After several weeks of festivities, late nights, and too many overindulgences, many of us feel fatigued, bloated and a little blue after the holidays. So in the upcoming post-holiday weeks, rather than sinking into a spiral of crash diets and negative self-talk, embrace the New Year as the perfect time to prioritize self-care, exercise, and lifestyle changes with newly adopted health-enhancing habits.
By putting ourselves first and prioritizing our mental and physical well-being, it allows us to thrive in our careers and relationships and show up for ourselves healthily and mindfully. So, this January, let’s empower and educate ourselves by learning to listen and learn from our bodies.
In this blog, we will summarize five ways you can put your health (and yourself) first this year:
1. Reduce or eliminate alcohol intake
Drinking less alcohol is beneficial on many levels and by reducing your intake, you will notice many key differences in your body composition and overall mood. . You may notice that the day after indulging in a few alcoholic drinks, you have a headache and are quite thirsty. Alcohol is a diuretic, meaning that your renal system loses fluid at a higher rate than other liquids, causing dehydration. With prolonged dehydration, your skin loses its elasticity, leading to sagging, dryness, and wrinkles. Drinking is also calorie-dense and can result in poor food choices and weight gain. That is only part of what happens on the outside.
On the inside, alcohol is detrimental to our brain and hormonal health. If you have been considering reducing your alcohol intake and need more information and motivation to make it happen, you have come to the right place. Some other negative side effects of alcohol include:
- Interfering with the production of our happy hormone, serotonin, and acts as a depressant
- Monopolizing liver function by stopping the filtering and detoxifying of other food and toxins to focus on the processing of only alcohol
- Disrupting sleep
- Changing the composition and function of the gut microbiome
- Causing inflammation and chronic disease
- Impeding brain function in the areas of controlling balance, memory, speech and judgment
- Reducing brain volume, neuron function, and white matter fiber integrity
Optimal liver function is essential for overall health and well-being. The liver is one of the body’s primary detoxification organs, along with the intestines, kidneys, lungs, and skin. It regulates blood sugar levels to help steady energy levels, clears the blood of drugs and other poisonous substances, and fights off infection by producing immune factors and removing bacteria. When the liver is busy processing alcohol, it impedes its ability to perform other vital functions. To lighten the load on your liver, reduce or eliminate your alcohol intake.
Knowing the impacts of alcohol on your body enables you to make informed decisions. It may also provide some answers if you have been feeling anxious or depressed after drinking alcohol, experiencing sleep disruptions, or lacking energy.
2. Increase activity level
Physical exercise has many long-term health benefits, such as reducing inflammation, clearing the mind, increasing energy levels, and improving cardiovascular function. As little as 20 minutes of moderate exercise stimulates the immune system and reduces inflammation.
Keep in mind that intense exercise activates the sympathetic nervous system (the fight or flight response) and decreases the parasympathetic nervous system response (the rest and digest response), temporarily increasing stress levels in the body. If you feel drained, fatigued, or stressed, your body is already taxed and intense exercise may only add to that. During perimenopause, when estrogen and progesterone are low many women benefit from shifting to gentle exercise, such as yoga, weight training and daily walks.
Osteoporosis occurs when bones become extremely weak, lose mass (or thickness), and break very easily. Aging, declining estrogen levels during perimenopause, and lack of weight-bearing exercise can slow the formation of new bone tissue. Research shows women can lose as much as 20% of their bone mass after menopause, and one in ten women is affected by osteoporosis worldwide. It is so important to incorporate regular weight-bearing exercises like weight training, tai chi, walking, dancing, and yoga into your routine.
3. Drink more water
Adequate water consumption is a necessary part of being in good health. Water makes up about 60% of the human body and approximately 73% of the brain. It is essential for many bodily processes, including digestion, absorption and circulation of nutrients, removal of toxins, and remaining alert and focused.. A well-hydrated brain functions better, with more clarity, creativity, memory, and attention, while reducing irritability and headaches. Sipping cool water can help with hot flashes, and proper hydration can improve sleep naturally
By the time you feel thirsty, you are already dehydrated so drink water throughout the day, consuming 1.5 to 2 liters of water daily.
4. Eliminate inflammatory foods
Inflammation has a highly detrimental effect on the body by damaging arteries, organs and joints. Chronic or persistent long-term inflammation leads to diseases and conditions such as arthritis, asthma, cancer, dementia, and mental illness. The good news is that you can dramatically reduce inflammation by eating the right foods.
