Christmas is fast approaching and even those health freaks amongst us, counting myself there, will probably get caught imbibing the odd measure or two of a beautiful single malt, a cool BrewDog beer, or whatever your fancy. If you take it too far and manage to wake up in a mess, here are some simple steps to cure a hangover.
My view has always been to learn what is right for you health wise and practice it the majority of the time. Once you are more robust its easier to “have a life”, its easier to be normal and if you are at a party or have family over why not join in the celebrations in the wider sense and have a drink?!
The problems always come when its in excess what ever that is for you, have too much to quickly, drink on an empty stomach or dehydrated after a workout, haven’t slept well, been eating less than ideal foods or going through a particularly stressful period.
There are several things you can do to undermine your resilience and when its to get stuck in all hell breaks loose. You know the hangover from hell is coming and with a bit of luck, which seldom follows a big night out, you can hide in bed all day the next day and just ride it out.
However what if just a single glass of wine or in fact several send you tipsy in no time and you are well in to your hangover before you’ve even finished drinking?
When you spend the majority of your time looking after yourself you ought to be able to cope with the toxins in your environment that come at you whether its; air pollution, allergens, cosmetics, processed foods, gluten or alcohol.
The things you do to help your body work as well as possible is what you ought to focus on in the lead up to having alcohol especially if you are an infrequent drinker and its the festive period where consuming more alcohol at the one time or across several days is a fairy normal and highly likely thing.
Hangover prevention tips
Before you head out for a big night there are a few things you can do to prepare yourself:
- Get a good sleep the night before.
- Drink more water than normal.
- Exercise, but not more or more intensely than normal.
- Eat the right mix of foods for you.
- Avoid large gaps between meals, help stabilise blood sugar levels.
- Take all your body optimising supplements.
- Probably back off any supplements that have a more powerful therapeutic effect such as anti-pathogen (bug killing) herbal protocols.
- Let your body rest as much as possible to stock up on resources for the challenges ahead.
Hangover cure tips
However there is even more you can do.
- You can directly target how your body handles the alcohol,
- You can support your digestion where the alcohol first hits,
- You can strengthen your liver that does the bulk of the break down of the alcohol into its chemical parts,
- You can drive the processes that help mobilise and eliminate the alcohol,
- And lastly you can target support for your metabolism so it stays tip top under the stress of the extra work in breaking down and getting rid of the toxin, lovely tasting in many cases, but a toxin none the less.
It is possible to deliberately, if you plan ahead, to maximise your chances of not drinking excessively and getting away with it, I’m not espousing miracle cures that make you immune, but you can support the body to do what it already does and give it a bit of a leg up and you never know the hangover may not come and if it sadly does it can pass that but quicker than usual.
If you are Scottish you are likely to swear by a bacon roll and bottle of Irn Bru. If you are more health conscious then the following tips are more likely to specifically target how alcohol is metabolised in your body based on the science of alcohol metabolism
The key challenges the body faces in handling alcohol are;
- Dehydration – alcohol lowers a hormone that prevents dehydration, so you urinate more
- Acetaldehyde breakdown – increase toxic symptoms including red flushing of the face, headaches, dizziness, rapid heart beat, nausea and vomiting. Made worse if you have the variation of the ALDH2 gene, that makes the enzyme, aldehyde dehydrogenase, that breaks down alcohol, except in this case it does it slowly increasing toxicity and symptoms.
- Congeners – these are other compounds in alcohol that when broken down can increase how bad your hangover is from the increase of toxins such as formic acid and formaldehyde.
- Immune system suppression – alcohol increases stress on the immune system which leads to more suffering as chemicals called cytokines are increased. Current thinking in depression research is focussing on “the cytokine storm” and the impact on the brain. So its not a huge leap to see the initial stimulating effect of alcohol leading to low mood and many of us can relate to the feeling of being “bunged up” with a blocked nose and painful sinuses after a big night out.
Two Stage Alcohol Breakdown With Extras
The most relevant stages in the whole process of going from beer in hand to it leaving our bodies hours later, hopefully unscathed, centres on the role the liver has to play. As seen in the following diagram there are two phases the chemicals or toxins and in this case alcohol go through to be broken down.
These phases take toxins in a fat soluble form to protect the body but have to be converted to a water soluble form in order to leave the body. The gall bladder along with bile get the alcohol out in your poo, thats why some times you may have the runs as the body is over producing bile to wrap up the alcohol and get it out your body. Your kidneys get it out in urine, as inconvenient as that can be as you are trying your best to sleep it off, your bladder has you up at the toilet. So the gall bladder, kidneys and colon are the main organs your body relies on after the liver. The brain, pancreas and stomach also have a role to play in metabolising alcohol.
