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Five Tips for a Healthy, Holistic Thanksgiving

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The holidays can be a mixed blessing for even the most spirited souls. While the joys of drinking, feasting, and merrymaking bring family and friends together, tension at the table can dampen festive feelings. A little mindfulness goes a long way in navigating the emotional roller coaster of the holidays. Read our top tips for thriving physically and mentally this Thanksgiving.

Tip #1: Practice an “Attitude of Gratitude”

What are you most looking forward to this Thanksgiving? Maybe it’s sampling your cousin’s fantastic pumpkin pie or hearing about your sister’s recent holiday overseas. Getting into a grateful state of mind before the event helps home in on the positive, while putting your experiences to paper nurtures a sense of connectedness. Make a list of everything that excites you about Thanksgiving. Whenever holiday anxiety arises, pull out the list to remember the pleasures that await.

Tip #2: Avoid Holiday Stress

Year-end stress and burnout often peak around the holidays. At work, demands surge as productivity plunges, and the prospect of holiday overspending hangs over our heads like mistletoe. Add in escalating inflation and widespread political and social strife for a sampling of what plagues even the most fortunate people.

While you won’t share an opinion with your relatives on every issue, respecting different views and the right to express them is important. With unconditional respect comes safety. When discussing politics, religion, or family matters, try not to persuade but to listen.

It’s easy to fall into old family dynamics when conversations grow fierce. For example, if you’re the family peacekeeper, you may feel responsible for preventing conflicts. Remind yourself that you are only responsible for your actions.

If you catch yourself mentally spacing out, reconnect with your physical environment to stay grounded. Take note of nearby sights, smells, and sounds. Staying present will help you recognize emotional triggers to head off a hasty or angry response. Try a guided breathing app. Research shows that cyclic sighing (long, slow exhalation) improves mood just as well, or better, than mindfulness meditation.1Balban MY, Neri E, Kogon MM, et al. Brief structured respiration practices enhance mood and reduce physiological arousal. Cell Rep Med. 2023;4(1):100895. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.xcrm.2022.100895

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Tip #3: Build Meaningful Relationships 

Show family members you’re genuinely interested in their lives by asking open-ended questions. Conversational receptiveness fosters discussion and strengthens relationships. Remember: active listening goes both ways. With reciprocal communication, people are more likely to ask questions in return.

Tip #4: Natural Treatments to Boost Digestion and Fight Fatigue

Whether feasting on poultry or celebrating vegetarian style, we tend to eat past the point of “comfortably full” on Thanksgiving Day. Fortunately, there’s a cornucopia of strategies for relieving the digestive discomfort, bloating, and fatigue that come with overindulgence.

Taken before a meal, herbal bitters aid digestion and may lessen bloating and discomfort later. Many traditional pre-dinner cocktails, such as Campari, call for bitters to jump-start the digestive process. The medicinal herb Andrographis, called the king of bitterness, has antioxidative, antidiabetic, and anti-inflammatory properties.2Bhaisare S, Pathak S, Ajankar VV. Physiological activities of the king of bitters (andrographis paniculata): a review. Cureus. 2023;15(8):e43515. https://doi.org/10.7759/cureus.43515

Enjoying a delicious meal with loved ones is one of life’s greatest joys. Savor each bite! Thoroughly chew starches like bread, rice, and pasta to encourage carbohydrate digestion. Protein digestion also starts in the mouth (with saliva) and continues in the digestive tract. Eating slowly allows your body time to feel full, which may prevent weight gain in the long run.3Hamada Y, Hayashi N. Chewing increases postprandial diet-induced thermogenesis. Sci Rep. 2021;11(1):23714. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-021-03109-x

Avoid eating too many foods that don’t agree with you. If you’re lactose intolerant, for example, keep creamy dishes like mashed potatoes and gravy to a minimum. Of course, this is easier said than done when a seemingly endless array of culinary delights beckons. Use your best judgment and be selective. Moderation is key.

After the meal, brew a pot of peppermint or ginger tea to reduce bloating and gas. Take your tea to go on a nice, long walk. It’s no secret that tryptophan, the amino acid in turkey, causes post-meal sleepiness. However, walking after a meal can improve mood, energy, and digestion.

Tip #5: Self-Care After Holiday Indulgence

When the meal is over and the dishes are done, how can you get back on track? For starters, don’t let guilt weigh you down. Be kind to yourself. Avoid rich foods and big meals for a few days. Ease up on alcohol to help your liver recover from holiday drinking, and try not to drink close to bedtime—or you may be in for a fitful sleep.

Research shows that intermittent fasting (eating during a specific window each day or eating less on alternate days) can support weight management and metabolic function during the holidays.4Hirsh SP, Pons M, Joyal SV, Swick AG. Avoiding holiday seasonal weight gain with nutrient-supported intermittent energy restriction: a pilot study. J Nutr Sci. 2019;8:e11. https://doi.org/10.1017/jns.2019.8

Do you need a post-Thanksgiving tune-up? Find a naturopathic doctor in your area who will help you get back to good health.

Footnotes

This article is provided by

The Institute for Natural Medicine, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization. INM’s mission is to transform health care in the United States by increasing public awareness of natural medicine and access to naturopathic doctors. Naturopathic medicine, with its person-centered principles and practices, has the potential to reverse the tide of chronic illness overwhelming healthcare systems and to empower people to achieve and maintain optimal lifelong health. INM strives to fulfil this mission through the following initiatives:

  • Education – Reveal the unique benefits and outcomes of evidence-based natural medicine
  • Access – Connect patients to licensed naturopathic doctors
  • Research – Expand quality research on this complex and comprehensive system of medicine

About The Author(s)

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Institute for Natural Medicine Staff

Our dedicated content team of professional staff writers represents decades of experience covering essential natural health topics in an accessible, evidence-based, and engaging way. Guided by a shared passion for holistic well-being, each and every one of our writers strives to empower our readers to take charge of their health.

Supported by a rigorous fact-checking and medical editing process from licensed naturopathic doctors that examines the latest in peer-reviewed research, our team brings their in-depth knowledge of natural health practices into every piece of content we produce. We strive to be the gold standard for evidence-based natural medicine, providing trustworthy information and inspiring narratives to help you live your best health, naturally.

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