Foods to avoid include:
- Refined carbohydrates in prepared or processed foods, such as bread, rice, baked goods, and breakfast cereals. A helpful indicator of foods high in refined carbohydrates is to see where the food item falls on the glycemic index (GI). A high GI-rated food will likely contain refined carbohydrates that raise blood sugar levels.
- Sugar and high fructose corn syrup are the two main types of added sugar in Western diets. When eaten in large amounts, fructose is associated with multiple diseases, including diabetes and cancer. Foods with a lot of added sugar include chocolate, candy, cakes, cookies, and soft drinks.
- Processed meats contain advanced glycation end products (AGEs), nitrates, and proteins and fats exposed to sugar. AGEs cause inflammation and contribute to diabetes, atherosclerosis, and cancer. Avoid foods such as bacon, sausage, ham, and processed meats.
- Seed and other refined oils are highly inflammatory. Try to swap out unhealthy oils such as canola, vegetable, safflower, and sunflower oil with a good quality olive or avocado oil.
- Artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame and Acesulfame-K, potentially have a high cancer risk and can disrupt the gut microbiome. Replace them with small amounts of stevia or a natural sweetener such as raw honey.
To reduce inflammation:
- Focus on consuming whole foods – organic fruits and vegetables, grass-fed beef raised without antibiotics and hormones, free-range chicken and eggs, and sustainably sourced, low-mercury fish. Add foods high in omega-3 fatty acids such as salmon, tuna, flaxseed, chia and walnuts, and probiotic foods like kimchi.
- Avoid environmental toxins like pesticides, asbestos, phthalates, and BPA.
- Remove stress from your life as much as you can.
- Get an adequate amount of high-quality sleep every night.
5. Incorporate supplementation
It would take mass quantities of food to consume therapeutic levels of all the nutrients we require and this is where supplements come in. However, understanding which supplements to take and how and when to take them can be confusing and overwhelming. At Revivele, we’ve been working behind the scenes to curate a supplement system for perimenopausal women that will offer both immediate and long-term benefits for brain and body health. We are excited to share this with you in the spring of 2023. In the meantime, a few important supplements to consider this new year are:
You can get omega-3 fatty acids from food or supplements. The three main types are alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). ALA is found in plant sources such as flaxseed, chia seed, walnuts and hemp seeds, whereas DHA and EPA are found in fatty fish and other seafood. Omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties, aid in blood pressure reduction and triglyceride regulation, and can reduce the chance of a stroke. EPA and DHA are also known to help preserve brain function and memory.
Turmeric is a spice that comes from a root in the ginger family, and its main active ingredient, curcumin, has many brain health benefits. Curcumin is an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compound that has been linked to an improvement in memory in individuals with Alzheimer’s.To experience the brain-boosting benefits of curcumin, take it in supplement form or add it regularly to your food. Turmeric is not well absorbed in the body, so adding black pepper to turmeric-flavored dishes may help increase its absorption.
You will likely be low in vitamin D during winter if you live in the northern hemisphere. A blood test by your family doctor or a private laboratory can confirm vitamin D levels, so you know how deficient you are in vitamin D and how much to supplement. Having your vitamin D levels checked is something we recommend if you have never done so. Vitamin D assists with calcium absorption and supports immune health and brain function. See our latest blog on vitamin D to learn more about its wonderful benefits.
Probiotics are live bacteria that keep your gut healthy by maintaining a healthy balance of “good” and “bad” bacteria. They come in supplement form and are also in certain fermented foods, like sauerkraut, yogurt, tempeh, kimchi, and kefir. If you have recently taken a round of antibiotics for an illness, they have likely treated your infection, but also disrupted the beneficial bacteria in your intestine.. For this reason, after taking antibiotics, it is essential to replenish your system by taking a probiotic supplement. You can take the probiotic after your round of medication or take it three to four hours apart while on antibiotics.
If you’ve been feeling tired and weak, you may be deficient in vitamin B12, a nutrient that is crucial to the function of the brain and nervous system. A deficiency of B12 leaves us at a greater risk for developing dementia and heart disease. A daily B12 supplement is especially important for vegans and vegetarians since it is predominantly only found in meat, dairy products, fish, and fortified cereals.
By incorporating these healthy lifestyle habits you are also well on your way to reducing overall inflammation levels. If you are still trying to figure out where to start, look at the five healthy habits above and ask yourself which one you would be most eager to adopt for the month ahead. Start slowly and with intention. A habit takes time, and today is an excellent day to get started!