From this diagram you can see that the body needs a range of vitamins, minerals and amino acids (the building blocks of proteins) to do its alcohol breakdown job. So a diet low in veg and also protein will slow down detoxification of your alcohol.
When detoxing, generally never mind a hang over, most people think of juice cleanses and getting in more vegetables. However the water soluble vitamins; vitamin B and folate as well as vitamin C, need fat soluble vitamin E as well. Then there is the need for amino acids and the sulphur containing veg such as Brussel sprouts that as luck would have it are in plentiful supply this time of year.
So when you are intoxicating yourself and need to support your body to do some extra detoxification it would make sense to add more of the nutrients that support this. Therefore meals containing sulphur vegetables such as garlic, onions and Brussel sprouts can be combined with carrots and sweet potatoes for the carotenoids. Avocados and tomatoes as well will additionally help the body make what some refer to as the master or mother antioxidant, Glutathione.
Liver Supporting Food List – Foods To Eat, Foods To Avoid
The better foods to load up on are coloured green in this chart with a concentration being in the greens, almonds to lettuce to turnip.
Those in black are still worth it but more for going alongside the priority green foods.
The foods to avoid as much as possible are in red. So no surprise beer, wine, coffee and margarine are to be restricted.
Cooking can reduce the amount of Glutathione you will make from your vegetables by 30-60% and we are talking abut curing a hangover so we are looking for extra steps, what can we do to get shot of feeling like your going to die, whilst promising to never drink again? We need to eat more of this detoxing, breaking down the alcohol nutrients. So before we look at supplements why not get some concentrated real food down your throat before you even go out and try a juice high in these nutrients? Any of the following juice recipes will definitely help the situation.
Adding grass-fed, cold processed, without sweeteners whey protein to your juices will further help your body make that all important antioxidant, Glutathione. I would see whey protein as part food, part supplement. So many people don’t appreciate the benefit of protein and tend to think they eat enough and when I see clients diet sheets I seldom agree. As you get older you need more protein. For some people depending on body weight and in your 50’s you could be looking at 30-40g per meal and 120-180g per day! A chicken breast is around 30g to give you an idea. A bowl of cornflakes even with milk isn’t touching the sides for the protein your body needs. So if your breakfast is pretty much a carb fest as it is for many along with a coffee you are starting your day before Christmas kicks off depleted in one of the key nutrients you need to wake up the next day like the night before never happened and not never happened because you cant remember it. Even for the more health conscious a juice or smoothie is great in many ways, especially if it includes the veg above, but it really needs the added protein and animal proteins will offer the most bioavailability in terms of the amount you eating getting to where it needs to go.
Supplements to help cure a hangover
People come up with all sorts of weird and wonderful remedies to cure a hangover but here are some tried and tested supplements that will do a better job:
- Glutathione – master antioxidant and detoxifier
- Milk Thistle – helps protect the liver
- Bitters – increases bile flow to move the toxins out
- Electrolytes – to maximise hydration, energy and brain function for when you are at your most brain dead
- Binders – Activated charcoal or bentonite clay can help absorb toxins in the digestive tract and although not mopping up the excess alcohol in the gut can help reduce the stomach distress or diarrhoea some people typically experience the morning after a few too many drinks
Focussing on the liver specific foods and building up the anti-alcohol specific supplements, before and after drinking can rapidly improve the time it takes to feel human again.
Or if you were really only having 1-2 drinks you are more likely to be up and about the next day doing your thing without headaches or lethargy, and maybe even enjoy the alcohol you do drink, and the occasion, that bit more without the fear of whats on its way the next morning.
Drinking water throughout the evening can also help but if these tips don’t help, my advice would be to then use bad hangovers even with barely any alcohol, and especially if it’s a lot less than what you managed to cope with when you were younger, to dig deeper. For some of us the combination of stress, genetics, poor diet, liver and gut function leads to poorer and poorer ability to cope with toxins and in particular alcohol. Finding out through a urine or blood test that you need more vitamin B6, B9 and 12 could be hugely helpful.
Or maybe using a stool test you identify you have a digestive infection such as a fungus like Candida, where the bug makes alcohol in your gut, then reducing sugar intake and adding extra liver support such as garlic but in this case a lot of garlic probably in supplement can all help lower your total body burden of toxins and improve how you get rid of them, leaving more space for the nice toxins like the occasional spirit, wine or beer.
Image: thom masat