Autumn through to Winter is a rough time for our hormones, periods, stress levels and fertility in general. Depending on what countries you live in, you may have any or all of the following to celebrate, Halloween, Bonfire Night, Thanks Giving, Chanukah, Christmas, New Years Eve and Day.
There are expectations of family gatherings, work parties and gatherings, Christmas or End of Year parties, catching up with friends who may only be in town to visit their family once a year. Plus end of year targets at work, potentially kid’s Christmas parties and costumes.
There is a plethora of stress, well planned activities, last minute changes, travel at peak times or dealing with train cancellations, family politics and for many people, whilst they love many of these activities, this can be an exhausting time of the year. If you are one of these, that’s ok and if you thrive for the seasonal holidays, that’s ok too.
Many of us expect to feel really rough and hung over during this period and for most people, this is the one time that there hormones go all over the place, affecting our periods, fertility, period pain, PMS and that on top of being stuck in some family situations can be the perfect storm for a holiday blow out.
So, what can you do to minimise this? OK, so you know ideally, you would still eat well during this period but it is hard, and it can be good for you to relax and not worry about your periods and everything else. But there are things you can do to minimize these effects.
1. Increase Your Intake of Vegetables and Fruits to Help Your Liver
One vital thing that can really help your liver to break down all these extra substances is giving it the nutritional support to do so. Ensuring you up your vegetable intake will not only fill you up, give your liver the support it needs to clear the body but also the fibre to help get rid of all the toxins your body has cleared.
If you aren’t a big veggie eater, then slowly up your intake by a portion a week throughout the winter (a portion being a cup or a handful of chopped veggies). Ensure you get a good mixture of green leafy vegetables, cruciferous vegetables, sulpherous vegetables and brightly coloured sweet vegetables to get a good range of nutrients.
Ideally we should be eating around 7 cups of vegetables a day, but even just upping the amount you can eat can make such a huge difference.
2. Don’t Restrict Real Food
When eating Christmas meals, look at what is “real food” that you recognise as food immediately such as fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds and meat. If you recognise it as actual food you could get in nature, then don’t worry about it.
Instead look at anything that has been processed in anyway and if you can’t leave it out, just reduce your portion size. Typical Christmas dinner treats include: stuffing, yorkshire pudding, various deserts, condements, snacks, treats and sauces.
Anything that has been processed is more likely to cause a hormonal issue, so it is these foods you need to pay more attention to rather than worry about all your diet throughout the holiday season.
3. Avoid or Offset The Alcohol (More Liver Love)
There is really no good alcohol if you have hormonal issues, but there are a few things you can do to lessen the blow to your liver such as eating more vegetables. When you drink alcohol, you are de-prioritising the proper metabolisation of hormones as the liver prioritises clearing out the poison (alcohol).
If you have issues with PCOS, high androgens or insulin, the sugar content in alcohol can really cause your issues to go into overdrive if you get a spike in blood sugar (and then insulin) or in some people it stops the liver from making glucose. Finally, alcohol can increase inflammation in the body, (usually there is more period pain when inflammation goes up).
But there are things you can do to reduce the impact.
Drink water in between alcoholic drinks. This will help your body deal with the alcohol and it doesn’t have to be tap water, you can treat yourself with sparkling water too.
Also think about what is in your drinks, if it has colouring in or a high alcohol content, such as shots and spirits, then the impact on your body is going to be greater. If you are sensitive to gluten or yeast (think thrush, BV, cystitis) then beers, lagers and similar ferments are not going to have a great impact.
One alcohol that at least has some nutrients to it is good quality organic red wine. I know this is the season where we are hard hit but if you look at the portion of the price that is just tax, then figure out how much the liquid in your glass actually cost, you are going to want real wine rather than substances used to bulk it out.
4. Build in Sleep, Rest, Hygge & Nourishing Activities
The holidays can be really stressful, getting the perfect gifts, entertaining, being a great guest, mixing with family members you don’t see very often.
But it is really important to think about how you are building your relationships together. Are you creating wonderful memories with your loved ones or can you create activities to do this rather than just watching or playing on various devices?
Do you often get cabin fever and require a break? Can you build in some alone time or go for a walk, do some yoga or even basic stretching just to enjoy some quiet down time? Maybe even spring for a hotel room rather than staying with family, this can really change your relationships for the better once the hosts accept it.
Do you need to outsource any tasks or activities? It can work really well, having different people make or prepare different dishes or aspects of the meal. Or knowing that once you have cooked, someone else will clean up. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it or offer help if you are being a guest.
5. Start A Gratitude Journal
I used to cringe inside the minute someone mentioned journalling or gratitude, then decided to try it myself and now I cringe at my old reaction. Sometimes, we can let the holidays stress us out and we forget how lucky we are. Now more than every are we aware of how other people in the world are much less fortunate than we are, with a lack of shelter, food, water or electricity.
Writing down 5 things a day that you are grateful for on a regular basis will start to change your mindset. I found after about 10 days, my mindset really shifted. I now consider electricity bills “paying for blessings received” and how lucky I am to have light and heat at the flick of a button.
6. Don’t Forget Your Contraception or Birth Control
If you are not looking to conceive, this is the one time of year that people get forgetful and every year we see newspapers talking about the increase of the morning after pill being requested around the holiday season.
Whatever method of birth control you are on, make sure you are covered for the season when most doctor’s surgeries are closed and chemists aren’t open and put a reminder in your diary if you are likely to forget it in order to get a repeat prescription in early on.
If you use a device, thermometer, condoms or the pill, make sure you keep it in your handbag during the holidays to allow for forgetting to pack it in the suitcase or if you end up crashing on someone else’s sofa, bed or in a hotel, you can ensure you are protected from unwanted pregnancies.
If you are single and looking for some romance, I recommend carrying some condoms too to prevent any unwanted STIs which can mess up your periods in the long term, (as well as help prevent any unintended pregnancies which are mostly likely stop your period for a while and cause a whole hormonal change).
Pro tip on condoms: condoms kept in wallets (think the stereotypical man’s wallet with the condom tucked in tight) can lose some integrity due to the pressure and heat.
However the holiday season looks like for you, I wish you a wonderful time, stress free and time to rebuild and nourish yourself at all levels. Whatever you decide to do for the holidays, I hope you have a time of rest, connection with people who mean something to you and don’t let yourself stress over the things that no one will remember in 6 months time.