido increases cravings for sugar and carbs and more. It will also contribute to other hormonal imbalances and health conditions including PMS, infertility, thyroid disease, abnormal blood sugars. Nothing gets cortisol cranking quite like the holidays! I recommend that my patients add in Relora, one of my favorite de-stressing supplements, to stabilize their cortisol levels. Take 2 pills at night and 1 in the morning. A vitamin B complex (50mg 2-3 times per day) and vitamin c (1000mg 2-3 times per day) will also help you get through the holidays with ease. In studies, it has been shown to reduce cortisol and raise our anti-stress hormone in just two weeks.

Do a Dose of Protein with Your Indulges from the Dessert Table: It’s not a complicated formula and there is no doubt: more holiday dinners and parties equal increased challenges to control our portions and stifle our sweet tooth. Too many sweets over the holiday will, however, cause excess calories to be stored as fat – usually around the hips and waistline. So for starters, try picking the items you really want to try and “sample” them instead of having a large dish. It’s better to simply have a little taste than to completely deprive yourself, which may only lead to binging later on. And don’t neglect to add in a source of protein with your sweet treats. Although calories add up, the addition of protein source, such a small piece of low fat cheese, right along with your sweets will help to blunt the sugar rush, otherwise known as the high-glycemic effect of your indulgence, which ultimately leads to weight gain. Your waistline will appreciate the extra effort!

Natasha Turner, N.D. is a Toronto-based naturopathic doctor and founder of the Clear Medicine wellness boutique. She is also the author of the bestselling book The Hormone Diet