We all know that drinking too much alcohol is not good for us. But with the party season upon us, it can be easy to get carried away. The only real way to avoid a hangover is not to drink of course but there are some strategies you can adopt to ease the pain away.
Limit Your Intake
This is an obvious solution – if you are going to drink then just don’t overdo it! What is too much for one person to another will vary. Body weight, age, gender, whether you have recently eaten recently, even the type of alcohol you drink will influence the severity of your symptoms. Those common symptoms of low mood, irritability, headache, nausea, sensitivity to light, and fatigue are linked to depletion of stored neurotransmitters in the brain and something known as “refractory sensitivity.” Neurotransmitters are chemicals affecting how we think and feel (hence the low mood and irritability) while refractory sensitivity refers to imbalances in different receptors in the body which can make you more prone for example to light or noise sensitivity.
Select Your Drinks Carefully
Choosing drinks that are low in congeners, such as vodka, gin and rum, may help reduce the severity and frequency of hangovers. Congeners are chemical by-products that are formed in small amounts during the fermentation process – these vary in different alcoholic beverages. Studies suggest that drinks high in congeners can trigger more hangovers. Drinks darker in colour often can cause more problems such as red wine, whisky and cognac being particularly high. Better options include vodka, gin and rum.
Try Vitamin C Before Bed.
Before you go to bed increase your intake of vitamin C. Vitamin C is a valuable nutrient to help your liver detoxify alcohol. Before you go to bed take at least 500mg vitamin C with 2-3 glasses of water. Alcohol actually increases urinary excretion of vitamin C making it particularly useful after the party. Some people also find at least 5g of glutamine powder also useful to help stabilize sugar levels. Repeat this in the morning before you tackle breakfast.
While you may not feel like eating the morning after it may help reduce your hangover symptoms. In the morning your blood sugar will be low and you will be dehydrated. Having a protein based breakfast or snack will help stabilise blood sugar. Low blood sugar can contribute to some of the typical hangover symptoms, such as nausea and fatigue. In addition heavy drinking can cause blood chemical imbalances resulting in metabolic acidosis, which is characterized by an increase in acidity. This can then trigger feelings of nausea and vomiting. Choose foods that are easy to digest and provide some protein and slow releasing carbs. Some people find that caffeine can be helpful (in moderation) particularly if they have a headache. An easy breakfast option would be a whey protein shake with a banana and coconut water. (coconut water is a natural source of electrolytes). Whey is also a natural source of glutathione, a potent antioxidant that supports liver detoxification. Alternatively try a bowl of porridge for some slow releasing carbs with a grapefruit for a dose of vitamin C.
Sleep it Off
Alcohol can disrupt blood sugar and result in poor sleep patterns. A lack of sleep will aggravate your hangover symptoms so try and grab as much sleep as possible.
Drinking alcohol can lead to dehydration – this is mainly because it has a diuretic effect leading to a loss of fluids and electrolytes. If you’re also being sick that can lead to even more fluid loss. After drinking, your body converts methanol into formaldehyde, a highly toxic substance. Formaldehyde may be partly responsible for many hangover symptoms. The day after reach for electrolyte rich fluids like coconut water, tomato juice, watermelon juice or use sports electrolyte tablets added to water to replenish electrolytes and fluids quickly.
Great Foods and Supplements to Try
There is no hangover ‘cure’ but certain foods and nutrients may lesson the symptoms.
Panax Ginseng & Siberian Ginseng have both been shown to help reduce symptoms of hangovers – so try this first thing in the morning.
Banana – Excessive alcohol can diminish carbohydrate levels and deplete magnesium and B vitamins. Bananas are useful source of B6, potassium, magnesium and quick releasing carbs to perk you up. To help balance your blood sugar try banana topped on oat cakes, which are a great source of slow releasing carbohydrate and soluble fibre to boost flagging energy levels.
Coconut water It’s not so much the alcohol that leads to hangover symptoms but some of the chemicals the alcohol is metabolized into such as acetaldehyde. Alcohol is also a diuretic so a night out on the town can lead to dehydration further exacerbating that throbbing head the morning after. Coconut water is a great hydrating drink – rich in electrolytes sodium, potassium, magnesium and calcium, which are depleted after a night of drinking. So before you go to bed have a couple of glasses of coconut water to support detoxification.
Eggs. Eggs contains an amino acid called N acetyl cysteine one of the building blocks of a potent antioxidant called glutathione which is important in ridding the body of the toxins from alcohol. Protein will also help support energy levels through the morning. So the morning after if you can face it have a couple of scrambled eggs with veggies for a breakfast energy boost
Berries & Citrus Fruits. Not only does alcohol deplete your body of nutrients particularly vitamin C, A and B vitamins it can also lead to low blood sugar levels, which may leave you feeling weak and shaky. Counter this by snacking on a bowl of berries or an orange. A great source of natural sugars to boost energy levels and plenty of vitamin C an essential antioxidant to protect your body from the damaging effects of alcohol. These fruits also contain a range of energy boosting B vitamins and vitamin A to replenish depleted levels.
Watermelon. Like berries watermelon is a fabulous source of potent antioxidants including carotenoids. It is also packed with water to boost hydration. Watermelon is high in many essential nutrients that can be depleted by alcohol, including vitamin C, B-vitamins and magnesium.
Ginger. Hangovers are often accompanied by an upset stomach. If you feel a little queasy try sipping some ginger tea or cordial. Ginger’s root contains chemicals called gingerols and shogaols. These chemicals relax the intestinal tract, preventing motion sickness and relieving the nausea and colicky stomach cramps. You could suck on a ginger sweet or munch a little crystallised ginger. The sugar it contains also helps to bring up your blood sugar levels, which can crash following a night of alcohol.
Supergreens. An effective way to support Phase I and II detoxification pathways is to add a spoonful of green superfood powder to a morning protein smoothie. Choose a blended powder, wheatgrass, spirulina, chlorella to support the liver pathways.
Baked potato – rich in vitamin B6 plus potassium (eat the skin as well). These are an ideal choice if you want to keep meals bland to prevent nausea and sickness – combine with some lean protein to support blood sugar levels.
Oats – another good source of B vitamins and magnesium needed to perk up energy levels. Oats can also help stabilise blood sugar levels too which can be out of balance after a drinking session
If you’re looking to kick start your health after the festive season then try one of our detox programmes.