Mon | Apr 24, 2017

Avoiding the unhealthy pitfalls of Christmas

Published:Wednesday | December 14, 2016 | 12:00 AM
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If you're not careful, letting loose in the festivities of the Christmas season can affect your health in so many negative ways. Stress, hangovers, food poisoning, heartburn, and the big no-no - weight gain - are just some of the many things that you need to be mindful of.

Here are a few of the health problems you may face over the holidays and how you can deal with them:

HEARTBURN

With fatty foods, alcohol and large meals being three common triggers of heartburn, it's easy to see why Christmas festivities might bring on that unpleasant, burning sensation in your chest and the acid taste at the back of your throat.

Heartburn affects around one in five people over 50. It is commonly a result of a weakening of the oesophageal muscle, the one that sits between your stomach and oesophagus. If your stomach is full, or if you bend over after having eaten a lot, you might find yourself suffering from it. Avoid eating too much at one go, limit alcohol intake and avoid the foods you know will trigger your heartburn. Make sure to always have your medication on hand in case you get an attack.

HANGOVERS

Christmas is a time of indulgence and alcohol tops the list, which is why hangovers are such a big problem during the holiday season. Add to that the fact that many persons drink types of alcohol that they are not used to, and so it's difficult to judge whether you're drinking too much or not. Chill. Slow down. Not only is it unhealthy, but being overly intoxicated can be dangerous as well.

STRESS

According to research from the University of East London, UK, Christmas shopping increased blood pressure levels to dangerous levels in half of shoppers. Add to that the stress of getting all the family together, meeting expectations (and special meal requirements) and so on and you can see why Christmas is rated as one of the most stressful times of year.

Learn to find the fun in everything you do. Put on some of your favourite music, engage in some fun, light conversation while you work. Don't focus on the end result; consider the preparation process an adventure, mistakes and all, and just have fun with everything you do.

WEIGHT GAIN

Recent research has revealed that Christmas itself won't cause you to pile on pounds, but over the longer festive season. Meaning, through December and into January, it's common to add several pounds to your waistline.

With colder weather, you're more inclined to choose high-sugar high-fat foods, and then there are also more opportunities for treating yourself with sweet or fatty foods, too. The result? A higher figure on those scales come January.

That's why portion control is important. Instead of wolfing down all those delightful treats that you must have, eat sample sizes. All you need is to enjoy a taste of it. And make sure to keep active so that you are constantly burning off the calories you are consuming.

FOOD POISONING

Be careful of the sponge, dish rags, dirty surfaces and other contaminants in your kitchen while you are preparing all that food for the big cooking. That is one of the main sources of food poisoning over the holidays. Bacteria build-up and forgetting to properly disinfect and clean the areas in all the rush and excitement can be dangerous.

Also, watch out for leftover foods that are not properly stored. Don't forget to refrigerate the leftovers. Leaving them out in warm temperatures overnight then eating them is a bad idea.

BLOATING OR CONSTIPATION

All year long, you eat fibre-rich healthy foods, making sure you get plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables. You also make sure you get regular exercise. Then, all of a sudden you are wolfing down high-fat high-calorie foods, sit in an armchair watching TV all afternoon, and expect your body to cope with it as usual. Which is why rather than feeling like a special treat, a Christmas dinner can leave you wishing for a looser pair of trousers and a way to politely release all that painful gas.

While still enjoying the treats that the holiday brings, remain active and balance your meals with fruits and vegetables. Don't shock your body; let it maintain some of the things it is used to.

DEPRESSION OR LONELINESS

Countless people will spend Christmas alone each year and many of them will suffer with loneliness as a result. The symptoms will be similar to depression - feelings of sadness, lack of motivation, self-loathing - this type of loneliness is temporary.

At Christmas, when we are told and feel that we should be around those who love us, receive presents, and be merry and full of good cheer, it's hardly surprising that reality rarely lives up to expectations.

With members of the family living far away, friends and partners who may have passed away, and colder weather making socialising more difficult, Christmas can be a time of greater loneliness than any other.

If you don't want to spend Christmas alone, invite close friends over or spend it at their place. You can also bring home a child or more from a children's home, your church or community and help them to have an enjoyable holiday while you have the joy of being charitable to someone who really needed it.

BURNS

How often have you cooked a ham this year? Probably not at all. So it's hardly surprising that people often suffer with cooking burns at Christmas.

Handling heavy, hot, roasting tins without proper protective oven gloves, hurrying to make sure everything is ready at the same time, or straying from the kitchen while things are on the boil, and even enjoying a glass of wine while cooking all add up to making Christmas dinner a risky business.

Ensure you have the proper cooking gear and use them. Never take anything for granted and never underestimate how hot something may be.

ELECTRIC SHOCK

According to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, around 350 people are hurt as a result of Christmas lights each year. While some of those accidents include falling off a chair while reaching up the tree as well as children hurting themselves with the bulbs, many are down to electric shock or burns from faulty wiring.

Again, never take anything for granted, use protective gear and always be careful. Don't let the excitement cause you to be careless. That can be dangerous.

FINANCIAL PROBLEMS

If only Christmas Day was after the January sales, we would all be able to afford bigger and better gifts for friends and family, but unfortunately, retailers know we're up against a deadline for last-minute gifts and so only dramatically reduce their prices after we've already spent our money.

According to the Learndirect agency, which helps people learn basic maths skills so they can budget in the future, one in three of us will go beyond our budget and one in four has no budget at all. No wonder, then, that many people don't even make it to the January sales ... the money's already spent.

Budget. Budget. Budget. And stick to that budget. And prioritise. If you know you may give in to temptation, then transfer the money you don't want to spend to an account that your card is not connected to. Also, make sure to pay ALL the bills and take care of ALL the essential expenses BEFORE you begin to spend on Christmas goodies.

You don't want creditors knocking on your door after the holidays and you don't have the money to take care of what you should have done in the first place.

yourhealth@gleanerjm.com