20 Supplements for a Healthy Holiday Season
Faster than you can scream “I was already waiting for that parking spot!” the holidays will be upon us. And while this fast-approaching time of year can be one of reflection, family and celebration, let’s not forget that we’re still human.
Remarkably, far too many of us unwillingly subject ourselves to a seemingly inhuman holiday to-do list. What’s even more remarkable is that this list actually seems to grow with each passing year. Crowded shopping malls, unexplainable overeating, mind-numbing family stories, and deadly flu strains can leave even the most health-savvy individual physically, emotionally and nutritionally drained.
Don’t fret. This business of science and nutrition is a remarkable one, and has afforded us with a wealth of supplements that can help support the five major areas of vulnerability during the holiday season. Let’s examine each, individually.
Phosphatidyl Serine – This potent phospholipid is a vital component of cognitive health, and plays an important role in the billions of neurotransmissions that take place each second within the body. It has been shown to help improve the quality of electrical impulses, making it much more possible to juggle the hundreds of tasks that surface during the holidays. (1)
GABA – As joyous as they are, the holidays have the uncanny ability to send our brains into a decision making frenzy. GABA is a naturally occurring amino acid that works by preventing neurotransmitters from over firing during high periods of stress and anxiety. (2)
St. John’s Wort – The extracts of this summer perennial contain hypericin - a natural pigment that has been shown to help balance mood by encouraging the brain’s natural production and activity of serotonin. Many have also used it to help overcome brief stints of insomnia and restlessness, as well. (3)
Omega-3 Fish Oil – A now famous 1999 Harvard study was among the very fist to conclude that the EPA and DHA compounds in omega-3 essential fatty acids seem to have a very positive impact on how well the body handles many form stress and anxiety. Their beneficial effects are in no way limited to stress, though. Fish oil plays a number of roles within the body that can influence holiday wellness, and year-round health. (4)
COLD and FLU
Olive Leaf – Nothing can spoil the spirit of the season faster than an untimely bout with the flu or common cold. The leaves of Olive trees (Olea Europaea) trees contain high concentrations of oleuropeins. These powerful compounds help eliminate foreign microbes while promoting a responsive immune system. (5)
Zinc Lozenges – When taken at the first sign of a cold or flu, zinc lozenges shower the throat with a potent layer of immune-enhancing compounds. This creates an environment that is unfavorable to many of microbes and viral infections that commonly wreak havoc during the cold, winter months. (6)
Ester-C with Bioflavonoids – Ester C is a powerful free radical fighter that’s been used by millions to protect cells from the damaging effects of oxidation. In addition, it’s essential to virtually every aspect of human life. When coupled with bioflavonoids, the synergistic effects help increase its overall effectiveness and bioavailability. (7)
Mushroom extracts – Medicinal mushroom extracts such as Shiitake, Reishi and Maitake contain some of the most powerful immune-boosting compounds available – 1,3 beta glucans. These naturally-occurring cell guardians have been shown to help support innate and adaptive immunity by stimulating the production of NK (natural killer) cells & white blood cells. (8)
Pysllium – During the holidays, the digestive system is subject to foods and other goodies that come only once a year. Sadly, most of these holiday treats lack fiber, making digestion an arduous task. Psyllium is an effective natural source of soluble fiber with remarkable bulking abilities. When taken with plenty of water, it can serve as a smart way to ensure that there’s always room for one last bite. (9)
Milk Thistle – A month of high-powered egg nog, champagne toasts, holiday parties and new years celebrations can take a serious toll on the efficacy of the liver. Milk thistle is a safe herbal extract that has been used for thousands of years to help cleanse and purify the liver, while increasing the flow of bile for healthy digestion. (10)
Acidophilus – Mere mention of the word bacteria can make most people cringe. However, it’s important to remember the body relies on many “friendly” bacteria to help with digestion, metabolism and gastrointestinal infections. Acidophilus is a probiotic that has been shown to support optimal digestion. (11)
Digestive Enzymes – It’s bad enough that a large percentage of Americans suffer from some form of enzymatic deficiency. When you factor in holiday overeating, the need for additional digestive enzymes becomes even more important. Look for a formula that contains a versatile mix of enzymes, clearly stating its “active units” and milligrams per serving. (12)
CLA (Conjugated linoleic acid) – Since its introduction in the mid-1990s, CLA has been used by millions to help support a healthy physique. A number of clinical studies have demonstrated its ability to help preserve lean muscle tissues while breaking down stored fat that can then be used for energy and metabolism. (13)
Kelp – Before the body can even begin to metabolize those extra holiday calories, it must have the right mix of nutrients present in order to produce thyroid hormones. Iodine is one of the most important, and mandatory for the production of T3 and T4 thyroid hormones. Kelp is an excellent source of iodine, and a smart way to support a healthy thyroid. (14)
Citrimax – Hydroxy-citric acid (HCA) provides a natural, non-stimulating thermogenic effect that has helped scores of physique-minded individuals reach their dietary goals. Many users take it with Chromium and Kelp to increase its effectiveness. (15)
Relora – By now, it’s safe to assume that most of us have seen at least one ad on TV that talks about the stress hormone cortisol. Relora is a patented proprietary blend of standardized extracts of Magnolia officinalis and Phellodendron amurense that has been shown to induce relaxation, and prevent the release of this nasty stress hormone. (16)
Multiple vitamin and mineral formula – Ok, so taking a multiple won’t send you bouncing off the walls. But make no mistake -- a good multiple can provide the nutritional foundation essential to thousands of biological actions, including cellular energy production. (This comes in very handy when chasing kids through a toy store).
B-Complex Vitamins – The B family of vitamins plays an active role in virtually every aspect of life, and is of considerable importance for anyone who lacks energy during the hustle and bustle of the busy holiday season. Look for a “stress” formula for added support.
CoQ10 – This ultra-beneficial substance is present in every living cell, and essential to immune function, heart health, tissue protection and cellular energy production. It’s widely considered one of the best supplements for the cardiovascular system based on its ability to support high-energy organs. (17)
L-Carnitine – L-Carnitine is an amino acid-like substance that has become a true legend among dietary supplements. Its primary role is to escort long-chain fatty acids into the “factory” region of the cell. From there, they can be converted into energy that the body can use for metabolism, or just running last-minute holiday errands. (18)
In conclusion … If you’re like most warm-blooded Americans, you probably hold the holiday season close to that love-hate section of your heart. But in spite of the time spent with loved ones, self-justified midnight cookie benders and the endless spectrum of lights that fill hearts, homes and horizons, it’s dire to keep one thing in mind. A commitment to sound winter wellness can make every toast, blessing and moment of reflection so much more enjoyable. So this year, before you give even one gift to a loved one, reward yourself with one of immeasurable value – the gift of good health. Now, and all year long.
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(16) Chambliss, W, Ph.D. A placebo controlled pilot study on the effects of Relora® capsules in the management of stress. 2005
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(18) Heinonen OJ. Carnitine and physical exercise. Sports Med. 1996;22:109-132.
Health Disclaimer. Content provided by NOW Foods. Copyright ©2006-2019. Content provided by NOW Foods. Published with permission. Jayson Kroner is a health and fitness journalist, a certified sports nutritionist, and co-author of the book "7-Syndrome Healing."