My strategy for navigating the Christmas holidays is to manage stress levels, maintain good sleep, and to still focus on ways to detox, despite the obvious increases in alcohol consumption, poor food combinations and the likelihood of some rather late nights.
You might think you have read this article a million times. The classic nutritional ‘expert’ offering worthy tips for Christmas, on how to avoid hangovers and arguing with your in-laws. Hopefully, this is going to have a stronger call to action, arming you with some seriously efficacious, practitioner trusted and science-backed knowledge and supplements.
As I’m sure you know there are hundreds of trending healthy ingredients right now, packed conveniently in pill form with promises of turning back the clock or boosting your metabolism, but how do we know they are going to pack the promised punch and be safe and suitable for our needs? As far as I’m concerned it’s all about potency, purity and bit of a science. As a Naturopath and functional medicine practitioner with over 16 years of clinical experience, these are my go to neutraceutical supplements for the party season and beyond – all designed to help with feeling overwhelmed, over-socialised and obviously, erm… over-hung!
Let’s talk L -Theanine
This unique amino acid compound commonly found in camellias sinensis, the Latin for green tea, is noted for its calming benefits and has been shown to induce a sense of relaxation and help maintain mental alertness. In herbal medicine, we refer to one of its chief actions being as a natural anxiolytic – meaning it’s also perfect in relieving anxiety.
In human studies, L-theanine has a positive effect on heart rate, immune and stress response when under acute stress attack, something that is quite possible over Christmas. One of the main ways L-theanine impacts the brain is by boosting neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine, and GABA – all of which assist with memory, focus and a positive mood. So, if this time of year tends to increase your feelings of overwhelming, or you have a tendency towards anxiety then give this one a try. Yes, you can load up on L-theanine in say, green tea or a pure grade organic Matcha, as these types of tea are also a great source of antioxidants but, if you feel like you might need a supplemental, then try 100mg L-theanine once a day.
On another note, if you drink coffee then take your L-theanine with it in the morning. Caffeine and L-theanine bring out the best in each other and have a pronounced synergistic effect, often referred to as a nootropic, meaning that you experience heightened focus and energy and improved mental endurance but without the jitters.
L-theanine has also been shown to have zero levels of toxicity, dependency or tolerance, meaning you could theoretically take large doses every day without negative side effects.
The body’s master antioxidant – enter Glutathione
Glutathione has been heralded as the mother of antioxidants, protecting us from toxins, infections, pathogens, and even heavy metals. However, with ageing, your body is rapidly losing the ability to make this trio of amino acids, as production drops by roughly 10% per decade. However, the good news is you can boost your glutathione levels with dietary and supplemental sources, necessary to optimise your detoxification pathways. Another cause of sub-optimal glutathione levels is when the liver is overburdened with toxins, as this master antioxidant cannot be efficiently recycled and put to good use. Research actually shows that glutathione administration could be an effective treatment to recover oxidative stress-induced liver damage in alcoholic and non-alcoholic liver diseases.
One of the most powerful ways to boost your glutathione production is to consume sulphur-rich foods. The main ones are garlic, onions and the cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, kale, collards, cabbage, and cauliflower. However, if you need glutathione in supplemental doses, like pre and post-New Years Eve, then try the most absorbable form: liposomal glutathione. And if you want to take it to a whole new level then you could also consider glutathione injection. This is a favourite amongst the Hollywood elite and exhausted Premier League football players.
Seeing as Glutathione is so critical for optimal health, the other great supplements which help to keep glutathione optimal, are N-acetyl-cysteine (NAC). A time-release NAC is the best option for keeping levels high throughout the day. Also, methylation nutrients (so eat more leafy greens) including folate, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12 are also critical to keep the body producing and recycling glutathione, and finally selenium helps the body recycle and produce even more glutathione, so opt for three or more Brazil nuts a day.
De-activate your hangover with this special type of charcoal
You may well have heard of how this black stuff ironically whitens your teeth, at the same as destroying your porcelain white basin! However, a much more painless and promising use of this highly absorbent material is to help you avoid terrible pre and post Christmas hangovers. Activated charcoal is actually created by superheating natural sources of carbon, such as wood, and works by trapping and binding toxins to itself, so the chemicals will not reabsorb into the gastrointestinal tract.
Toxins from low quality, processed food, and environmental pollution are a real problem. It is important to help your body eliminate them to promote a healthy digestive system and brain. It is also a great supplement to have on hand if you have overeaten or suffer any kind of intestinal gas, as any liquids and gases trapped in the intestine can easily pass through the millions of tiny holes in activated charcoal, and this process helps to neutralise them.
So if you're intending on having a big night out, take 3 capsules of Activated charcoal with your first glass of bubbly, and maybe one more when you get home. Also, never take Activated charcoal with other supplements as it could also absorb them too!
Everyday detox with Calcium D Glucarate
Don’t get fixated with the calcium part of this supplement – it’s the glucarate that holds the cards here. Calcium d-glucarate or often referred to in functional medicine circles as CDG, which is converted to glucaric acid and assists in a major stage of liver detoxification call glucuronidation. This represents a major means of converting most drugs, steroids, and many toxins and environmental substances to metabolites that can be excreted into the urine or bile. It’s also key in amplifying the removal of alcohol-based compounds, xenoestrogens, pollutants, toxins, and carcinogens, and is currently the subject of numerous clinical studies which are proving to have great potential for addressing various health concerns.
Calcium D-Glucarate is made naturally in small quantities by the body but supplementing the diet with dietary sources such as grapefruit, apples, oranges, broccoli, spinach, and brussels sprouts is a great idea. Taking CDG as a supplement is a powerful way to get a serious bang for your buck as 500 mg of CDG is equivalent to the phytonutrient activity found in 82 pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables. Also, at this dosage, it has been shown to decrease your LDL cholesterol, assist in protein digestion, and remove the toxins discussed above, as well as excess disruptive hormone mimickers.
I recommend 500 mg calcium D glucarate 2 x day to keep your liver strong and healthy during the party season. Personally, I recommend 500mg x day be included in your everyday arsenal of supplements, as it is one of the most preventative supplements for hormone-dependent cancers such as breast, prostate, and colon cancers.
Beat the bloat with HCL
This is literally my most favourite supplement when it comes to eating out or just eating ‘big’. The vegan plant-based source of HCL (hydrochloric acid) helps breakdown proteins and fats, assisting the absorption of the nutrients in your food. This is an absolute must, post-Christmas lunch, or if you have eaten some unsuitable food that you know you don’t digest well.
Hydrochloric acid is naturally produced in the body and to understand how acidic our HCL needs to be, then know that the pH of a healthy stomach is usually 1.0 - 2.0 - battery acid has a pH of 1.0, so we’re talking about a pretty acidic substance. This is critical as it helps keep the rest of the digestive tract more sterile and prevents pathogenic bacteria from proliferating, which is often the beginning of all kinds of chronic diseases, and not all are digestive related.
Also, HCL converts pepsinogen into pepsin, an enzyme that assists the breakdown of protein, and stimulates the release of other enzymes and bile that support the digestion and absorption of carbohydrates, fats and fat-soluble vitamins.
An ideal dose may vary from meal to meal, but if the protein is high then take 1-2 capsules after each meal daily and perhaps 3 capsules post-Christmas lunch.
So start putting your personal Christmas neutraceutical supplements survival kit together now: L-theanine, Glutathione, Activated charcoal, CDG and HCL. It’ll be your best friend over the holiday season.