by Nat Kringoudis
As a child, it was a competition who could eat the most on Christmas Day. The thought of it now makes me grimace, as I know better. The festive season can be exhausting, however, the lead up; parties, late nights and preparation that’s required is a skill in itself. The festive season can be enough to have us feeling overwhelmed and completely ruined come Boxing Day. I made a choice, if food was going to be the center of my life during this time, I was going to make it count. It’s time to take anxiety out of our festive calendar and place more of an emphasis on our health, while still having fun!
Overindulgence from a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) perspective damages the spleen and stomach. When we talk about the spleen and stomach in TCM, it isn’t so much the physical ‘spleen’ or ‘stomach’, but more so it relates to the digestive system if we try and translate it into western thinking. This notion of digestive disruption possibly comes as no surprise given the exploration and investigation of gut health currently being a hot topic.
Seems TCM even though it is an ancient form of medicine was ahead of its time. It has always viewed the gut as being the pivot of one’s health and the fundamentals in treatment within it’s ability to be well supported. This is just one example of many that show great correlation between Eastern and Western medicine practices, a few of which we will explore more here.
If you’re unfamiliar with TCM it is based on the meridian theory, where each meridian or pathway stems from an organ. This provides an intricate pathway for Qi (energy) and blood to move around the body for nourishment. The fundamentals of TCM lies within the organ systems, just like western medicine, but adds the concept of Qi and blood flow to ensure they are functioning with the best possible balance for optimal health. However, where TCM differs is that signs and symptoms form the basis of diagnosis and appropriate medicines or treatments like acupuncture are administered based on these signs. This can mean that two polar opposite conditions (for example adrenal fatigue and endometriosis) may be treated in the same way, as the root cause at an ‘organic level’ may be the same.
We all have a choice to make for everything that we do. It’s very easy to get overwhelmed and swept up in the chaos that is the festive season, especially if we allow ourselves to be propelled by the frantic energy of others. The festive season is a time of engagement; being social and spending time with loved ones is so important, not only for our physical self, but equally our emotional wellbeing too. Research now tells us social interaction is one of the greatest forms of stress relief we can engage in. And so, whilst the festive season may be seemingly full of stress, we should draw on the benefits of spending time with others to help us wind down, connect and be mindful.
When I feel like I’m wound up tighter than a rubber band, I ask myself, am I choosing to allow stress to filter into my social life? Quite frequently the answer is yes, because I (just like you, are only human after all) engage in the crazy habits. Stress becomes a default response and unless we are aware of who’s driving the show (be it stress or ease), we can easily and swiftly shift into autopilot. The festive season is one sure time where this can easily happen. From a Traditional Chinese Medicine perspective, stress impacts the liver and stagnates the body’s energy flow. As a result, it leaves us feeling like we are constantly ‘holding our breath’, leading to abdominal pain and indulgent behaviour. If we implement simple tricks in preparation for the festive season, I am confident we can come out the other side better than we left off.
Here’s to surviving the silly season and making it through with our wellness intact.
Plan to succeed
Have go-to snacks and treats on hand where possible and offer to bring a plate to gatherings such as, home-made bliss balls or delicious vegie sticks and dips. This way, you won’t end up eating something that you’ll regret later. Plus, it’s all about leading by example, show others around you just how delicious and nutritious healthy food can be.
Ditch the fuss
Don’t feel guilty if you don’t attend every party or gathering and certainly try not to get caught up spending hours joining the large crowds of people at the shops. If you don’t manage to see your friends during this time of year, chances are they’ll still look the same in the New Year.
Avoid hangover guilt
Know you might have a few too many drinks? Well, it’s all about hydration! From a TCM view, overconsumption of alcohol, just like in the west can upset the liver flow.
Coconut water is rich in electrolytes and helps keep your body well hydrated and nourished, ward off any head or body aches and will put a zing back in your step. As a result, make sure you keep your liver energy in check. Keep a bottle of coconut water handy in your bag, take a drink before bed and upon rising. Research suggests avoiding alcohol for at least 90 minutes before bedtime, this way your body will still have a restful night sleep and detoxify overnight.
Eat for wellness
If it doesn’t serve you, you probably don’t need to eat it. TCM enrolls consumption of warm, cooked foods to place less of a load on digestion and prevent the stagnation of Qi through the digestive system. If you find yourself bloated as a result of rich foods on offer, keep it simple for a few days and allow your digestive system to get back on track. You could tap into the wonderful world of herbal ingredients if you find your tummy upset by seeping a few slices of fresh ginger into boiling water and allowing to seep for a few minutes before drinking to warm and support your digestion – this helps to move your digestive Qi.
The elixir of wellness is sleep
Eight hours of sleep per night is recommended as a minimum. Implement this short time movement and try to stick with it; eight hours of sleep, eight hours of work and eight hours of play. TCM theory suggests that we repair and rebuild blood between the hours of 1am – 3am (this is the optimal time of the liver which is said to store the blood), so ensuring good quality sleep especially at this time is essential for maintaining good health.
Make it count!
Above all, make the most of your time off. Give yourself a chance to take the pace down a notch, come Christmas day and have your health at the forefront of each and every moment.
Without a little drive, a little stress and a little excitement in our lives, we lose our own sense of purpose. The secret lies in the right mix. Perhaps you could ask yourself this festive season, how can you use this as your new superpower? Nurture your stress and allow it to guide you and perhaps tap into a little ancient medicine by looking after your digestive health and caring for your body’s own internal energy. By embracing a little extra pressure you might be surprised just how less flustered you can feel. Your new mantra is “today I choose ease.”
Nat Kringoudis is a bona fide women’s health revolutionist and fertility fixer, with a big heart for natural healthcare. She is a doctor of Chinese Medicine, an author, speaker and the founder and owner of The Pagoda Tree clinic. Nat has stepped up to champion fertility before it become an issue; with the belief of ‘why wait until it’s broken?’ Nat helps women in their twenties to lay a gangbuster ‘healthy hormone’ foundation, knowing that this is the way forward in the world of women’s health.
Through her blog, she educates women on the benefits of alternative therapies and nutrition for happy hormones. Nat is also the producer and co-host of the online web series HealthTalks and from time to time you may see her in your favourite glossy mag or appearing as a health expert on telly.
Nat has penned three books Well & Good, Eat Fat, Be Thin and Eat Fat, Be Lean.
She tours Australia regularly, holding workshops and speaking at specific events to help women get clued up on their bodies and take control of their hormone health.