Holiday Essentials: Stay Healthy With Supplements


From the endless lists to celebrations with friends and family, the holidays can sometimes take a toll on our health. We’ve put together this Holiday Essentials Guide with some of our most recommended supplements to help you take on the holiday season!

Sleep & Stress

Between holiday crowds, the increasing number of commitments and the impending visit from your in-laws, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed during the holidays. Supplementing with l-theanine or melatonin could help you relax and get a better night’s sleep.

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 (Hidese et al., 2016). Another double-blind, placebo-controlled trial examined the effects of l-theanine supplementation on healthy adults when confronted with a stressor. L-theanine reduced both the subjective stress response and the salivary cortisol response to the stressor, supporting the anti-stress effects of L-theanine (White et al., 2016).

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Melatonin

Melatonin, a neurotransmitter-like compound produced by the pineal gland (Malhotra, Sawhney, & Pandhi, 2004), is synthesized from tryptophan through a series of reactions. 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) (Malhotra, Sawhney, & Pandhi, 2004). A meta-analysis found that melatonin supplementation of 5 mg administered at 10 pm shortened time to sleep and increased sleep duration, indicating improved sleep quality (Raveendra et al., 2012). 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 (Costello et al., 2014), indicating that effective dosing for individuals may vary.

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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.

Digestion

During the holiday season, most of us are guilty of a little indulgence. Unfortunately, for many of us, indulging in certain foods can cause digestive discomfort and indigestion.

DGL

DGL, or deglycyrrhizinated licorice, may help soothe indigestion due to its anti-inflammatory and mucous-generating (protective) effects. Glycyrrhizin, a constituent of Glycyrrhiza glabra (licorice), has been associated with potential negative side effects for individuals with certain contraindications such as high blood pressure. DGL is a form of licorice extract that contains no glycyrrhizin and is safe for those individuals concerned about 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 for functional dyspepsia, also known as non-ulcer dyspepsia (Ferracioli-Oda, Qawasmi, & Bloch, 2018). Research has also demonstrated licorice extract to be as effective as bismuth (the main ingredient in Pepto Bismol) in H. Pylori eradication (Rahimian, Kiasi, Amiri, Kheiri, & Momeni, 2014).

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Digestive Enzymes

Digestive enzymes are naturally secreted in the stomach and small intestine to help you digest your food. During the holidays, taking additional enzymes can give your digestive system a little extra help to get through 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 (Ianiro, Pecere, Giorgio, Gasbarrini, & Cammarota, 2016). For example, a study concluded that supplementing with 280mg of lipase 10 minutes before a high-fat meal decreased stomach fullness (Levine, Koch, & Koch, 2015). Another study found that supplementation with pancreatic enzymes reduced symptoms of bloating, gas and fullness after a high calorie, high-fat meal (Suarez, Levitt, Adshead, & Barkin, 1999). 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.

Most Recommended Digestive Enzyme Products on Fullscript

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.

Liver

Your liver is involved in hundreds of body functions, including balancing hormones, metabolizing fats, and detoxification. Whether you missed a few hours of shut-eye or had an extra glass of wine (or two), B vitamins and Milk Thistle can support your liver and help you recover from the holidays.

Vitamin B

B vitamins are essential to the activation of liver enzymes and proper functioning 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 (Pissios, 2017; Hodges & Minich, 2015).

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Milk Thistle

Milk Thistle, a plant originating from Europe, has long been used for its hepatoprotective (liver protecting) effects. Its ability to prevent damage to the liver is thought to be primarily due to the antioxidant and free radical scavenging effects of silymarin and silybin, active constituents of milk thistle (Vargas-Mendoza et al., 2014). Research has shown that silymarin decreases liver enzymes, ALT and AST, in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease patients (Zhong et al., 2017).

Most Recommended Milk Thistle Products on Fullscript

Milk Thistle plant with its seeds spread out

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

Immune Health

You’re healthy all year, then the holidays roll around and suddenly… Hello, colds and flu! Sound familiar? Stress, loss of sleep, and indulging in certain foods, such as rich meals and sugary treats, can leave you vulnerable to illness. The good news is supplementing with probiotics or elderberry may help you feel better faster.

Probiotics

With over 70% of the human immune system residing in the gut (Vighi, Marcucci, Sensi, Di Cara, & Frati, 2008), it’s no wonder that probiotics, well-known for keeping our digestive system happy, also play a role in keeping our immune system healthy.

Probiotics help modulate the immune response by influencing the actions of dendritic cells, macrophages, and T and B lymphocytes (Yan & Polk, 2011). Research has shown that probiotics may help prevent or decrease the duration and severity of upper respiratory tract infections, such as the common cold (Shida et al., 2015; Smith, Rigassio-Radler, Denmark, Haley, & Touger-Decker, 2013). Multi-strain probiotics, in particular, have demonstrated beneficial effects on immune health and greater efficacy than single-strain options (Chapman, Gibson, & Rowland, 2011).

Most Recommended Probiotic Products on Fullscript

elderberry berries with a clear bottle of elderberry syrup

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

Elderberry

When you’re starting to feel a little under the weather, Elderberry, also known as Sambucus nigra, may be your new go-to remedy. Often found in syrup form, Elderberry is a great choice for adults and children.

Elderberry extract has been shown to be antiviral and has immunostimulatory effects, increasing inflammatory cytokine production (Barak, Halperin, & Kalickman, 2001). Clinical research shows that some elderberry extracts might improve flu-like symptoms and reduce the duration of colds by four days due to its high concentration of flavonoids and other beneficial vitamins, minerals, phytosterols, and carotenoids (Zakay-Rones, Thom, Wollan, & Wadstein, 2004).

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In the end, prevention is key, so be sure to get plenty of rest, minimize rich and sugary foods (when possible), do daily deep breathing to combat stress, and always remember…it’s a joyous time of year!

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.

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.

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.

Ferracioli-Oda, E., Qawasmi, A., & Bloch, M. H. (2018). Meta-analysis: Melatonin for the treatment of primary sleep disorders. Focus, 16(1), 113-118.

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.

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.

Ianiro, G., Pecere, S., Giorgio, V., Gasbarrini, A., & Cammarota, G. (2016). Digestive enzyme supplementation in gastrointestinal diseases. Current Drug Metabolism, 17(2), 187-193.

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.

Malhotra, S., Sawhney, G., & Pandhi, P. (2004). The therapeutic potential of melatonin: A review of the science. Medscape General Medicine, 6(2), 46.

Pissios, P. (2017). Nicotinamide N-Methyltransferase: More than a vitamin B3 clearance enzyme. Trends in Endocrinology & Metabolism, 28(5), 340-353.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Yan, F. & Polk, D. (2011). Probiotics and immune health. Current Opinion in Gastroenterology, 27(6), 496-501.

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.

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).