A hangover can’t be defined by symptoms as we all suffer in distinctive ways and metabolise alcohol differently… but generally, after a 'fun' night you could be left with headaches, fatigue, stomach upset, moodiness, anxiety and bottomless pit syndrome (that never-ending hunger; if you know, you know).
What happens when you consume alcohol? Once alcohol is in your system, your body makes metabolising it a priority. That means that it will stop metabolising anything else in order to take care of the alcohol. This happens because unlike protein, carbohydrates, and fat, there is nowhere for alcohol to be stored in our body.
Your liver is the primary site for alcohol to be metabolised and acetaldehyde (the toxic by-product of alcohol metabolism) is detoxified and removed from the blood through a process called oxidation. Oxidation prevents the alcohol from accumulating and destroying cells and organs. The problem is that when the liver has a constant high level of alcohol being delivered to it, or a shock wave of alcohol to work its way through eliminating, i.e. through binge drinking – oxidation doesn’t function as well as it may need to – it can become overburdened.
When alcohol enters your bloodstream, it tells your pituitary gland not to produce vasopressin, which is the hormone that typically keeps your bodies moisture content consistent. Without vasopressin, liquids get transported straight to your bladder, explaining the reason as to why you those floodgates open after your first pee.
Drinking alcohol, loses about four times more liquid than you gain, causing dehydration and that morning after headache that accompanies a hangover. When you excrete this much liquid, you tend to lose potassium, magnesium and key salts which are crucial for nerve, cell and muscle function.
With the above in mind – there are some simple tips you can implement to help reduce and maybe even prevent a hangover from surfacing.
So What Can You DO?!
DON’T SKIP MEALS
A full stomach before drinking absorbs alcohol and protects your stomach lining. It will also protect you (not always…) from those midnight hunger pangs that send you straight to the kebab shop.
EAT A WELL-BALANCED PLATE OF PROTEIN, FATS, COMPLEX CARBS, VEGGIES/FRUITS
This is crucial to balance your blood sugar and redeliver any nutrients lost through alcohol consumption. Think: avocado on rye bread with poached eggs, shakshuka eggs, oatmeal topped with nuts, seeds and berries and even a healthy fry up – scrambled eggs, roasted tomatoes, grilled mushrooms, a side of sourdough toast and some good quality unsmoked bacon will do the trick!
Also, include foods rich in magnesium and potassium to replace those lost through excessive urination. Both are essential for muscle, cell and nerve health – in other words, helping your brain power through and your body move!
- Magnesium-rich foods include dark green leafy veg (Greenhouse 1 or 3), almonds, spinach, legumes, seeds, avocado and yoghurt.
- Potassium can be found in bananas, fresh fruit, broccoli, nuts, seeds and fish.
Why not make a hangover smoothie filled with almond butter, spinach, broccoli, a dollop of yoghurt, banana, coconut water (provides essential electrolytes) and some berries?
Hydrate to support the liver and help it detoxify the remnants of that Prosecco. That headache the next morning, is partially funded by dehydration – so to not only avoid a horrid headache but help alleviate the pain, make sure you are getting a minimum of 2 litres of water throughout the day!
NO TO CAFFEINE!
As much as you may want to reach for that cup of coffee the next morning, it won't help that headache and can make matters a hell of a lot worse! Caffeine narrows blood vessels, which increases blood pressure. If your head is already pounding, this would intensify that feeling. ouch.
Additionally, coffee is a diuretic, so it’s easy to become further dehydrated. And no one wants to spend their hangover day on the loo…
SWEAT IT OUT
Help the body’s natural detoxification by sweating it out. Going for a brisk walk and getting some oxygen or some warm yoga can help.
If you do choose to exercise, make sure you hydrate yourself sufficiently as you don’t want to cause yourself to be more dehydrated – and also make sure you are not still inebriated, as no one wants to see you moonwalking on the treadmill!
Milk thistle, ginger, fennel tea – certain herbal tinctures and teas can help reduce the side effects of a hangover. Milk thistle is fabulous for helping the liver detoxify and support the gut from the vicious side effects of alcohol AND it is entirely natural. You can take them in a capsule format and they are best taken before and after alcohol consumption.
A number of studies have shown that 1 tsp of ginger powder mixed in hot water can be just as powerful if not more than taking paracetamol for headache relief! Ginger is also great for relieving that nausea we experience the next day.
Fennel tea helps support the bodies detoxification pathways and also helps soothe any irritated stomachs.
And most importantly...
Make sure to enjoy your night/day/no-occasion/big-occasion/boozy brunch – we all need to let our hair down and enjoy ourselves. Clouding your experience with guilt and shame, only means the hangover isn’t worth it! It's all about a Life in Balance.
Clarissa Lenherr – Nutritional Therapist