How to Stave off a Hangover!
The way your hangover manifests differs from person to person, but the most common symptoms are: headache, tiredness, nausea and dehydration. It’s caused by alcohol consumption, and for some people, having one alcoholic drink is enough to trigger a hangover.
What causes a hangover?
The short answer to this is alcohol but it’s actually the biochemical response that our bodies have to alcohol that cause the hangovers. This is because alcohol:
- Causes our bodies to produce more urine, which leads to dehydration
- Triggers an inflammatory response
- Increases stomach acid
- Causes a drop in blood sugar
What are the symptoms of a hangover?
The above mentioned causes of hangovers are the triggers that result in the symptoms that are most common in people who’ve drank alcohol.
- Dodgy stomach - this is sometimes nausea and/or vomiting, cramp or irregular bowel movements
- Headache - as a result of dehydration
- Irritability - because of the inflammation in the body
- Fatigue - from poor quality sleep and low blood sugar1
Unfortunately, there is no maximum amount of alcohol you can drink that will prevent a hangover, as even one drink could give you one. There are, however, a number of things you can do before and after you have a night out that can decrease the intensity of your hangover.
Changes you can make before you drink
Perhaps the most important thing to do before you go on a night out is to make sure you eat something. Alcohol irritates the lining of your stomach and causes your stomach to produce excess acid, so it’s important you have something in it before you start your night out. Make sure you have a meal that’s full of carbohydrates, such as rice and pasta, and fats. These foods slow down the rate at which your body absorbs alcohol.2
Likewise, make sure you’re adequately rested and hydrated. While these steps don’t mean you will be hangover-free, they do slow down the immediate effect of the alcohol.3
Supplements to take before your night out
N-acetyl cysteine (NAC)
This is the amino acid cysteine which is helps to produce glutathione, which helps to reduce the damage caused by free radicals in the body. However, most of us are deficient in cysteine, as our diets do not contain enough of it.4 It’s recommended that you take cysteine
about 30 minutes before you start drinking alcohol because it prevents the damage caused to your liver by the depletion of glutathione.5 So, while it might not prevent the hangover, it will help your liver.
The active ingredient in milk thistle is silymarin which is extracted from the seeds of the milk thistle plant. Silymarin is a flavonoid and is thought to have antioxidant properties. It’s recommended to treat/prevent your hangover because it helps with indigestion and is good for the liver.6
Does eating before bed help?
The damage has already been done, but if you eat before bed, it won’t make you any worse off. Unfortunately, it won’t help prevent your impending hangover.7 Carb heavy foods like pizza and chip shop fare will be the easiest options at your disposal, and they will fill you up. The most important thing to do before you go to bed is to drink a whole load of water. Alcohol causes dehydration, which is most often the reason you get a headache after a night of drinking. Therefore you need to make sure you drink loads of water before sleep, and keep a bottle of water within reach for when you wake up.8
What supplements or food should be eaten the day after?
Pretty much the only time you’re encouraged to bypass the healthy food in favour of greasy food is the day after a night of drinking. The fry up the next morning might seem the last thing you want, but the fats can help alleviate the nausea you feel.
If you can’t face the full fry, try to have some eggs. Your body will thank you for it. Eggs are full to the brim of amino acids like cysteine which is great at reversing the damage to your liver caused by alcohol.9
Bananas and Beetroot
Alcohol can also deplete the levels of potassium in your body, so having a banana or beetroot the morning after drinking is a good idea. Or, just before you go to bed, if you can remember it.
This is a great remedy for nausea, so if you think you can stomach it, try to have some ginger tea to soothe your delicate stomach.10
Again, hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Avoid drinking coffee because this is also a drink that can cause dehydration. You need to replace the lost electrolytes, so if you want, have an isotonic drink, too.
B Vitamin Complex
B Vitamin complex contains a wide variety of different, essential B Vitamins for optimum health. In particular, Vitamin B12 is great after a night out because low levels of B12 can leave you feeling groggy, out-of-focus and fatigued. The body relies on these vitamins, so it’s important that you replenish your supply. B Vitamins are great for your nervous system, too, which can be a bit fragile after a night of drinking. Alcohol can also deplete levels of B vitamins, so it's important to replenish these loses.11
December to January is called ‘silly season’ for a reason, and that reason is alcohol. Many of us are invited to Christmas parties, want to catch up with friends who’ve come home for the holidays and it can be hard to keep your body healthy in the face of all these social gatherings. Just make sure you try to keep your body and mind healthy as much as you can. You can still have fun without going overboard.
The important thing to remember is that alcohol is dangerous, and should be taken in moderation. If you want to know about the effects of alcohol consumption, and what exactly is one unit of alcohol, check out DrinkAware.