12 Tips to Avoiding A Holiday Hangover this Silly Season
Christmas can be a very demanding time for our social calendars. Between staff parties, family gatherings and catching up with friends, it seems everybody wants a piece of you – and your liver!
While we all love a bit of yuletide gay, too much of it can really take it’s toll on your personal health. There’s nothing worse than spending those highly anticipated holidays nursing a five day hangover, or worse still, feeling your stomach churn from the usually pleasurable aroma of a freshly carved roast turkey.
To help you strike the balance between between festive fun and self preservation, we’ve put together these 12 Tips to Avoiding the Holiday Hangover this Silly Season.
Part I: Hangover Prevention
You Booze You Lose!
It goes without saying that the best hangover prevention is to not drink at all, or at least to drink in moderation and keep within the guidelines of 2 units per day for a male, 1 per female. This is what doctors recommend and is truly the only way to completely avoid the sting of daylight and piercing sound of screaming children christmas morning. Those of you planning to heed such pearls of wisdom need read no further. As for the rest of you hapless and hell bent on debauchery – happy scrolling.
A large part of any hangover is a direct result of dehydration. If you are already mildly dehydrated before consuming alcohol then your condition will deteriorate much faster as the night progresses, dramatically increasing the punishment you are in for the following morning. Before a night out prepare yourself by consuming plenty of fluid in the hours beforehand.
2. Line Your Stomach
Having food in the stomach slows the absorption of alcohol into your blood. This reduces the amount of alcohol that reaches your brain and gives your body more time to process the toxins. Fatty foods and dense carbohydrates do this the best.
Added Bonus: Eating a solid meal before you drink also makes you less likely to binge eat later in the night when zero inhibitions are in charge of making dietary decisions.
3. Pace yourself
In it’s most basic sense, a hangover happens because you drink more alcohol than your body can break down. Our bodies metabolize about 3/4 of an ounce of alcohol each hour. Stick to one alcoholic beverage per hour and you’ll give your gut a fighting chance.
Drinking slowly also reduces your risks of alcohol poisoning. We have a tendency at times to keep drinking until we don’t feel so good. If you’ve drank too fast when this happens your body will still have a lot of alcohol left to process and you’re going to have a bad time.
Feeling a little tipsy? Order a basket of chips or mini pizza mid-session. The fatty acids will coat your stomach, slowing the absorption of alcohol into the blood and buying your liver some time to get to grips with the situation.
4. For Every Drink of Alcohol, Drink a Glass of Water
Don’t give me that look! If you can fit that many schooners of beer in you surely there’s room for an equal amount of H2O.
Alcohol is a diuretic, meaning it promotes the excessive urination commonly referred to as ‘breaking the seal’. It does this by blocking the production of vassopressin – an anti-diuretic hormone that prevents water loss. In it’s absence the kidneys send water directly to the bladder, bypassing the bloodstream.
To offset water losses it is recommended that for every alcoholic beverage you consume, you drink a glass of water. As well as slowing your rate of alcohol consumption, this will greatly reduce the extent of your dehydration, limiting hangover severity and improving time to recovery.
Hydration Tip: Keep a jug of water on the table and alternate between sipping a glass of water and your regular beverage. Attempting to down whole pints of water quickly between drinks is neither easy nor appetizing and will likely give you a tummy ache.
5. Avoid Mixing Alcohol with Energy Drinks
While alcohol gives you an initial ‘buzz’, overindulgence turns it into a sedative. Too much alcohol makes you tired and sleepy, a cue from your body that you’ve had more than enough and it’s time to sleep.
Energy drinks delay this response by keeping you alert and stimulated for longer, which ultimately means you drink more. While a ‘second wind’ might be the desired effect at the time, the next day it means far more alcohol for your body to process, and a far more devastating hangover for you to deal with.
6. Don’t Forget your Electrolytes!
Alcohol induced urination results in significant electrolyte losses, particularly salt, potassium and magnesium. Deficiencies in these are what leave you weak and nauseated the next day.
Solution (pardon the pun): Mix a sachet of electrolyte powder into a glass of water before bed to replenish lost electrolytes and restore your body’s optimal fluid:electrolyte balance. This will give your body the tools it needs to repair itself while you sleep. The higher concentration of electrolytes in the blood will also help you retain water, reducing interruptive trips to the bathroom in the middle of the night.
