season is known for bringing people together. But some people
experience deep psychological stress as a result of holiday
activities. Holiday stress can drive people to drink too much,
eat too much, eat the wrong foods, keep unusual hours, stifle
feelings, alter their routines, and generally fail to take
care of themselves. Understanding some of the pitfalls of
the holiday experience can lead to effective defense strategies.
overeat during the holiday season. Lets face it, food
is a major focus during the holiday season. Everybody brings
it, cooks it, and is expected to eat it. It is often considered
rude to not partake of the repast, to eat only small portions,
or to avoid eating a dish a family member or friend of the
family has prepared.
can avoid overeating by portion control after all,
a single spoonful of every dish is only two platefuls. Other
people use the shrunken-stomach method, starving themselves
for 24 hours prior to the meal. Some even use the "Im-saving-room-for-dessert"
strategy. But when dessert rolls around, they have an obligation
to try a bite of everything. After the meal, the surge of
insulin makes people feel tired and ready for nap or a strong
coffee or (or both).
can be suppressed by eating a high-protein food snack an hour
or two before the main meal. Taking appetite suppressants
like L-phenylalanine (an amino acid) or phenylpropanolamine
(an over-the-counter drug) may also assist appetite suppression
by maintaining blood-sugar
(and insulin) stability, however a high-protein food snack
may be the healthiest route. Maintaining blood sugar stability
is especially tricky with the prevalence of sweets and alcoholic
beverages during the holiday season. Chocolate, cookies, candy,
pumpkin pie, fruit cake, eggnog, brandy, mulled wine, and
other treats cause rapid rise of blood sugar,
rapid insulin secretion, and rapid fall of blood sugar. This
can increase cravings for further sweets.
also stimulates the liver to convert stored sugar (glycogen)
into blood sugar (glucose). Alcohol-induced blood-sugar increases
may be a source of alcohol cravings in alcoholics.
Behind Alcohol Defense Strategies
is metabolized by the liver in a two-step process. Alcohol
(ethanol) is first metabolized into acetaldehyde. Acetaldehyde
is then metabolized into acetate, commonly called acetic acid
a certain amount of acetaldehyde escapes hepatic (liver) metabolism
and enters general circulation. Acetaldehyde is a potent nerve
irritant and neurotoxin which causes a chemical process called
natural defense mechanism against acetaldehyde (and other
aldehydes) is cysteine (an amino acid) and glutathione (a
small cysteine-containing peptide). These vital molecules
contain a sulfhydryl group (SH) which is chemically active
compounds can also exist in other forms which arent
necessarily active. In methionine, for example, the sulfur
is blocked by a methyl group. Oxidized sulfur compounds (called
disulfides) are also inactive against aldehydes. Cystine,
the oxidized form of cysteine, contains one disulfide group.
Cystine can be reduced back to cysteine by vitamin
C. Large supplemental doses of vitamin C maintain the
sulfur pool in its reduced sulfhydryl form. This optimizes
aldehyde-scavenging conditions in the body.
compounds are so effective at detoxifying aldehydes that,
in a rat experiment, an LD-90 dose of acetaldehyde (the amount
that will normally kill 90% of the animals) did not kill any
of the cysteine-pretreated rodents.
defense mechanism can be enhanced with a simple supplementary
formula consisting of 200-500 mg of L-cysteine (with 3 or
more times as much vitamin C) as an alcohol detoxification
remedy, to be taken before drinking alcoholic beverages, and
after. For heavy drinkers and for long-term drinking (over
many hours), between-drink doses are also necessary. This
formula has worked wonders in people who could only tolerate
small amounts of alcohol, or could not consume alcohol on
successive days. A high-potency B-complex vitamin, which includes
the sulfur-containing vitamin thiamine (vitamin B-1) is also
ebb and flow of metabolism manifests in a circadian (daily)
acid and alkaline swing in urine pH. The dominance of acid-generating
metabolism promotes maximum energy utilization and mental
alertness for daytime activities. The dominance of alkaline
metabolism optimizes for cellular repair and sleep. During
the alkaline phase of metabolism, cognitive performance declines.
eating, especially with large meals, the stomach becomes more
acidic as hydrochloric acid is secreted to digest the incoming
meal. This causes a corresponding alkalinization in the rest
of the body. This systemic alkalinization is often experienced
as mental sluggishness or sleepiness. This is one of the reasons
why many people choose to drink coffee or smoke cigarettes
just after eating a meal. The short-term acidification from
the stimulation of caffeine and nicotine serves as an antidote
to the alkaline tide of digestion.
foods, activities and environmental influences serve to modify
the balance between acidic and alkaline metabolic reactions.
