Want to know how to help with your hangover? Life As It Is got in touch with nutritional therapist Shona Wilkinson for some expert advice in the run up to the party season…
Lots of us have experienced the discomfort and frustration of alcohol hangover at some time or other. But let’s face it, with Christmas and New Year knocking on our doors, and the party season soon to be in full swing, there’s potential for many sore heads looming. So why and how does a hangover occur and what can we do to help ourselves?
‘Alcohol is a diuretic, meaning that once in your blood your body needs to put its water supplies in your bloodstream to dilute it. This creates an increase in blood volume and pressure. To bring your blood pressure down, we then need to excrete the water down the toilet. The problem being, now our cells are lacking the water that they need. Our brain is around 70% water, and dehydration can lead to brain shrinkage, which is what causes the pain,’ explains Shona Wilkinson, expert nutritionist.
Water seems like the obvious cure, however not all water is equal. ‘The control of hydration is the hands of electrolytes, which are minerals found in water. For your best chance of beating that hangover, choose mineral rich water or add in some extra electrolytes that are designed for athletes and sports people. The water will also help to flush out the toxins, speeding up the detoxification process. Drink a large glass before going to bed and be sure to drink plenty in the morning. You can also try coconut water, which is naturally packed in electrolytes and minerals.’
The water and mineral content of fruit will help to rehydrate you and put an end to your hangover headache. ‘There is an enzyme in pears that scientists are currently investigating for its ability to help us metabolize alcohol, and prevent us from having a hangover. If you’re going to eat fruit, it makes sense to choose a pear!’ advises Shona. ‘And if you are not a big fan of pears, go for berries that are rich in antioxidants and offer protection from free radicals, which are considered another cause of hangovers.’
You muscles are achy and – lets face it – it is very unlikely that you will go for a run or bike ride. How about Yoga then? The movement of yoga will help to increase blood flow to all parts of your body, but importantly, your liver. The more blood that passes through, the quicker your liver can detoxify the alcohol. The sweating will help to eliminate the toxins through your skin but it can make the problem of dehydration worse, so ensure that you drink plenty of water at the same time!
Fizzy Vitamin C
Most of us crave a cold, fizzy orange drink on the morning after. Why? It is our body asking for vitamin C. ‘Vitamin C will help your body recover from the ingested toxins as it speeds up metabolism of alcohol by the liver. Even though drinking deletes Vitamin C in body tissues it can be easily replenished by having a fizzy Vitamin C that will also quench our thirst,’
Having a decent breakfast will help to replace some of the lost nutrients that your body used to detoxify the alcohol. ‘Ideally choose eggs, because they are rich in cysteine, which is needed to break down acetaldehyde. Try a healthier cooked breakfast of poached eggs, green leafy vegetables, grilled tomatoes and wholegrain bread. Keep your energy up by having plenty of slow release carbohydrates from wholegrains and vegetables. Its important to have protein to help balance your blood sugar levels. One of the reasons for having a hang over is that our blood sugar levels are all over the place – this is due to the high sugar content of alcohol. Eating protein with your breakfast will help get you back on track. Beans are a good source of fibre and folic acid, as well as protein to help with the body’s recovery. It is however better to avoid bacon and sausages. The nitrites in them will only add to the toxic burden on your body.’ explains Wilkinson.
Hair of the dog
As tempting as Bloody Mary sounds and looks, it is hair of the dog that bit you in the end. ‘Drinking more alcohol will not help! It may initially take the edge off the pain, however will in the long run will only make it hurt more and last longer. It will dehydrate you further and give your liver more toxins to handle. And hangover will come eventually anyway. Not a good idea!
‘It’s actually used in the treatment of some kinds of poisoning, because it absorbs toxins and helps them to be removed from the body. However, it would make sense to take the charcoal during or shortly after drinking alcohol rather than the next morning, as it binds toxins in the gut before they can be absorbed.’ says Wilkinson.
Yes, you heard right. ‘The vinegar could be stimulating the liver to help detoxify and eliminate the alcohol. When pickles ferment, they also produce a certain type of soothing bacteria to help with irritated stomach.' explains Shona.
If you make your own broth or stock at home using animal bones, vegetables and a pinch or two of sea salt, you could do worse than drinking a cup or two of this the morning after. Bone broth contains lots of minerals that are naturally released from the bones during cooking – and these, together with the salt, could help to fight fatigue and boost your energy levels. The amino acids it contains can help to soothe the gut lining too.
Eat before you drink
‘Overall, it’s important that you do eat before drinking to slow the absorption of alcohol and additionally reduce the irritation that it causes to the stomach. Include healthy fats such as an olive oil dressing to slow absorption of alcohol, thereby slowing the work for your liver.’ explains Wilkinson.
What to avoid
Sugary foods and drinks, as alcohol can upset energy levels and blood sugar control. Instead focus on protein and unrefined carbohydrates, which release glucose slowly. Avoid caffeine and spicy food as they will only irritate the gut. Avoid the buffet table. We know that people eat over twice as much at a buffet than they would if the food was on one plate in front of them. Buffet food is also usually high carbohydrate which won’t help if you’re trying to manage your weight.