Natural ways to an energetic New Year

by Dr JOHN BRIFFA, Daily Mail

The Christmas and New Year celebrations can take their toll on the body. A glut of rich food, too much alcohol and the stress often associated with this time of year can leave us feeling emotionally and physically drained.

And while many of us start each New Year committed to leading healthier lives, making the necessary changes can often be made more difficult by the feeling of inertia the end-of-year festivities can bring.

Fortunately, experience shows that regaining a sense of health and well being needn't be difficult.

With just a few simple lifestyle changes it is usually possible to restore energy and vitality to both body and mind.

One simple way to boost energy levels is to make sure our bodies get optimum amounts of oxygen from the air we breathe.

Most of us tend to take relatively rapid, shallow breaths from the chest, rather than deeper, more efficient breaths from the belly, or diaphragm. Yet even a few minutes of diaphragmatic breathing each day can enhance physical and mental energy.

To do this, sit or lie quietly, breathing slowly through your nose. As you do this, focus on pushing your belly out as you breathe in.

Another good way to increase energy is to drink more water.

The body is 70 per cent water, and all of the reactions, which generate energy in the body essentially take place in water.

For enhanced vitality, I recommend that everyone drinks about two litres of filtered or still mineral water each day.

When energy levels are low, many of us are tempted to reach for stimulants such as coffee, tea and caffeinated soft drinks. However, while the caffeine in these drinks does often boost energy, it can also have a downside.

Like other drugs, caffeine is addictive and can upset the body's chemistry in a number of ways.

Those looking for an energy boost in the New Year should invest in a natural tonic from their local health food store.

As a general pick-me-up, I generally recommend ginseng, in either the Panax (Asian, Korean) or Siberian form. Panax ginseng has been shown to improve mental and physical energy, qualities, which have led to its popularity as a general tonic in both East and West.

The normal dose is 100mg to 200mg of standardised extract containing 5 per cent to 7 per cent ginsenosides a day.

Like Panax ginseng, Siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus) has been used in Chinese medicine for more than 2,000 years, both as an energy booster and an immune system enhancer.

I suggest 300mg to 400mg of concentrated solid standardised extract should be taken each day. Again, it is generally recommended that Siberian ginseng be used on a cyclical basis, with treatment periods of six to eight weeks interspersed with breaks of one to two weeks.

Neither form should be used by pregnant and breast-feeding women, or those with high blood pressure.

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