Protein-rich and fatty foods like meat, fish, hard cheeses,
grains and nuts provide a surfeit of acidic nutrients, and
carbohydrate-rich foods like vegetables, beans and fruits
are alkalinizing. There are a few exceptions, like milk and
soft-boiled eggs, which are alkalinizing, and tomatoes and
cranberries, which are acidifying.
See our Acid
/ Alkaline page for more information.
also selectively influence metabolic balance. Vitamins
B-6 and B-12 are acidifying, and the other B vitamins are
alkalinizing. Of the fat-soluble vitamins, vitamins A and
D are acidifying, and vitamins E and K are alkalinizing. Of
the minerals, calcium, magnesium, copper, selenium, and manganese
are acidifying, while sodium, potassium, iron, zinc, and chromium
are alkalinizing. Even drugs can have powerful selective influence
on metabolism. Antibiotics and antifungals are acidifying,
while aspirin and opiates are alkalinizing.
influence of some substances is not so straightforward. Refined
sugars, ice cream, coffee (caffeine),
chocolate (caffeine and theobromine), alcohol, and recreational
drugs have an initial, short-term acidifying effect which
later becomes potently alkalinizing.
acidification from these stimulating substances
provides a mental lift. Concentration and attention immediately
improve. But this gratification is short-lived and a profoundly
alkaline momentum becomes dominant. This extreme alkalinization
causes mental fuzziness, lack of concentration, and sleepiness
and a need for further stimulation. This metabolic
boomerang can be a powerful force for addictive behavior.
Depression and Chocolate
to the gratification of chocolates short-term acidification,
also has been reported to contain phenethylamine (PEA), a
metabolite of the catecholamine neurotransmitter norepinephrine,
or noradrenaline as it used to be called. Norepinephrine is
the brains version of adrenaline, and PEA tends to be
produced in highest amounts in people who are in love.
Much of the depression resulting from falling out of love
may be due to PEA withdrawal. It is hypothesized that chocolate
can and does provide a partial substitute for being in love
for many people.
can also result from seasonal influences. Seasonal
affective disorder (SAD) is a widespread problem that
tends to occur exclusively in the winter months when the days
are shortest. Phototherapy has been used successfully to treat
it, and increased pineal activity may be the therapeutic influence.
may be even more effective. The winter is also the time of
greatest incidence of suicide. Whether such actions are the
result of holiday dietary stress, SAD, holiday emotional stress,
or combinations of all, is not fully known. The general medical
treatments for depression involve stimulation of the brain
neurotransmitters, like serotonin (made from the amino acid
L-tryptophan), norepinephrine (made from phenylalanine and
tyrosine) and dopamine (made from phenylalanine, tyrosine
and L-dopa). Correcting neurotransmitter deficiencies prior
to the holiday season should make one more resistant to the
depressing influences of holiday stresses.
Choices and Allergies
stimulation can also be provided by allergic reactions to
chemicals found in foods. The allergic reaction involves an
immune response mediated by tissue hormones called prostaglandins.
These prostaglandins directly counteract alkalinity. The acidification
resulting from food allergies, causes the same mental stimulation
that is produced from drugs like caffeine, nicotine and theobromine.
This accounts for the observation that our favorite foods
tend to be the ones to which were allergic.
Dieters: Take It Slow and Steady
Most people will start planning their New Year's weight loss
over the holidays (as they inevitably do every year). Start
with realistic, achievable goals. Don't expect to become "thin"
overnight. Experts agree that slow, steady weight loss is
healthier than a quick fix or remaining overweight. You should
try to lose no more than a couple of pounds per week after
the holiday season. Anymore than this will come back with
are no magic pills, potions or quick fixes that will ever
replace healthy lifestyles combining good diet sense and exercise.
While this can be frustrating, slow and steady weight loss
is the only way to avoid "yo-yo dieting," where
you lose a great deal of weight, only to regain it within
a few months or years. There are no miracles in weight loss;
go for steady progress toward a healthier life and you will
reap the long-term benefits in no time.