Tis the season for that occasional overindulgence. You had so much fun last evening drinking, eating and chatting away at a holiday party but now it’s the morning after: your head is pounding, your stomach is doing flip flops, the light hurts your eyes and you want to crawl back under the covers. Sound familiar? Unfortunately, no matter how mature we are, we sometimes don’t do a great job of preventing the dreaded hangover and that night of merriment leads to a day of regrets. The good news is that there is so much we can do to prevent this from happening, which will make your holidays that much brighter.
Here are some basic pointers you can do before you go out and during the evening to avoid waking up with that awful hungover feeling:
1. Before you go out, EAT FIRST. Try to have a snack of proteins and fatty foods(which will help to slow down the absorption of alcohol and decrease irritation of the stomach lining) and carbohydrates(these prevent low blood sugar and nausea). You might also include some spicy foods to stimulate your thirst, leading you to drink more water before you go out which will help you be adequately hydrated. One of the worst things you can do is go a party on an empty stomach! Here a few easy suggestions: brown rice and veggies; cheese, whole grain crackers and sliced apples or pears; hummous and whole grain pita bread; nuts and dried fruits….. and don’t forget to have some water, herbal tea or juice before you head out the door.
2. Once you get to the function, try to choose lighter color beverages: they contain less ‘congeners’, which are impurities that can exacerbate a hangover. Choose vodka, gin, white rum and white wine whenever possible.
3. Pace yourself. It takes about one hour for your body to metabolize 12 oz beer/ 5 oz wine and 1 and 1/2 oz of hard liquor. Alternate an alcoholic beverage with 8 oz of water. THIS IS ESSENTIAL!! Consuming alcohol causes dehydration, which causes your organs to steal water, thus ‘shrinking the brain'(which leads to the headache and foggy thinking). Daniel K Hall-Flavin, MD , a consultant in Addiction Psychology at the Mayo Clinic ,recommends that you drink 16-20 oz of water prior to going to sleep. Sports drinks have not been shown to be necessary to replace electrolytes, as this just doesn’t happen that quickly. According to Samir Zakhar, PhD, Director of Metabolism and Health Effects at the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse , there is no need to buy expensive ‘electrolyte drinks’: water works just as well.
4. There are several things you might consider taking to help your liver function optimally, as well as to decrease the possibility of a severe hangover. These include taking 1600 IU of prickly pear, 2 g of curcumin(turmeric: a natural anti-inflammatory ) and 175 mg of milk thistle.
5. Remember to eat throughout the evening. Food will help to absorb the alcohol.
So those are some of the best ways to prevent a hangover, but somehow you didn’t follow this advice and you have woken up feeling awful. What are some things that you can do now to make it through the day with a minimum of disruption?
1. Your head is pounding: DON’T reach for the Tylenol: acetaminophen is tough on the liver and you have already made your liver work overtime. Reach for plain old aspirin or ibuprofen(Advil for example) instead. These contain prostaglandins and will help relieve some of the inflammation and the pain. Take with copious amounts of water.
2. Exercise: it is a myth that you can ‘sweat it out’ but getting out into the fresh air and even just going to the gym and exercising will help to release some endorphins…believe me , this will help!
3. Reach for the probiotics: these will help to decrease the irritation of the stomach lining. Look for one that contains 10-20 billion CFU of lactobacillus ; these will increase the metabolism of alcohol. Also take an antacid to help ease your discomfort.
4. Sleep in if you can. Drink water and herbal teas throughout the day. I also highly recommend drinking Kombucha: it has probiotics and is very calming to your digestive system
5. Eat when you awaken. Try to eat something with protein to replace your amino acids(which will replete your neurotransmitters) and carbs, which will help to maintain your blood glucose levels.
Bottom line when it comes to hangovers: an ounce of prevention really is worth a pound of cure: try to use the strategies I have outlined above to prevent getting a hangover: you will enjoy the festivities of the holiday season that much more and your liver(and your hormones) will thank you!
Happy holidays to you. Please share any remedies that you may have for preventing and curing a hangover: we love to hear from you!