Part II: Hangover Cure
Hopefully you follow the first 6 steps and awake from each festive gathering feeling fresh and rejuvenated. If however you hit the tiles and two hours in forget everything we taught you, fear not – the next 6 steps are here to help guide you through the rocky road to recovery, and even show you a few shortcuts along the way.
The intense dry mouth and thirst that hits you the moment you wake up means you guessed it, you are dehydrated. The solution? Drink lots and lots of water – but not just water. Drinking alcohol also depletes electrolytes, which play a key role in water retention. Replacing water without also replenishing lost electrolytes dilutes the concentration of electrolytes in the blood and can lead to difficulties rehydrating.
Electrolytes can be consumed through food such as bananas, broth soups and leafy greens. However when already dehydrated with a stomach that’s perhaps not feeling the best, a faster more palatable option is to consume an electrolyte drink. Electrolyte drinks can increase water retention by 25% compared with drinking water alone, and electrolyte drinks containing amino acids have been shown to increase water retention by up to 40%.
2. Avoid the ‘hair of the dog’
Many hangover symptoms can be attributed to alcohol withdrawals. Drinking the hair of the dog may provide temporary relief from these symptoms, but all you are really doing is delaying the inevitable. In the end, more alcohol just adds more toxins that your body will have to break down later and worsens dehydration at at time when you should be focusing all your efforts on rehydration.
3. Ignore Fatty Food Cravings – Focus on Nutrition
Fatty foods are great as a preventative measure but do nothing by way of a cure. Greasy food the morning after will only make your stomach worse. What you really need is something nutrient rich and high in B-group vitamins to put back what last night took out. Whole grains, legumes, avocado, nuts, seeds and red meat will get you off to a flying start. For best results, wash it down with an OJ. The powerful antioxidant Vitamin C can combat the cancer-causing free radicals consuming alcohol produces.
If you must succumb to that greasy food craving, fry up some eggs! Eggs contain large amounts of the amino acid cysteine which breaks down acetaldehyde (a toxic byproduct of alcohol metabolism). If you’re experiencing headaches and vomiting, an abundance of acetaldehyde is the likely culprit. Eatings eggs can help rid your body of this hangover causing toxin, however they’d be far better served sans grease, poached, boiled or scrambled.
4. Lift your blood sugar with fruits high in fructose
Drinking alcohol does a number on your body’s blood sugar levels. First it increases insulin secretion causing low blood sugar, then it impairs the hormonal response that would normally work to restore blood sugar to healthy levels. Dancing (which drinking tends to encourage) makes matters worse as exercise further reduces the body’s glycogen stores. The low blood sugar wrought by excessive alcohol consumption causes weakness and fatigue and can make you a right moody Molly in the morning.
The best way to combat low blood sugar is to consume foods that are high in fructose. Fructose gets to work faster than glucose as it does not require insulin to be taken up by the cells and will give your body the energy boost it requires. Fructose also increases the the rate at which alcohol is metabolised and helps rid the body of leftover toxins. Apples, grapes & pears are a great source of natural fructose, but the best is honey. Spread a spoonful on some wholegrain toast to help settle the stomach and replenish your bodies depleted glycogen stores.
Quick Tip: If you can’t face solid foods, a carbohydrate electrolyte drink can give you the boost you need and put you on the fast track to recovery.
5. Take a painkiller (but be very careful which one).
Popping a painkiller can provide effective relief from that throbbing headache but be very careful which type you choose. Painkillers containing paracetamol (or acetaminophen) are processed by the liver. Since your liver is already on overdrive breaking down the toxic byproducts of alcohol, a dose of paracetamol will make matters worse and could lead to liver damage. A safer option is to take ibuprofen or aspirin, however both of these can irritate and upset your stomach, intensifying your hangover.
The safest solution of all is water! That throbbing in your head is most likely the result of a dehydration headache. You can relieve it by rehydrating with lots of fluid and electrolytes.
6. Go back to bed.
Alcohol inhibits your body’s production of the natural stimulant glutamine. When you stop drinking your body rebounds by producing more glutamine than it needs, stimulating the brain and preventing you from slipping into those much needed deeper levels of healing slumber. Glutamine is also responsible for ‘the shakes’, restlessness, and overall feeling of anxiety (‘the fear’) the following day.
Once you have adequately hydrated and taken the necessary steps listed above, your best recourse is to go back to bed and try to make up for lost sleep. Hangovers typically only last 4-8 hours, with any luck you’ll sleep right through and wake up just in time for some leftover turkey and afternoon tea.