Anna D’Arcy, Accredited Practising Dietitian
Getting ready for some serious celebrating?? I honestly don’t blame you. It has been a tough year. But before you drown yourself in wine, here are some tips to help lessen the blow of a hangover so you can enjoy some fun downtime without that familiar headache and nausea.
It is easy to see why too much alcohol has the effect it does when you understand the effects it has on the body.
- Alcohol triggers inflammation throughout the body. It does this through the release of cytokines and the inflammation chain reaction through the body. This leads to tiredness, headache, nausea, memory loss and sore muscles (sound familiar?).
- Alcohol leads to the production of Acetyl aldehyde which is 20-30 times more toxic than the alcohol. The common side effects of this is sweating, skin flushing, headaches and nausea (still sounding familiar??)
- Alcohol is also a gut irritant. This leads to the stomach producing lots of acid which can make you feel quite queasy (so it wasn’t the kebab after all..)
- It is also a diuretic which means you pee LOADS more and lose fluid stored in your muscles and tissues through the body. This leads to dehydration. Dehydration leads to waking through the night (due to thirst), headaches and tiredness.
So now you know what is happening when you drink a little (or a lot) too much. What can you do to reduce the impact of drinking (because abstinence may not be the realistic option in 2021!).
5 top tips for reducing a hangover:
- Line the stomach before and while you are drinking. Alcohol is absorbed through the stomach so if it is empty then it is going to hit your head harder and faster (as our 18 year old self is very well aware of!). This also helps to combat the extra gastric acids produced by the stomach which can make you feel nauseas.
- Re-hydrate with sports drinks before bed and waking up. Unless you are exercising for longer than 60mins at a time, then sports drinks are generally not necessary. But they are good at encouraging the body to hang on to water and so you’re less likely to wake up in the night with a desert-dry mouth.
- Stick to white wine and clear spirits as they contain less of a substance called congeners. These are the result of the fermenting process and provide flavour and colour often found in your dark spirits and red wine. In the body congeners break down into the toxins formaldehyde and formic acid which really give the hangover a boost.
- Try drinking a coffee or other caffeine the next morning can help to temporarily clear the fog and fatigue while you wait out the breakdown of toxins. And as tempting as it is, try to stick to foods that are lower in glycemic index to give you nice stable blood sugars through the day. Sugary foods just lead to strong drops in blood sugar (after the high) which can make nausea worse.
- Get active the next day. This may be the last thing you feel like but if you can manage something that leads to endorphin release, then this can help combat the common hang over side effects.
I hope some of these help you to get more out of the glorious summer days with friends and family over this Xmas and New Year break so that you start 2022 on the right foot!