Tis the Season for Overindulgence

PUBLISHED: 15:15 04 December 2008 | UPDATED: 15:38 20 February 2013

Black elderberries

Black elderberries

For those people looking to reduce their digestive discomfort at this time of year, herbal remedies could hold the answer.

Expert herbalist Dr Serene Foster says: "During the Christmas period we all eat and drink more than we should do, but sometimes it's difficult to say no when temptation is all around, but herbal remedies can help." Artichoke extract has been used for centuries for its digestive benefits and research has found that it helps food through the digestive transit and may also reduce the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. Turmeric is another herbal remedy that may help during periods of overindulgence as it has a distinct anti-inflammatory effect on the intestine and the bowel.

Chew, chew, chew

An array of delicious foods makes it tempting to eat everything in sight, but try to take your time when eating and enjoy each mouthful. Good chewing is the first step to healthy digestion.

Don't stop moving

Exercise helps to move digested food through the intestines, thereby preventing the painful symptoms of constipation. For an easy way to help you stay active during the festive season, why not do your Christmas shopping on the high street and your local traders rather than online or in one superstore ?

Eat your greens

Christmas foods, though delicious, can often be high in fat and sugar and low in fibre. Don't neglect the vegetable plate, and remember that you should still be aiming to eat five portions of fruit and vegetables a day.And here's a perfectly natural (and free) remedy to remember for when the elderberry season comes round: Wiltshire's hedgerows contain a plentiful supply of black elderberries, which have been clinically proven to reduce the symptoms of cold and flu and may be the solution to maintaining a healthy immune system this winter. Black elderberry extract has been shown to reduce the duration of influenza by around four days and to relieve the symptoms of the illness in nearly 90% of cases, compared to six days in a placebo group. It has also been shown to be 99% effective against the H5N1 strain of Avian Flu.

Black elderberries are thought to contain a unique compound, which coats viruses and prevents them from penetrating and infecting healthy cells. As a result, viruses are unable to replicate. The body's white blood cells are then able to ingest the infected cells, effectively removing the virus from the body. Black elderberries also contain high levels of natural antioxidants known as flavonoids, which help strengthen the immune system against attack. As the black elderberry has twice the antioxidant capacity of blueberries and significantly more than cranberries, this dark purple berry may be the unsung hero of the English countryside.

Though black elderberries should not be eaten directly from the bush, the immune health benefits of this delicious 'superfood' can still be enjoyed by cooking the berries and using them in recipes for jam or fruit pies. It is also worth noting that the immune health properties of elderberries can only be found in the fruit of the black elderberry bush and not in its elderflowers. If you've missed the elderberry season you can still obtain the benefits by taking herbal remedies containing black elderberry extract, such as Sambucol. All the remedies mentioned should be available at your local health food shop and appropriate retail outlets.

For more information and research on clinical trials on black elderberry visit www.blackelderberry.info.

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