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Strategies to Survive the Feasting

The Thanksgiving holiday can be the occasion for multiple different over-doing debacles, more so than any other holiday. The eating and drinking are largely focused on one day. The televised football games – and a lucky window of afternoon sun – are perfect inspiration for a pick-up football game! Oops, a sprained ankle or perhaps a little accidental over-reaching as one heads out for a football passed by a younger relatives, and it’s back to the dining table. Of course, if you are blessed by friends or family with whom you can share the holiday, there might also be an abundance of good cheer and enhanced well-being!

There are a few simple tips that can help remedy any discomfort encountered on the upcoming holiday.

Planning your food and drink wisely can really help both your immediate level of comfort and your long-term health goals. One of the things we know about will power in general is that it comes in a finite quantity that can be increased through “training”, but once it’s gone Thursday afternoon, it’s likely gone for a day or two. Rather than vowing to avoid all carbs or to skip dessert, make your commitments positive:

  1. Most people start their feasting in the afternoon. If skipping meals is easy for you, that’s fine, but if you do eat before the feast, choose protein with its natural fats, such as eggs and bacon, skipping the orange juice and croissants. (Does anyone reading this still drink orange juice?
  2. Then there’s the feast itself. If you drink alcohol, choose non-carbonated beverage and start your evening with salty food or broth. A little extra salt on the tongue will keep you thirsty for water in preference (at least some of the time) over another glass of wine.
  3. Savor the flavor. Eating slowly allows you to taste and enjoy each individual flavor.
  4. Choose it all. When confronted with a buffet, decide that you are going to taste everything! Fit your tastes all on your dinner plate and “clean the plate” before you go back for seconds, if at all. Same goes for dessert: a little piece (two bites?) of each dessert can feel like terrific freedom.

The best-laid plans and all. What happens if it's too late for planning and we're looking after the fact, what to do? Let’s look at the occasion of too much food, too much alcohol, or possibly too much tangling with the backyard and football.

  1. Too much food can sit like a hot air balloon in your belly and make socializing uncomfortable, and sleep impossible! Even if you don’t take digestive enzymes, special meals provide an occasion for learning what they can do. A broad based digestive enzyme (Thorne Research Di-Pan 9 is a good one) can be taken part way through the meal, and repeated after eating – even much later in the evening – to enhance normal digestion.
  2. Uh-oh, too much alcohol, and it’s too late to decide otherwise. Taking activated charcoal capsules (Integrative Therapeutics has a good activated charcoal, and many brands are available in your local health food store) at the end of the evening can help clear some of the alcohol metabolites from your system. If you rolled into an emergency room with a serious excess of alcohol, they would pump lots of charcoal into your stomach; a smaller dose can help a less serious problem. And then there's the next day: some of the best hangover remedies are usually too much work, such as going for a brisk walk, or drinking a lot of water. The short cut remedy tried and true among homeopathic patients is the remedy Nux Vomica: take it in a 12C or 30C potency when you first wake up, and repeat once or twice if needed. And most of all, remember how much you drank so you can drink less on New Year's Eve!
  3. Finally, the injury, what to do about that? The conventional advice (“Lots of ice and then lots of ibuprofen – or some other anti-inflammatory”) for injury is a bit misguided. The obvious benefit of ice is that it dulls pain a bit, but even that is problematic: the pain is there to keep you from re-injuring what hurts. The physiological purpose of ice, to prevent swelling, is, well – complicated! Swelling occurs when the body senses injury, directs your own anti-inflammatory compounds to the area, and then the traffic jam prevents them from leaving. You don’t want to prevent them from arriving, and you might want to help them leave, so use ice judiciously: five minutes of ice causes a temporary decrease in circulation followed by a marked increase in circulation, which is what you want. So it’s fine to use ice for no more than 5 minutes at a time, about every half hour. And anti-inflammatories from the drug store are just a bad idea. In medical research their effect on injured tissue is mixed, but most prominently the OTC meds (Advil, Alleve, and their generics) interrupt healing, specifically the healing of torn muscles, tendons and ligaments. Take acetaminophen for pain or herbal anti-inflammatories (such as Integrative Therapeutics Curcumax Pro) to manage the pain. It’s even better to take a prescribed pain pill with a narcotic than it is to take an anti-inflammatory when you want your body to heal. (Tip: should you have a narcotic available to you, take a strong magnesium, like magnesium oxide, with each pain pill that you take. You’ll thank me in the morning.)

Of course, Thanksgiving wouldn’t be complete without some dose of introspection and a bit of generosity. The holiday stems from some version of sharing between English settlers and Native Americans who showed them the ropes of simple gardening and the pleasures of turkey dinners. We might all feel a little lighter after lots of turkey if our holiday includes some active generosity, towards those in need while we are enjoying a feast of plenty.