10 Tips To Avoid Autoimmune Flares During The HolidaysNov 23, 2022
The holidays are supposed to be about feeling grateful and connecting with loved ones … not feeling restricted in your body and life. It’s taken me 50 years to reconcile with that and it's a mindset my clients are grateful for.
Yet, most of us feel incredible amounts of stress to "get it right." Do more. There is an unusually high focus on food, candy, sugar, desserts and drinks, combined with peer pressure ("Come on, one bite won't hurt...") and an internal dialogue that has you starting "fresh" on Monday.
The holidays also come with additional stressors, people to please, extended work hours or gatherings, shopping, decorating, financial pressures, travelling expectations! One high volume weekend can wipe you out and set you back for weeks! And if you catch a cold on top of everything ... oh boy! All of this places additional burden on your nervous system, which then impacts your immune response by means of cortisol production (stress hormone), your enteric nervous system and reduced digestive function.
So, here are some simple, practical strategies to consider when navigating the holiday season with autoimmune so you can avoid burnout and reduce the risk of flaring.
The most profound flare-free solutions are found in simplicity … we often forget the basics. Plus, I’ve learned in my career that people can really only change one or two things at a time and stick with it. Here, I’ve given you several to pick and choose from.
If you’re already doing some of these things … great! Stay with it.
And if you’re just getting started … stick with me because this is a really empowering place to start! All of this feeds into the Autoimmune Nutrition Triad (™) and will help address your energy, immune and digestive needs.
Adjust Your Holiday Mindset
1. Start each day with a body-mind scan. How did you sleep? Are you thirsty? What do your eyes say back to you in the mirror? Are you having your morning BM? Is there anything internally that needs your attention before you set your sights on your external list of responsibilities? This will help you set the course for the remainder of the day ... even if that means pushing off an activity or two.
2. Delegate, delegate, delegate. You don't have to do it all.
The Internet can take your shopping orders. Your kids or partner can help with clean up. Hire a cleaner for a day or call a friend if you're wiped and you have a crowd coming ... what can you do to service YOU? There have been many a times when one of my friends has been down and out, and us girls (the tribe) steps up to pick up the slack. Ask for help if you need it.
And don't be afraid to say "No Thank You." Establishing and maintaining healthy boundaries takes practice and consistency. Once mastered, it is a gift not only to yourself, but to others because if you go into a situation not really wanting to be there or pushing yourself beyond your physical limits, no one wins.
Autoimmune Nutrition For The Holidays
3. Eat 15 - 20g of protein at breakfast. I see this is over and over again, so I'm going to repeat it over and over again.
One piece of turkey bacon or a 10g scoop of collagen protein is not enough to sustain your energy or nervous system needs during a busy time.
Start your day with a hefty dose of protein (fish, meat, eggs, protein powder, vegetable proteins). Then add in some healthy fats (avocado, coconut, nuts, seeds and nut milk) and vegetables or low glycemic fruit (berries, pears, apples). You will be fuelled for hours and will significantly reduce your afternoon slump.
4. Aim for 2L of water daily. It will help metabolize any extra sugar you consume, support healthy bathroom visits, and will fuel your focus (fatigue and dehydration walk hand in hand). Drinking warm water (vs cold) also helps flush the lymphatic system, your body's largest circulatory system that is responsible for fluid exchange, immune response, fat soluble vitamin delivery and (in part), detoxification.
5. Eat a healthy snack before parties to avoid noshing on too many appetizers. This will help ensure you go into the party feeling confident that you've eaten what's right for your body and will reduce the urge to taste all the things you know aren't great for your condition.
6. Offer to bring food to pot luck gatherings that you can actually eat. Vegetable side dishes and healthy appetizers like shrimp, nutrient dense liver pate or an artistic crudites board that includes produce and cured meats like prosciutto are always welcome!
7. During the week, take a few days to "cleanse." But this, I mean going back to the food plan you know works best for your body. This could include a big batch of homemade vegetable soup for work and home. Sipping on bone broth as a snack. Loading up on fish or other Omega3 foods for inflammation.
Lifestyle Shifts For The Holidays
8. Make time to BREATHE.
There is a saying ... the body can't exist 3 minutes without air, 3 weeks without water or 3 months without food. When was the last time you took time to really breathe ... the deep soul-filling breath versus shallow mindless breath?
Some of the healthiest blood I ever saw in my live cell microscopy practice when I worked in clinic belonged to Yogis. Not because they ate well - because they practiced daily breath work. It detoxes the body, mind and soul. And keeps you cool, calm and collected during the holiday chaos. This is one of the many, many reasons why guided breath practice is now offered in my professional practice.
This is something you can do in your car, in an Uber, in the grocery store line. It's accessible to you anywhere at anytime.
9. Try restorative movement instead of feeling like you're not exercising. This may look like parking a few extra spots from a store entrance or talking a walk around the block after dinner instead of your usual 30 minute power walks.
Or perhaps its 20 minutes of a gentle yoga class to nourish your nervous system instead of a 90 minute commitment to keep your limbs limber. You can get back to your routine in the new year.
10. Lastly, sleep my friend, sleep. This is when all the repair and recovery happens. Sleep in on the days you can, and head to bed early on the nights you're home. With autoimmune, you should be aiming for 7-9 hours daily (many people need more than that). It's essential for mental, immune, metabolic and brain health ... perhaps even more important than sugar (and just as tempting).