Understanding the holiday pounds – The Medical Consultant

Understanding the holiday pounds

It is not surprising that we all tend to gain a few extra pounds over the holidays and despite our best efforts to try to exercise ahead of time it still tends to happen.  The reality is that there is good and bad news that comes along with these extra 3-5 pounds.  The good news is that it is not all fat and therefore it will likely come off quickly over the next couple of weeks assuming we regulate our eating habits to a normal calorie diet for our size. The bad news is that the extra weight is often water weight, and this can have a negative effect on our bodies especially as we age.

The extra water weight that we add is due primarily to increased alcohol and salt intake during the holiday season.  The salt intake is in many of the foods we eat around the holidays and our body responds by holding on to more water in the short run to try to dilute out the increased salt intake as our kidneys catch up and ultimately eliminate the salt for us.

Alcohol has a diuretic effect because it affects pituitary and adrenal hormone production leading to the water, sodium, and chloride elimination by your kidneys in urine.  After this initial diuretic effect by alcohol, our body responds by holding onto as much water as it can in our bodies and often pushes the extra water into our soft tissues leading to swelling of our hands and feet.

This excess water that our body will hold onto can lead to heart failure, exacerbation of emphysema and respiratory problems, and increased soft tissue swelling of our legs, hands, face, and surgical sites amongst other health problems.

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