Holiday Essentials Guide: Stay Healthy With Supplements


Updated on December 6, 2019

With the endless lists and preparation for celebrations with friends and family, holiday stress can sometimes take a toll on an individual’s health. While there are many reasons to celebrate, the holiday season can also negatively impact various aspects of health, including sleep, stress levels, digestion, liver health, and immune function.

We’ve put together this Holiday Essentials Guide with some of our most recommended holiday health tips and supplements to help you and your patients take on the holiday season!

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Sleep health & stress management

The holiday season may contribute to psychosocial stress, which has been shown to negatively impact sleep. (10) Other factors that may impair sleep include physical inactivity, travel, and increased alcohol and caffeine intake, (11) factors which are generally more common around the holidays. Incorporating sleep hygiene practices and supplementing with l-theanine and melatonin may benefit individuals with sleep disturbances.

L-theanine

L-theanine, an amino acid found primarily in green tea leaves, can help promote relaxation and sleep. A study of individuals with Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) found that 250 mg of L-theanine administered daily over 8 weeks decreased anxiety, depressive symptoms, and sleep disturbances. (7)

Another double-blind, placebo-controlled trial examined the effects of l-theanine supplementation in healthy adults when confronted with a stressor. L-theanine reduced both the subjective stress response and salivary cortisol response to the stressor, demonstrating the anti-stress effects of l-theanine. (26)

CAN: Search for l-theanine in the Fullscript catalog.
US: Search for l-theanine in the Fullscript catalog.

woman sleeping on her couch with christmas lights in the background

Supplementing with melatonin could help you relax and get a better night’s sleep.

Melatonin

Melatonin, a neurotransmitter-like compound, is synthesized from tryptophan by the pineal gland through a series of reactions. (13) These reactions are stimulated by darkness and suppressed by light, which suggests that melatonin is involved in the regulation of the body’s sleep cycle, the circadian rhythm, and other body functions.

Research has shown that melatonin improves sleep quality, increases total sleep time, and decreases sleep onset latency (SOL). (13) A meta-analysis found that supplementation with 5 mg of melatonin administered at 10 pm shortened time to sleep and increased sleep duration. (5) Further, a systematic review examining the effectiveness of melatonin supplementation on sleep found that the administered dose of melatonin ranged from 0.3 to 10.0 mg/day, (3) indicating that effective dosing for individuals may vary.

CAN: Search for melatonin in the Fullscript catalog.
US: Search for melatonin in the Fullscript catalog.

Digestive health

Environmental and dietary irritants commonly present during the holidays may affect digestion or contribute to increased intestinal permeability, commonly referred to as leaky gut syndrome. Factors that may negatively affect gut health and the integrity of the gut barrier include:

  • Chronic or excessive stress (14)
  • Excessive alcohol consumption (14)
  • Gluten consumption, a protein found in certain grains (e.g., wheat, barley, rye) (6)
  • Poor diet (e.g., low fiber, excessive carbohydrates and saturated fats) (14)

Leaky gut may result in systemic inflammation and digestive symptoms that are commonly experienced around the holidays, such as chronic diarrhea or constipation. (17) Similarly, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) may also result from dietary patterns common during the holidays, such as food consumption shortly before bedtime, (4) a high intake of simple sugars, and a low intake of fiber. (15) Incorporating dietary supplements, such as DGL and digestive enzymes, may help support optimal digestion and address digestive symptoms throughout the holidays.

DGL

Deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL) may help soothe indigestion due to its anti-inflammatory and mucous-generating (protective) effects. It’s important to note that glycyrrhizin, a constituent of Glycyrrhiza glabra (licorice), has been associated with potential negative side effects for individuals with certain contraindications, such as hypertension. DGL is a form of licorice extract that contains no glycyrrhizin and is safe for individuals with hypertension.

