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Can My Diet Survive the Shortbread Season?

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It's that time of year when all those parties and social gatherings dot the calendar. Everywhere we turn, sweet temptation rears its ugly hea.

It's that time of year when all those parties and social gatherings dot the calendar. Everywhere we turn, sweet temptation rears its ugly head. How can we resist those shortbread cookies, the rich creamy cheeses and, of course, the mandatory rum and eggnog?

People with concerns can be split into four categories: those following an anti-yeast (candida) diet; those worried about weight gain; those who feel that party foods may compromise the immune system; and those who know they just ate too much junk food and want to detoxify. Fortunately there are some good recommendations for each of the above problems. Prevention is by far the best solution.

We all know the truth to the adage "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." One of the best means of prevention is to start early with a 12-day detoxification program. By doing a thorough cleanse beforehand, you won't feel quite so guilty when you slide off the garden path into the dessert tray. During those 12 days, combine a detox cleanse consisting of herbal formulas (which you can find in your health food store) and a special diet. The coinciding diet should be alkaline, with no dairy, flour, processed foods or sweets. The average person will lose some weight on this program, lower candida levels and do a fair job of detoxing the body. I have many patients who do this simple program beforehand to ease the pressure of upcoming social events. As well, many people detoxify in January to undo some of the damage they did over the festive season and to get themselves back on a good diet.

If you are on a strict, no-sugar diet to combat candida, we have found a great "cheat pill" that comes from China and is called huang lain su (Coptis chinensis). Take two or three pills, two to three times daily, depending on the extent of your cheating. The good news is that candida can't grow while you are consuming Coptis. The bad news is that it only works for about two weeks every three to four months. So, only use it for those special occasions. If you don't have a Chinese dispensary nearby, try using the close North American relatives: gold thread (Coptis spp.), barberry and/or goldenseal. You can find combinations of these herbs in your health shops. The dosage remains the same as with huang lain su.

If weight gain is your major fear, losing a few pounds before the season can even out any possible problem. Fairly good success can be achieved with two nutritional supplements: CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) 2,000 mg twice daily and CitraMax (Garcinia cambogia) 1,000 to 4,000 mg, 30 to 90 minutes before eating. This is effective in reducing both appetite and fat production. Follow this program before and right through the holidays.

One of the surest methods to avoid overindulging at parties is to fill up on safe foods before you leave the house. The food might look appealing, but your fingers aren't quite so likely to wander to the hors d'oeuvre tray when you are full. If you take one tablespoon (15 g) of protein powder and two tablespoons (30 g) of psyllium husks in one to two glasses of water or juice before a party, you will feel full for about three hours.

For the immune system take: beta-carotene (20,000 IU twice daily), vitamin C (at least 1,000 mg twice daily), echinacea (200 to 500 mg twice daily) and zinc (10 mg twice daily). This program will help keep your immune system on alert to ward off any nasty bugs and can be continued for most of the winter.

In many countries around the world, festivals are for celebration, fun and entertainment. They should be times to enjoy. After all, many of us need a break away from the routine of our busy lives. If you successfully prepare for this time and get back on your normal program after the festive season, little harm is done. And there's always that detoxification program waiting to help get you back on track.

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