With the festive season well underway and the new year almost here, you may find yourself indulging in a night of boozing more than the usual. While it may seem like fun at the time, that next day you find yourself regretting drinking that one to many alcoholic beverages. We have all been here. Waking up the next morning feeling like absolute death and all you want to do is stay in bed all day. I am not sure about you but all I can think these days is what an absolute waste of a day.
So why does drinking alcohol cause a hangover?
Alcohol contains a toxic substance known as ethanol. Just like all toxic chemicals our body comes in contact with, the liver is responsible for breaking these toxins down into less harmful substances to be eliminated by the body. Many of us have sluggish livers with liver detoxification pathways that are functioning less than optimal, due to the overburden of toxins we are exposed to in our environment daily. Then we add a night of drinking to the picture and this puts more of a toxic load on the liver.
The good news is there are some practical tips that you can do both before a night of drinking as well as after if you do plan to have a few, to limit the toxic load on the liver and limit your chances of a bad hangover.
The Pre-Detox: Before a drinking session
Supplying the body and flooding it with antioxidants and nutrients are going to support healthy detoxification. Alcohol depletes many important nutrients needed to fight off oxidative stress that causes damage to our bodies cells and ages us.
Replenish Your Nutrients
Some of the most important nutrients that you should consider replenishing to make sure you have adequate levels before a drinking session are as follows.
Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant that helps fight off oxidative stress in the liver and free radical damage that may be caused by alcohol consumption. Vitamin C may have a protective function on the liver, while it will help support detoxification of alcohol. If you regularly drink alcohol, you are going to want to make sure you are getting enough Vitamin C levels through both supplementation and diet. Eating a diet that is rich in fresh fruits and veggies will supply the body with a good amount of Vitamin C.
B Vitamins in particular B6:
B Vitamins are naturally depleted when consuming alcohol. As the B’s are important nutrients needed to eliminate alcohol from the body, supplementing with a good quality B Complex before drinking alcohol may be a good idea. Be careful of B Complex’s that contain synthetic forms of B’s including folic acid, which can be a real problem and actually do quite the opposite to what you are intending, if you have one or more of the MTHFR gene mutations.
Electrolytes are minerals that are vital for cell function in the body. Electrolytes help rehydrate, and help the body produce energy. When most people think of electrolytes, they may think of Gatorade, an electrolyte drink used to rehydrate. While yes it may contain electrolytes, this may not be the best option with its high refined sugar content. Instead go for a natural mineral supplement.
Amino acids are known to increase glutathione and reduce acetylaldhyde toxicity that causes the symptoms associated with a hangover. Supplementing with N Acetyl Cysteine, Taurine may reduce toxicity on the liver. You may also like to have a decent meal beforehand that includes a good protein source that contains the full amino acid profile. You may even like to have a good quality protein shake that contains all amino acids. My personal favourite protein powder is Raw Amazonia Protein Isolate. Tastes great, Great on its own or added to smoothies.
Eat a good quality nutrient dense meal beforehand
Eat a good quality meal before you start drinking. Skip the refined carbs as this will just mess with your blood sugar. Instead have a meal that contains a good source of protein, healthy fats, fibre and a small amount of unrefined carbs. Never start drinking on an empty stomach as alcohol will be absorbed more rapidly on an empty stomach, making it more toxic and taxing on the liver. Alcoholic drinks consumed after you have eaten a good meal beforehand will be absorbed about three times slower than on an empty stomach.
Keeping hydrated throughout the day
Drinking a minimum of 2 litres of water throughout the day beforehand will help keep hydration levels not dropping to extremes. Choose filtered water or spring water. You may also like to avoid overdoing the coffee which will dehydrate you more. For every coffee you have, drink a minimum of two glasses of water to replenish hydration levels that you have lost.
Things To Remember While Drinking:
Stay Hydrated and Keep On Top Of Your Water Intake:
Water should be drank all throughout the day, before, during a drinking session and after.
Its important that water is drank not only after the night ends and the next day, but also before and during a night out. Water will help cleanse the body and flush out toxins while helping you avoid waking up to a banging headache the next day.
Choose good quality filtered water where possible and drink one glass of water per alcoholic beverage. Its also a good idea to have a big glass of water before going to bed as we naturally become dehydrated throughout the night in normal circumstances so if you have been drinking, you are going to become severely dehydrated. Drinking that big glass of water, will help to rehydrate your body.
