How the EXPERTS stay healthy

How the EXPERTS stay healthy: In the season of coughs, colds and festive burnout, 9 medics reveal their personal tips

  • Doctors, nutritionists, a psychologist, a personal trainer, and a pharmacist reveal their festive health tips
  • One says not to use aspirin for a hangover, and others advise on how to avoid overindulging
  • There are also tips on avoiding winter ailments like the flu  

The holiday season can seem like an obstacle course of pitfalls.  

From overindulgence and hangovers to the flu and feeling a bit stodgy, the festivities can take their toll. 

But that doesn’t have to be the case. 

We spoke to doctors, nutritionists and personal trainers to find out their one killer tactic for staying healthy over Christmas. 

1. Rob Hobson, Registered Nutritionist and Healthspan Head of Nutrition

‘Keep your gut healthy and eat to sleep’

Even with the best of intentions my gut can take a bit of a beating at Christmas time with all the rich food and extra sherries! With this in mind I take a daily probiotic to help keep my digestive system healthy and reduce the likelihood of becoming bloated. 

Stress can also be a problem for me at this time of year and this can impact on my sleep so I try to do what I can to get a good night’s rest. 

Food-wise this means making sure my diet includes plenty of muscle-relaxing magnesium from nuts, seeds and green vegetables.

Rob Hobson tries to prioritize sleep as much as possible to lower his stress levels

2. Dr Pixie McKenna, family doctor and Superdrug Health & Wellbeing Ambassador

‘Avoid aspirin for a hangover’

Christmas is a time to kick back and relax but as a result routine tends to go out of the window! To avoid overeating try to limit eating between meals and don’t go back for seconds. 

If you have had a very stodgy ‘beige’ food day (my downfall!), the following day double up your fibre content with lots of fruit and veg. 

Come January my surgery is full of constipated patients and Christmas is the classic time for the gut to become slow so keep it moving with fibrous fruit and veg, plenty of water and exercise. 

I also say avoid aspirin or ibuprofen for a hangover as they can irritate an already fragile stomach. One handy but unglamorous item you shouldn’t be without this Christmas is hand sanitiser. Handshakes, kisses under the mistletoe and everything else in between make it the season to spread germs as well as good will!’

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If Dr Pixie McKenna has had a very stodgy ‘beige’ food day, the following day she doubles up her fiber content with lots of fruit and veg

3. Dr Hilary Jones, family doctor & Health Professional

‘Don’t be greedy!’

I try to think of the wine, canapés, mince pies and Christmas cake as alternative fuel. So, if I know I might indulge I will skip breakfast or lunch instead. Either that or I’ll hit the gym or pool to compensate.

Ayurvedic Medicine talks about our digestive fire. It’s like a little bonfire brightly burning in the pit of our stomach providing heat and energy for our body. Put a little log of food on it now and again and it will flareup and roar. Swamp it with a massive load of wet rotting rubbish and all you do is put the fire out and fill your gut with smoke and smolder leading to bloating and indigestion.

I don’t want to go all spiritual on you, but I do think it’s a cute little analogy if nothing else and it works for me. So ….happy Christmas and don’t be too greedy.

If Dr Hilary Jones knows he might indulge, he will skip breakfast or lunch instead

4. Dr Dawn Harper, GP with a special interest in women’s health

‘Avoid eating standing up’

I offer to do more than my fair share of the driving so that I don’t wrack up the alcohol units and I try not to eat standing up. 

All those canapés and nibbles are loaded with extra calories that can play havoc with my waistline!

When you eat standing up, you are more likely to eat too fast and mindlessly snack, Dr Dawn Harper says 

5. Dr Sarah Brewer, Medical Nutritionist

‘Take the sunshine vitamin and keep a Christmas first aid box’

My biggest tip is to take a Vitamin D3 supplement during the whole of the winter to help avoid respiratory bugs at this time of the year. 

Data from 25 clinical trials involving around 11,000 people from 14 countries published in the British Medical Journal found that taking vitamin D supplements reduced the risk of acute respiratory infections by 12 percent. 

I also like Globe Artichoke extract to help reduce symptoms of overindulgence like bloating and nausea. 

It works by boosting liver function and bile secretion to aid digestion. 

Things I keep to hand in my Christmas first aid box include Acriflex Skin Cooling Gel for burns, clove oil for tooth ache, Olbas oil nasal decongestant, Kaloba pelargonium extract for sore throats and colds and 4Head levomenthol swipe stick for headaches.

Vitamin D is key at this time of year, Dr Sarah Brewer says

6. Dr Meg Arroll, psychologist and co-author of The Shrinkology Solution

‘Don’t go to a party hungry!’

Canapes, crisps and mini-puds are designed to be grazed upon which means it’s very hard to 1) feel full and 2) have any idea how much you’ve scoffed. 

I used to wait all day for the party treats but then feel dreadful the next morning as these foods tend to be packed full of salt, sugar and other additives, disrupting sleep and leading to general sluggishness. 

I also try and eat mindfully at parties and pre-Christmas meals, which not only reduces overall consumption but also makes food more enjoyable.

Dr Meg Arroll always has a snack before turning up at a Christmas party

7. Alison Cullen, Nutritional Therapist for A.Vogel

‘Feel okay about saying no’

I find it increasingly important to plan things to see where social events and work commitments are starting to pile up so they can be spaced out to keep my health and sanity. 

The thing I love about being older is that I can turn down invites and not feel guilty or feel I am missing out. If a row of late nights is unavoidable I take A.Vogel Balance Mineral Drink to bring me back up to speed. I rarely drink alcohol these days and I have just discovered Biotta’s Apple, Beetroot and Ginger juice which is a delicious and healthy drink. 

If I can, I try to get a short run in everyday – even if it just 10 minutes. It helps to rev up my metabolism, burn off stress and it stops me feeling guilty if there are extra nibbles on the table. I also really recommend taking kelp supplements as it helps the body to detox.

Alison Cullen (left) says it’s better when you don’t feel guilty about missing out on invites, and if you do succumb to winter ailments, Dr Dick Middleton (right) recommends turning to natural remedies first

8. Dr Dick Middleton, registered pharmacist and director of the British Herbal Medicine Association

‘Go herbal!’

Milk Thistle is one herb you should consider to help keep your digestive system on track during the overindulgences of the festive season.

Milk thistle (Silybum marianum) is native to the Mediterranean but it now grows wild in many other parts of Europe including the UK. 

The herb is renowned for helping with digestion, which is confirmed in many scientific papers published on the plant. 

Registered herbal medicines in the UK that contain Milk Thistle are used to relieve the symptoms associated with occasional over indulgence of drink and food such as indigestion and upset stomach, based upon its long-standing use as a traditional remedy. 

Always look for products that display the Traditional Herbal Registration ‘THR’ logo on their pack assuring that they have been rigorously checked for safety and quality.

9. Nicola Addison, resident personal trainer for Healthspan & founder of Cover Ninja app

‘Sneak in a quick workout early’

Prioritize your workout to first thing. 

You know you need to keep active and workout. 

Let’s face it, when are we more likely to get this done? 

I would suggest first thing in the morning before the day’s temptations take over. Get that session done and be smug for the rest of the day! 

Personal trainer Nicola Addison gets out for a run first thing in the morning before the day’s temptations take over

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