As the festive season approaches, it's a great idea to build in a regular practice to help our bodies cope with the extra rich foods, festivities and glass or two of mulled wine! 

Here are some easy tips to support your body over the Christmas period:

1. Eat more plants 
If there is one rule for a healthier life, it is to eat more plants. Fruit and, especially, vegetables provide the widest range of nutrients, enzymes and fibre to help our bodies efficiently digest, detoxify and replenish. Include berries with your morning porridge for lots of repairing antioxidants, snack on detoxifying plants such as organic apples (which contain cleansing pectin and polyphenols), celery (great for water retention and hydration) and carrots (lots of beta carotene). Make sure rich meals heavy in fat, protein and sugar are accompanied by plenty of vegetables to help provide enzymes and fibre to assist with digestion. 

2. Epsom salt baths 
Epsom salts contain magnesium and sulphates that are thought to help assist with detoxification. By adding Epsom salts to your bath, your body will readily absorb these nutrients through the skin, immediately helping to remove toxins, reduce inflammation and pain, and ease bloating and water retention. Epsom salts can be purchased from most pharmacies and health shops. Add one cup of epsom salts to your bath and soak for at least 20 minutes. 

3. Castor oil packs
Castor oil has a wonderful ability to improve circulation when used externally on any body area. It can be helpful in relieving constipation, painful joints and a sluggish liver. To make up a castor oil pack, soak a face cloth in 250mls of organic castor oil, place over the body area in question, cover with clingfilm, place a hot water bottle on top, and relax for 20-30 minutes. When you are helping your body to detoxify, place the pack over the liver area (on the right hand side of your upper abdomen, just below the ribcage). This will improve circulation to help optimise liver function. For sluggish digestion and bloating, use over the lower abdomen. Do not use a castor oil pack if you are pregnant, after ovulation if trying to conceive, or when menstruating. 

4. Sweat it out! 
Your skin is regularly used by your body to help eliminate toxins. To help this process, encouraging a regular sweat can help you feel refreshed and rejuvenated. This can be especially beneficial in the colder months when we tend towards cooler body temperatures and less sweating (and why saunas are so popular in the cold Nordic countries!). Sweat it out with regular exercise, saunas, steam rooms or a nice hot bath. Remember to replenish any fluids lost by drinking lots of water, with a splash of fresh lemon juice for an extra detox hit. 

5. Apple cider vinegar 
Apple cider vinegar has so many health benefits, I could write an entire article about it (in fact, I might just do that!). Suffice to say, organic apple cider vinegar should be a cupboard staple. It can help reduce bloating, improve digestion, regulate blood sugar and even help with weight loss. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, it is known for helping relieve blocked liver energy, so is a very helpful tonic for times when our livers are working hard. Start your day with a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar in warm water with lemon juice and a spoon of local honey to help your body through the festive season. 
Fiona O'Farrell is a Licensed Acupuncturist and Naturopath. She runs The Gate Clinic in Greystones, Co. Wicklow, Ireland. See for more information.
Natural Health Therapist