The year-end summer season in South Africa is one of the most enjoyable times of year, but feeling ill can ruin even the most festive of holidays. “Often, the overindulging, late nights and too much sun on your holidays can effect on our long and short term health,” says Graham Anderson, Principal Officer and CEO of Profmed.
Easy does it
The holiday season usually involves more food and treats which can be so tempting and overindulging is acceptable and often encouraged. Anderson advises that this is one of the easiest holiday health traps to fall into. “The all too familiar abundance of foods and beverages present during the holiday season sees many people giving in and overeating or binge drinking, which can leave you feeling bloated and tired, and can even weaken your immune system,” says Anderson. “Wherever possible try to choose healthier alternatives and substitutions at meal and snack times,” he advises. “Simple choices – such as choosing water over alcohol, nuts or dried fruit over crisps and fried foods, and filling up on vegetables or salads before sampling richer foods – can go a long way.”
At the same time, overindulging a little is completely natural and human, so don’t beat yourself up too much. If you have had a bit of a binge, drink antioxidant-rich fluids, such as green tea and cranberry juice, and try to incorporate more fibre and immune-boosting vitamins into your diet through grains, pulses, fresh fruit and vegetables. Protein and iron-rich foods also assist with recovery when feeling tired and lethargic after lots of activity. Taking a good quality multivitamin can help to give your body’s energy and overall health the extra boost it needs.
Keep it up
It is also beneficial to retain your exercise and sleep routines over the holiday period as much as possible, as an interruption in either can have a knock-on effect on your health and general wellbeing. “Although it can be tempting to skip exercising for more relaxing activities while on holiday, keeping up your fitness will allow you to enjoy the time more by keeping your energy and immunity up,” explains Anderson. “To help keep motivated, try incorporating exercise into your holiday activities, such as exploring or sightseeing while jogging, or making the most of hotel swimming pools and gyms.”
Beware of the glare
“The sun can be extremely dangerous to both your long and short term health, especially here in South Africa’s harsher climate,” warns Anderson. “There is in fact no such thing as safe tanning, and the appropriate care should be taken at all times when out in the sun – for adults and children.” Anderson explains that sunburn – also known as erythema– is one of the first and most obvious signs of over-exposure to the sun’s UV rays. “In order to avoid the painful side effects of sunburn, make sure to wear a good quality, waterproof and high sun protection factor (SPF) lotion at all times, and re-apply frequently. Hats and shirts also offer good protection,” says Anderson.
Anderson also warns that the long term effects of sun damage to the skin can be serious. “There are a variety of conditions which can be brought about by overexposure to the sun,” explains Anderson. “Studies have shown a direct link between sun damage and certain forms of skin cancer, solar keratoses (a scaly skin growth which can develop as a result of sun damage), premature aging, eye damage and immune system suppression. With this in mind, it’s important for people of all ages and skin tones to ensure they are well protected when enjoying South Africa’s sunny weather.”
Keep calm and enjoy your holiday
Ironically, many people find the holiday period quite stressful, with the strain of travelling, financial pressure and family squabbles often adding to the tension. “It’s important to make a conscious effort to use this time to relax and de-stress,” says Anderson. “Try to let go of the small irritations that will no doubt come about, and make sure you take time out to be calm as often as possible. If you find yourself feeling stressed, try to proactively counteract it.” Anderson suggests taking a walk in the fresh air, reading a book or playing with pets as ideal ways to get back to a calm and relaxed state.
Take good care of yourself and your family this holiday, and remember to take the time to appreciate the good things and make the most of the quality time. “It is definitely possible to enjoy all the wonderful things that the holidays have to offer, while avoiding unhealthy habits that might spoil your good time,” Anderson concludes.