One study found that supplementing 75  mg of licorice root extract twice daily for 30 days resulted in significant improvement in the symptoms of individuals suffering from functional dyspepsia, also known as non-ulcer dyspepsia. (20) Research has also demonstrated licorice extract to be as effective in H. Pylori eradication as bismuth, the primary ingredient in Pepto Bismol. (19)

CAN: Search for DGL in the Fullscript catalog.
US: Search for DGL in the Fullscript catalog.

woman placing both of her hands on her stomach

Digestive enzymes are naturally secreted in the stomach and small intestine to help you digest your food.

Digestive enzymes

Digestive enzymes are naturally secreted in the stomach and small intestine to digest food. During the holidays, supplementation of enzymes can give the digestive system support with those large meals and decadent foods.

Supplemental digestive enzymes, often used to address various gastrointestinal disorders, help break down proteins, carbohydrates, and lipids to their absorbable forms. (9) For example, a study concluded that supplementing with 280 mg of lipase 10 minutes before a high-fat meal decreased stomach fullness. (12) Another study found that supplementation with pancreatic enzymes reduced symptoms of bloating, gas, and fullness after a high calorie, high-fat meal. (23)

When choosing an enzyme supplement, it’s important to note that broad-spectrum digestive enzymes may be more effective for overall digestion whereas single-enzyme supplements, such as lactase alone, are targeted for specific needs.

CAN: Search for enzymes in the Fullscript catalog.
US: Search for enzymes in the Fullscript catalog.

Liver health

The liver is involved in hundreds of body functions, including hormone balancing, lipid metabolism, and detoxification. Several lifestyle factors have been identified as negatively affecting biomarkers of liver function, lipid metabolism, and inflammation, including smoking, physical inactivity, and increased coffee and alcohol consumption. (16)

B vitamins and milk thistle supplements may support the liver, particularly with the added stress of the holidays.

Vitamin B

B vitamins are essential for activating liver enzymes and supporting the proper function of liver detoxification pathways. For example, B vitamins, particularly B6, B12, and folate, are essential to the methyltransferase pathway, part of the liver’s Phase 2 detoxification. (8)(18)

CAN: Search for vitamin B complex in the Fullscript catalog.
US: Search for vitamin B complex in the Fullscript catalog.

Milk Thistle plant with its seeds spread out

Your liver is involved in hundreds of body functions, including balancing hormones, metabolizing fats, and detoxification.

Milk thistle

Milk thistle, a plant originating from Europe, has long been used for its hepatoprotective effects. Its ability to protect the liver has been suggested to result from the antioxidant and free radical scavenging effects of silymarin and silybin, active constituents of milk thistle. (24) Research has shown that silymarin decreases liver enzymes, ALT and AST, in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease patients. (29)

CAN: Search for milk thistle in the Fullscript catalog.
US: Search for milk thistle in the Fullscript catalog.

Immune health

For many individuals, the holidays go hand in hand with cold and flu season. Stress, loss of sleep, and indulging in certain foods, such as rich meals and sugary treats, can leave your patients vulnerable to illness. Probiotics and elderberry supplements may help support the immune system and recovery from illness during the holidays.

Probiotics

As a result of their interaction with the gut microbiome, probiotics play a role in supporting the immune system, over 70% of which is found in the gastrointestinal tract of humans. (25) Probiotics help modulate the immune response by influencing the actions of dendritic cells, macrophages, and T and B lymphocytes. (27)

Research has shown that probiotics may help prevent or decrease the duration and severity of upper respiratory tract infections, such as the common cold. (21)(22) Multi-strain probiotics in particular have demonstrated beneficial effects on immune health and greater efficacy than single-strain options. (2)

CAN: Search for probiotics in the Fullscript catalog.
US: Search for probiotics in the Fullscript catalog.

elderberry berries with a clear bottle of elderberry syrup

Often found in syrup form, Elderberry is a great choice for adults and children.

Elderberry

The botanical herb Sambucus nigra, commonly known as elderberry, may also be considered for immune support during the holiday season. Elderberry is often found in syrup form, making it a great choice for adults and children alike.