Your water source will also make all the difference when it comes to how well it hydrates your cells. If you are drinking tap water and even pura tap, your cells may still be dehydrated. You can check out my recommended water filter that gives clean, refreshing, super hydrating, alkalising, antioxidant rich water here.
Choose Quality Beverages And Keep Blood Sugar Stable.
Choose good quality organic wines without sulphites and preservatives. Did you know that the actual preservatives and sulphites in wine, is what actual gives you the hangover, not the wine itself?
Drinking alcohol can really mess with your blood sugar and cause a massive sugar crash. Avoid the premixed lolly water and mixing spirits with sugary laden soft drinks and juices and instead mix spirits with mineral water with a squeeze of lemon, lime or add some fresh mint, cucumber or low sugar fruit like kiwi fruit and berries.
To make a healthier homemade lemonade to mix with your spirits, use mineral water, add fresh lemon and a dash of natural sweetener stevia. Also adding some ginger into this can be quite nice and a great way to support digestion. For that person who finds after just one night of drinking, they end up having gained a few kilos, just changing up your mixers can make all the difference and really help keep blood sugar more stable.
The Post Detox: The Day After
Avoid Greasy High Fat Foods:
For years we have been using a greasy high fat processed fast food meal as our go to post drinking meal to help cure a hangover.
Let me tell you why this may not be a good idea after all. After a night of drinking our liver is trying to work overtime to deal with the toxic burden it has just endeavoured.
When we consume fake chemical laden foods high in processed fats, that our body does not recognise as food, it actually has an awfully hard time of breaking this down. This is only going to put extra pressure on the liver that is does not need while it tries to cleanse, repair and flush out toxins from the liver. The hangover is going to be made much worse. Instead chose a nutrient dense meal high in protein, good fats, fibre and liver cleansing foods.
Eat Liver Cleaning Foods:
Foods to include in your meals that help support healthy liver detoxification include bitter greens (dandelion, rocket, radish, green leafy veggies), cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, bok choy), lemons, limes, grapefruit, oranges, beetroot, ginger and carrots. You may also like to make a liver cleansing juice using some of these liver cleansing fruits and veggies.
Eat Foods Rich In Fibre To Keep Bowels Regular:
Include a variety of fibre rich fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds and gluten free grains to help promote regular elimination. A healthy liver requires healthy digestion. The work in conjunction with each other.
Replenish Your Nutrients Through Food and Supplementation:
Supplement with Vitamin C the following day after a drinking session and make sure you get lots of fresh fruits and veggies into your diet that are high in Vitamin C. You may like to go for a powder form of Vitamin C over a tablet as absorption rate is much better. You may also like to add powder to water bottle and sip on it throughout the day.
B Vitamins become very depleted after a night of drinking. Its important to supplement with B’s both pre and post drinking. Some top food sources of B’s you can eat include liver, meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, legumes, green leafy vegetables and nutritional yeast. High sources of B6 include all meat plus soya beans, wheatgerm. oats and bananas. Animal based protein will be more readily absorbed by the body than plant based B sources. So if you are vegan it is essential that you supplement the B’s.
N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC):
A potent liver detoxer amino acid that is often used in the case of overdose or alcohol toxicity in hospital. This is a great one to supplement the day after and my common recommendation to support healthy liver detoxification.
Rehydrate the body with electrolytes. Coconut water along with an all natural mineral drink will be the way to go over a sugary laden Gatorade drink.
Keep On Top Of Your Hydration And Drink Liver Cleansing Teas:
Drink lots of clean filtered water. This will not only help replenish your cells of hydration that has been lost but will also help flush out and eliminate alcohol’s toxic by-product acetaldehyde. You may also like to drink liver cleansing teas including lemon and ginger, dandelion, burdock, peppermint. st mary’s thistle and you may even like to drink a turmeric latte.
Avoid Paracetamol Or Other Pain Killers If You Can:
While when we have a banging headache, we all tend to want the quick fix, the hangover cure usually involves a dose or two of painkillers. As the your liver is what processes and breaks down these medications, taking paracetamol or any painkiller at a time when your liver is already under high stress trying to rid the body of the toxic by products of alcohol, is only going to put much more pressure on the liver.
Take Away Message:
So while a little alcohol drinking every now and then is not going to cause too much harm, it is important to know that overdoing it can certainly have its detrimental effects on your health. Enjoy a glass or two but always drink in moderation.
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Until next time.
Here’s to good health and happiness x