A nutritionists guide to nursing a hangover
We’ve probably all been there at one time or another – the night is going really well, and everyone seems exceptionally witty and good fun. However, it’s probably a sensible time to go home when someone says ‘one for the road?’ to which you reply ‘oh go on then- it can’t hurt!’
Boy were you wrong! And, when the alarm goes off the next morning, it feels as if someone is hitting you on the head with a hammer, you are unexpectedly nauseous and feeling as though you have just run a marathon- in flip-flops. This is most probably when you vow to never touch another drink…’til the next time, that is!
Unsurprisingly, the dreaded hangover is not a new phenomenon and has been around for many many moons. In fact, tales of its stinging nature can be traced as far back as in the writings of ancient Egypt and Greece.
But, back to modern times, and the festive season sees us enjoying more tipples than usual as social calendars fill up with parties and glittering events. Although I do not advocate excessive drinking, if you are thinking of skipping these glitzy parties just to avoid the dreaded hangover, then we need to talk! Instead of sitting at home twiddling your thumbs as you watch old TV re-runs, there are more natural ways to deal with this self-inflicted pain, which is caused by an increased toxic load on the liver, dehydration, blood sugar imbalance, immune system activation and inflammation and electrolyte imbalance in the body (I know, killjoy!).
I am still not sure if a hangover is caused by alcohol’s direct effects on the body or its aftereffects. Perhaps, it’s more likely a combination of both. However, I will tell you one thing I do know: we are all biochemically individual, and genetics can play a huge role in how ‘poisoned’ you feel the next day.
It’s also worth remembering that the metabolism (breakdown) of alcohol is even more toxic than the alcohol itself. Here, a substance called acetaldehyde is created, which is linked to why you start to vow to never touch another drop again! Although the jury is still out on the exact cause of hangovers, if you feel like someone is hitting you over the head repeatedly after a few glasses of red wine, research points towards an increase in histamines (and plasma serotonin) where red wine is concerned.
And, ladies, it gets worse – there is research that shows a link between alcohol and increased PMS, as well as affecting oestrogen metabolism. Basically, it plays havoc with our hormones.
Now, of course, the easiest way to avoid hangovers is to drink in moderation, to never get drunk, or avoid it altogether. But in case this fails, let’s look at my PDP (pre, during and post) tips to get us through the holidays or any hangover situation.
If you are off to a party, have something to eat before you go. Having something in your belly can slow down the body’s absorption of alcohol, while it also helps to protect against irritation and vomiting. Whatever you do, do not drink on an empty stomach!
This one is your prevention and your ‘cure’! Alternating alcoholic drinks with a glass of pure water is the best way to slow down your drinking and fend off dehydration which can lead to headaches, soreness, and nausea. If you did not manage this golden tip, have a good drink of water afterwards (and first thing the next morning) to avoid a pounding headache. The faster you replenish your fluid loss, the faster you will begin recovering – you are welcome.
If someone asks you to dance, accept and bust out your best moves. If nothing else, at least you will have put your drink down for a few minutes and make some great social media content.
Variety is not the spice of life in terms of hangover woes. To avoid a hangover cocktail of assorted additives, flavouring, sugar and other elements, stick with one type of alcohol, and keep away from shots – no matter how discounted they get.
Avoid carbonated and sugary drinks, which can speed up the absorption of alcohol into your bloodstream. Drink clear liquors such as vodka, gin or white rum. Darker alcohols like bourbon, brandy, whiskey or red wine contain higher concentrates of congeners (a substance produced during fermentation), which contributes to hangovers.
The liver is an amazing chemical factory and its job is to process the alcohol as quickly as possible. After a night of drinking, help your liver by having cleansing foods and what I call my ‘detox warriors’ such as beetroot, carrot, leeks, garlic, onions, eggs, broccoli, watercress, ginger and (breath freshening) parsley. Try my superfood green smoothie.
Avoid the classic, greasy post-alcohol meal. Eating heavy foods can irritate your stomach further, and creates more work for your poor liver which is already overloaded. A hot porridge breakfast will fill you up, and the oats or quinoa will help keep your energy up while being rich in B vitamins to nourish your nervous system.
Boil, scramble, poach or fry some eggs which are high in protein (there’s that blood sugar balancing again) and an amino acid called cysteine, which helps breakdown acetaldehyde in the liver to be excreted more effectively. Energy Eggs from my book The Balance Plan would go down a treat here.
Eating fruit such as pineapples, which contain bromelin, cleansing apples which are high in fibre and pectin, or potassium and vitamin C-rich bananas, can help increase energy and replace lost vitamins and nutrients.
In many, drinking alcohol can lower blood sugar which can lead to irritability, fatigue, light headedness and have you reaching for the nearest chocolate bar. Let’s avoid this by following my blood sugar balancing tips here.
Noticed that you need the loo much more while you are on a night out? OK, you are drinking more, but alcohol acts as a diuretic, causing you to lose more fluid than normal. On top of this, hangovers can trigger sweating, vomiting, and diarrhea (not the best morning after look), causing further fluid and electrolyte loss. Drink enough water and get munching on some potassium and magnesium-rich foods like banana, spinach, coconut, avocado, beans, lentils, leafy greens, broccoli, cabbage, sweet potatoes, nuts and seeds. Kefir, bone broth and coconut water can be helpful, too (not mixed together though) and may even help the dreaded headache.
Feeling ‘unexpectedly’ nauseous? Steep some fresh ginger in freshly-boiled water and drink as a tea. Ginger has antiemetic (anti-nausea) properties so can help calm that sick feeling. Try my Immune Booster Tonic as natural remedy. Fennel and dandelion tea can also help to soothe the stomach and assist your liver, too.
Ensure you get some omega-3 fatty acids in from the likes of nuts, seeds and wild-caught fish, which has anti-inflammatory properties and may even help with that banging headache.
Get some movement! I know, I know the couch is looking mighty comfy right now, but a bit of movement will do you good. Nothing too strenuous – think a long walk in fresh air, or a little yoga. If you are feeling faint, you have a free pass on this one.
Once you are sober again and only suffering the effects of the aftermath, consider a visit to the sauna. Sweating can help the body expel toxins quicker and it will get you breathing a little deeper, too. Again, if you are feeling faint or still drunk, this one is not for you.
So there you have it, my PDP to add to your anti-hangover arsenal along with long-standing member, drink in moderation. Have a look at my website for more recipes to help you nurse the hangover. If you have any tips and tricks of your own, then please do share!
Above all else, remember to drink responsibly. If you suspect someone has alcohol poisoning, then please call emergency services as a matter of urgency! Symptoms of alcohol poisoning include; passing out/ unconsciousness and can’t be awakened, irregular heart rate, slow or irregular breathing, pale skin or a blue-tinged skin, confusion, vomiting, seizures, low body temperature. These are not to be taken lightly and you must get help.
An on that note, have a fun, happy, healthy, and safe festive season.
Consult your doctor or health care practitioner for any health problems, before embarking on any new health regimes, using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications or food programmes.
Part of my work in clinic is to identity and address the root cause which is responsible for the symptoms a client is experiencing. The most common underlying condition I see is unbalanced hormones. Once I noticed that balancing hormones leads to the reduction of so many other symptoms, I knew I had to create a simple plan to help people understand and support their hormones.Follow the plan