Research has demonstrated the antiviral and immunostimulatory effects of elderberry extract, including increasing inflammatory cytokine production. (1) Clinical evidence shows that some elderberry extracts might improve flu-like symptoms and reduce the duration of colds by four days due to the concentration of flavonoids and other beneficial vitamins, minerals, phytosterols, and carotenoids. (28)

CAN: Search for elderberry in the Fullscript catalog.
US: Search for elderberry in the Fullscript catalog.

The bottom line

Consider an integrative approach when helping your patients prevent illness and support optimal health during the holidays. Lifestyle factors to keep in mind include adequate sleep, stress management, regular physical activity, and limited caffeine and alcohol intake. Consider Fullscript’s top recommended holiday supplements to help your patients stay healthy throughout the holiday season.

If you are a practitioner, consider signing up for Fullscript. If you are a patient, talk to your healthcare practitioner about Fullscript!

DOWNLOAD THE HOLIDAY ESSENTIALS GUIDE
  1. Barak, V., Halperin, T., & Kalickman, I. (2001). The effect of Sambucol, a black elderberry-based, natural product, on the production of human cytokines: I. Inflammatory cytokines. European Cytokine Network, 12(2), 290-6.
  2. Chapman, C. M., Gibson, G.R., Rowland, I. (2011). Health benefits of probiotics: Are mixtures more effective than single strains? European Journal of Nutrition, 50(1), 1-17.
  3. Costello, R. B., Lentino, C.V., Boyd, C.C., O’Connell, M.L., Crawford. C.C., Sprengel, M.L., & Deuster, P.A. (2014). The effectiveness of melatonin for promoting healthy sleep: A rapid evidence assessment of the literature. Nutrition Journal, 13, 106.
  4. Esmaillzadeh, A., Keshteli, A. H., Feizi, A., Zaribaf, F., Feinle-Bisset, C., & Adibi, P. (2013). Patterns of diet-related practices and prevalence of gastroesophageal reflux disease. Neurogastroenterology & Motility, 25(10), 831-e638.
  5. Ferracioli-Oda, E., Qawasmi, A., & Bloch, M. H. (2018). Meta-analysis: Melatonin for the treatment of primary sleep disorders. Focus, 16(1), 113-118.
  6. Guerreiro, C. S., Calado, ., Sousa, J., & Fonseca, J. E. (2018). Diet, microbiota, and gut permeability-The unknown triad in rheumatoid arthritis. Frontiers in Medicine, 5, 349.
  7. Hidese, S., Ota, M., Wakabayashi, C., Noda, T., Ozawa, H., Okubo, T., & Kunugi, H. (2016). Effects of chronic l-theanine administration in patients with major depressive disorder: An open-label study. Acta Neuropsychiatrica, 29(02), 72-79.
  8. Hodges, R.E. & Minich, D.M. (2015). Modulation of metabolic detoxification pathways using foods and food-derived components: A scientific review with clinical application. Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism, 2015, 760689.
  9. Ianiro, G., Pecere, S., Giorgio, V., Gasbarrini, A., & Cammarota, G. (2016). Digestive enzyme supplementation in gastrointestinal diseases. Current Drug Metabolism, 17(2), 187-193.
  10. Irish, L. A., Kline, C. E., Gunn, H. E., Buysse, D. J., & Hall, M. H. (2015). The role of sleep hygiene in promoting public health: A review of empirical evidence. Sleep Medicine Reviews, 22, 23–36.
  11. Kaur, H., & Bollu, P.C. (2011). Chronic insomnia. In StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island, Florida: StatPearls Publishing.
  12. Levine, M. E., Koch, S. Y., & Koch, K. L. (2015). Lipase supplementation before a high-fat meal reduces perceptions of fullness in healthy subjects. Gut and Liver, 9(4), 464.
