All too often, holiday celebrations make for health hassles. Partygoers suffer heartburn and hangovers, travelers are stricken with tummy troubles and everyone gets stressed to excess.
Here are some tips for preventing holiday health problems -- plus easy home remedies for fast relief from the season's biggest complaints.
7' 10 ways to avoid digestive distress Overindulging -- especially in certain foods -- is the No. 1 cause holiday health problems such as bellyaches and heartburn, says Dr. Richard N. Podell, an attending physician at Overlook Hospital in Summit, N.J.
Here's how to sidestep such seasonal sufferings:
* Avoid foods that relax the sphincter muscle at the entrance to the stomach, triggering heartburn. Chief offenders: spicy foods, onions, garlic, coffee (even decaf), peppermint, chocolate, alcohol.
* Consume high-fat fare such as eggnog and turkey with skin in moderation. They can cause belching and nausea.
* When scheduling holiday dinners, leave at least two hours between dessert and bedtime.
* If you have problems with stomach upset, avoid aspirin and ibuprofen, which can add to irritation. For pain relief, take acetaminophen.
The eating-light tips below will not only prevent stomach upset, but also help you cut back on calories that are quickly converted to fat, according to Linda Van Horn, an associate professor of preventive medicine at Northwestern University Medical School in Chicago.
* Take your own favorite low-fat, low-calorie dish to potluck dinners.
* Survey the entire spread before filling your plate. Fried crab cakes with tartar sauce will be easier to resist once you spot chilled shrimp with cocktail sauce.
* Make diet-wise food swaps: part-skim mozzarella instead of Brie; chestnuts for mixed nuts; skinless turkey breast instead of goose with skin; rice rather than sausage stuffing; parsleyed new potatoes for potatoes au gratin; pumpkin pie for pecan; a candy cane instead of marzipan.
* Indulge your passion, a little. A single chocolate truffle is more satisfying and less fattening than seven ho-hum chocolate Santas.
* Keep low-cal treats in your refrigerator. It's easier to resist a rich mousse served at a party when you have sugar-free pudding at home.
L * Let party food replace -- not supplement -- regular meals.
. Prevent hangovers: 5 hints Too much alcohol packs a caloric punch and may lead to morning-after hangover. How to control intake:
* Before a party, decide to limit your alcohol intake to two or three drinks, spaced an hour apart.
* Choose diluted drinks -- a spritzer instead of wine, for example.
* To slow alcohol absorption, eat something high in protein or complex carbohydrates, such as low-fat cheese, whole-grain bread or pretzels, before you drink.
* Avoid sweets while drinking and also sugary alcoholic beverages such as eggnog and liqueurs. Sugar speeds booze into the bloodstream.
* Alcohol is a diuretic. Before bed, rehydrate with 12 ounces of water for each alcoholic drink consumed.
# 8 mood boosters You're --ing through stores, decking the halls, addressing envelopes late at night. Are you having fun or feeling stressed out? Or maybe you feel blue at this time of year.
Below, from Dr. Paul J. Rosch, the president of the American Institute of Stress in Yonkers, N.Y., are suggestions for soothing body and soul:
* Breathe deeply: Slowly inhale through your nose, expanding abdomen before letting air fill chest. Exhale slowly. Repeat five times.
* To relieve muscle tension, clench fists and hold five seconds, then relax. Now tense and relax arms, forehead, shoulders, abdomen, back, legs, feet. Repeat sequence three times.
* For added relief, visualize a relaxing scene -- a calm ocean or flowering meadow, for example -- while doing the above two exercises.
* Feeling overwhelmed? A brisk walk will give you time alone and help to dissipate adrenalin, the hormone that makes your heart race and blood pressure rise.
* Listen to your favorite music. Some studies suggest that music with a very slow, repetitive beat -- New Age, classical or easy-listening, for example -- has a calming effect.
* Lack of daylight can darken moods and increase anxiety in some people. Leave curtains open. Move your desk close to a window.
* Try to keep your expectations in line with reality. Don't be disappointed if your holiday isn't perfect.
* If you're feeling lonely, arrange a telephone conference call with distant relatives, fix a meal for the homeless, join a group for caroling or invite friends over for a potluck dinner.
' 10 ways to energize Does sacrificing sleep seem the only way to find time for holiday baking?
"Chronically shortchanging sleep makes you more vulnerable to illness and interferes with mental performance," Dr. Podell says.
Below are his suggestions for increasing energy and improving the quality of your sleep.
* Lunch on protein foods such as skinless poultry or fish and complex carbohydrates such as pasta and vegetables. These keep blood-sugar levels on an even keel, maximizing energy.