Nutritionist Sarah Carolides presents the tips you need to have your drinks and cheat it
December is a wonderful time of year. It’s a time to eat, drink and be merry. Equally, it’s a time for headaches, tiredness and nausea as you stumble from one boozy celebration to the next. But there may be a solution…
PREVENTION IS THE BEST CURE
Well, duh! But if you would like a drink when you’re out, consider alternating between alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, ideally water as it helps you keep hydrated without loading up on sugar. Sugar plays havoc with your blood sugar levels, which can make you tired. You can also use water to dilute some drinks, e.g. sparkling water to create your own, weaker white wine spritzer. There are several different brands of alcohol-free spirits on the market now – Three Spirits, Seedlip and Stryyk come to mind. They make for great-tasting cocktails that, when in hand, ease the peer pressure of partying.
Alcoholic beverages contain by-products of fermentation called congeners. These are toxic chemicals that make a hangover worse, and the highest concentrations are found in dark spirits, e.g. whisky, brandy, and red wine. The concentration in clear spirits, such as vodka and gin, is much lower, which may explain why they cause less severe hangovers. A combination of dark drinks is therefore a near-guarantee of a bastard-behind-the-eyes the next day. Choose your order, make it light, and stick to it.
EAT BEFORE YOU GO
Alcohol is the only macro-nutrient (the others are fat, protein, and carbohydrates) that is absorbed through the lining of the stomach rather than the small intestine. Not all of it (only 20%) but it means that it reaches your bloodstream much more quickly than food; unless you eat first. Stodge doesn’t help, as with most things, the healthier the better. No foods are better at preventing alcohol absorption, but nutritious, colourful, real food allows you to stock up on essential nutrients, such as antioxidants and electrolytes, that you’re going to need in the morning.
WHEN IT’S TOO LATE: THE MORNING AFTER THE NIGHT BEFORE
The first thing you’ll want to do is to fix your body’s desperate cry for water. Have a glass ready by your bed. You could try a sports drink as well, as they also contain electrolytes; however, there is currently no evidence that sports drinks relieve a hangover any better than water does.
Some people swear by cold-water swimming for a hangover, but for us Londoners, that’s not so easy. A cold shower will definitely help, but so might three minutes in a freezing chamber. Cryotherapy has numerous benefits, including reducing inflammation and increasing blood flow. Conversely, you should avoid anything that might dehydrate you further, such as saunas and steam rooms.
Several companies now offer ‘morning after’ infusions that started in Las Vegas (surprise, surprise). The saline hydration is certainly going to help, as will the influx of B vitamins and other water-soluble nutrients. Some of these include medications as well, such as anti-inflammatories and painkillers. The idea is that you are missing out the stomach, where some of these drugs can cause problems, and instead getting the drugs straight into the bloodstream. It’s obviously going to provide a quick fix, but I would be a little cautious about using these often.
You need to help your blood sugar levels recover, and eating something can help relieve the nausea. Avoid fry-ups – your breakfast should consist of healthy food only, for example, whole grains, such as whole rolled oats or a slice of whole-grain sourdough, nuts, berries, yoghurt or eggs, salmon, fresh mushrooms, spinach and tomatoes. You have lost valuable nutrients while partying, and fresh food is the best way to restock them. Alcohol metabolism creates free radicals – molecules that damage cells and that are disarmed by chemicals called antioxidants. You won’t find any of those in a bacon bap.
SLEEP IT OFF
Alcohol can make you fall asleep more easily – sometimes even when you don’t want to, for example, while you’re still on the train home – but it doesn’t induce restful sleep. If you can have a lie-in, make the most of it. Alternatively a mid afternoon nap works just as well. A lack of sleep makes tiredness, headaches and other hangover symptoms worse.
Ginger is a popular remedy for nausea, including the kind caused by morning sickness or travel sickness. If you feel nauseous after a night of drinking, it may be worth having a cup of fresh ginger tea. Asian ginseng, aka panax ginseng, was found to help with hangovers, too; though for the study, it was taken alongside alcohol – if you take it the next morning, it may be too late.
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