  13. Malhotra, S., Sawhney, G., & Pandhi, P. (2004). The therapeutic potential of melatonin: A review of the science. Medscape General Medicine, 6(2), 46.
  14. Mu, Q., Kirby, J., Reilly, C. M., & Luo, X. M. (2017). Leaky gut as a danger signal for autoimmune diseases. Frontiers in Immunology, 8.
  15. Newberry, C., & Lynch, K. (2019). The role of diet in the development and management of gastroesophageal reflux disease: Why we feel the burn. Journal of Thoracic Disease, 11(S12).
  16. Nivukoski, U., Niemelä, M., Bloigu, A., Bloigu, R., Aalto, M., Laatikainen, T., & Niemelä, O. (2019). Impacts of unfavourable lifestyle factors on biomarkers of liver function, inflammation and lipid status. Plos One, 14(6).
  17. Odenwald, M., & Turner, J. (2016). The intestinal epithelial barrier: A therapeutic target? Nature Reviews Gastroenterology & Hepatology, 14(1).
  18. Pissios, P. (2017). Nicotinamide N-Methyltransferase: More than a vitamin B3 clearance enzyme. Trends in Endocrinology & Metabolism, 28(5), 340-353.
  19. Rahimian, G., Kiasi, A., Amiri, M., Kheiri, S., & Momeni, A. (2014). Effect of licorice versus bismuth on eradication of Helicobacter pylori in patients with peptic ulcer disease. Pharmacognosy Research, 6(4), 341.
  20. Raveendra, K. R., Jayachandra, Srinivasa, V., Sushma, K. R., Allan, J. J., Goudar, K. S., … Agarwal, A. (2012). An extract of Glycyrrhiza glabra (GutGard) alleviates symptoms of functional dyspepsia: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2012, 1-9.
  21. Shida, K., Sato, T., Iizuka, R., Hoshi, R., Watanabe, O., Igarashi, T., . . . Ishikawa, F. (2015). Daily intake of fermented milk with Lactobacillus casei strain shirota reduces the incidence and duration of upper respiratory tract infections in healthy middle-aged office workers. European Journal of Nutrition, 56(1), 45-53.
  22. Smith, T. J., Rigassio-Radler, D., Denmark, R., Haley, T., & Touger-Decker, R. (2013). Effect of Lactobacillus rhamnosus LGG® and Bifidobacterium animalis ssp. Lactis BB-12® on health-related quality of life in college students affected by upper respiratory infections. British Journal of Nutrition, 109(11), 1999-2007.
  23. Suarez, F., Levitt, M. D., Adshead, J., & Barkin, J. S. (1999). Pancreatic supplements reduce symptomatic response of healthy subjects to a high fat meal. Digestive Diseases and Sciences, 44(7), 1317–1321.
  24. Vargas-Mendoza, N., Madrigal-Santillán, E., Morales-González, A., Esquivel-Soto, J., Esquivel-Chirino, C., García-Luna y González-Rubio, M., . . . Morales-González, J. A. (2014). Hepatoprotective effect of silymarin. World Journal of Hepatology, 6(3), 144.
  25. Vighi, G., Marcucci, F., Sensi, L., Di Cara, G., & Frati, F. (2008). Allergy and the gastrointestinal system. Clinical and Experimental Immunology, 153(1), 3–6.
  26. White, D., Klerk, S. D., Woods, W., Gondalia, S., Noonan, C., & Scholey, A. (2016). Anti-stress, behavioural and magnetoencephalography effects of an l-theanine-based nutrient drink: A randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover trial. Nutrients, 8(1), 53.
  27. Yan, F. & Polk, D. (2011). Probiotics and immune health. Current Opinion in Gastroenterology, 27(6), 496-501.
  28. Zakay-Rones, Z., Thom, E., Wollan, T., & Wadstein, J. (2004). Randomized study of the efficacy and safety of oral Elderberry Extract in the treatment of Influenza A and B virus infections. Journal of International Medical Research, 32(2), 132-140.
  29. Zhong, S., Fan, Y., Yan, Q., Fan, X., Wu, B., Han, Y., . . . Niu, J. (2017). The therapeutic effect of silymarin in the treatment of nonalcoholic fatty disease. Medicine, 96(49).
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