This is the season of heavy-handed cocktails, little sleep and kitchen dance parties. Here are my tips to help you recover faster from such nights!
What is a hangover?
A hangover is the unpleasant symptoms that we experience as our bodies try to detoxify the drinks consumed the day before (although hangovers can last up to a few days after the night out). Hangovers can be caused by a number of factors, including dehydration, overeating and disturbed sleep.
Our liver is your body's master detox organ, and is responsible for metabolizing up to 95 per cent of the alcohol that we consume. The liver, through a complex process, converts alcohol into a highly toxic substance called acetaldehyde before it can be eliminated. The other five per cent of alcohol consumed is detoxified via urine, breath and sweat (this is why people often smell like alcohol the next day).
We all know that the best cure for a hangover is moderation. But I'm not going to tell you that because you knew that already. If you have been over served, try these tips:
Before you go out...
- You want to make sure that there's food in your stomach to slow the absorption of alcohol into the bloodstream. Once in, it takes the body around an hour to break down each ounce of alcohol.
- A winning dinner-before-cocktails option would be something with a good quality protein and healthy carb. For example, fish or chicken with some quinoa and lots of vegetables.
- Don't underestimate the power of good fats! Some people swear by taking a shot of olive oil to coat their stomach before they go out. I prefer to add it to food, so make sure that your fish or chicken with quinoa has a nice drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.
- I know it sounds a little cliché, but try to drink as much water as possible. Alcohol is super dehydrating, and so you need to replace your body's precious water.
- B vitamins - these guys are co-factors in almost all metabolic reactions in your body (including detoxification) and easily become depleted by alcohol. It may be a good idea to take a B complex throughout the holiday season, too. B vitamins are super energizing and supportive of our adrenal glands.
- Vitamin C - it's essentially food for your liver and adrenal glands. Vitamin C is necessary for your liver to detoxify alcohol and using it can help to speed detox. I like a buffered vitamin C powder that contains rehydrating electrolytes.
- Milk thistle - this herb helps to protect your liver cells from toxic damage and will even help to regenerate precious liver tissue.
While you're out...
- Rethink the fancy cocktail. The fancy concoctions that you're seeing at cocktail bars are often loaded with extra sugar and ingredients that can more quickly spike your blood sugar. Keep it simple! Bad ideas for binge drinking: rum and eggnog, scotchy and bourbony cocktails and mixing it up with each round. Better ideas: clear spirits such as vodka, gin and quality tequila, and the new trend in drinking: lighter drinks like shims and drinks made with vermouth. Try as much as possible to stick with one type of drink all night.
- Try to hydrate. Even if you can't drink a glass of water between each alcoholic drink, at the very least, try to drink a massive glass of water when you get home and again when you wake up the next day. This will have the greatest impact on how you feel the next day.
The next day...
- Rest. Sleep as long as you can. Drinking alcohol depresses your rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. Disturbed REM makes you want to sleep longer and contributes to that groggy feeling the next day.
- Rehydrate. Alcohol is a diuretic, and can cause your body to lose precious electrolytes. Drink lots and lots of water the next day (this will help to get rid of your headache too). Electrolyte replacement beverages, in general, are not good as they are full of fake ingredients. Instead, try coconut water, celery or a buffered vitamin C powder added to water.
- Get your body moving with some light to medium exercise. Yoga is amazing for this, especially any yoga pose that twists your body. Twists are very detoxifying as they stimulate the liver. Even the deep breathing and light sweating that you're doing in a yoga class will help to facilitate detoxification of that 5% of alcohol that doesn't get detoxed by the liver. Aim for a yoga class that isn't too hot, too sweaty or too early in the morning. Yoga teacher Eoin Finn calls next day yoga "hair of the down dog."
- Try a contrast shower. It's known as hydrotherapy in spas, and is recommended by many naturopathic doctors to increase circulation and facilitate detoxification. Alternate between 3 minutes of hot water and 1 minute of cool water, always ending with cool water. The hot water brings blood flow to your skin's surface, while the cool water pushes blood flow to your organs. Another option would be to take a bath with Epsom salts, finishing with a cold shower.
- Watch out for painkillers. I know, I know... they're sometimes essential when your head is throbbing. But remember that your liver is your body's basic clearinghouse for alcohol and any additional drug or painkiller will also need to be detoxified by your poor liver. If you must take something to calm your headache, DO NOT take Tylenol as it can be severely damaging to your liver. Take Advil instead.
Foods to help your hangover:
- Soup - in addition to containing lots of nutrients that are easy to digest, hot soup will make you sweat, which will help your body to release toxins. Think of Vietnamese pho and Russian and Ukranian borscht.
- Smoothies - like soup, smoothies contain a ton of superfood ingredients and nutrients that are easy to digest.