With the holiday season upon us, and New Year’s Eve around the corner, how does one avoid the dreaded morning-after hangover? Tamarah Chaddah, ND, and Mardi Baum, ND of Puremedica Naturopathic Practice, explain what’s going on and offer their top seven tips to help avoid or mend a hangover.

What is a hangover?

Generally, the more alcohol you consume, the more likely you are to develop a hangover, but there are no hard and fast rules. Symptoms include diarrhea, headache, fatigue, thirst, nausea, and shaking. Occasionally, you can experience rapid heartbeat, increased sensitivity to light and sound, and vertigo (a spinning sensation).

What’s happening to the body?

  • Alcohol, being a diuretic, increases urine output and dehydrates the body. This can explain why someone might experience thirst, headache, and vertigo after a night of heavy drinking.
  • Alcohol also tends to act as an irritant to the stomach lining. By increasing acid output, it leaves you susceptible to abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting.
  • With excessive alcohol consumption, your liver becomes busy breaking down the alcohol instead of performing its normal duty of supplying the body’s tissues and the brain with glucose (the body’s main energy source).  Consequently, your blood sugar levels fall, which can lead to fatigue, shakiness, and even mood disturbances.

Puremedica’s top 7 tips to help you avoid or mend a hangover.

1. Drink responsibly

‘Tis the season to indulge in food and alcohol. While some of this is ok throughout the holiday season, it is important to know your limits. The number one way to avoid a hangover is to drink moderately. NOTE that females have a lower percentage of water in their bodies when compared to men, making ingested alcohol more concentrated. Therefore, it takes a smaller amount of alcohol to cause intoxication in females.

2. Drink Fluids

Alcohol promotes urination so it’s easy to become dehydrated on a night of heavy drinking. If you go on to experience diarrhea, vomiting or sweating, this can exacerbate the dehydration.

  • Follow each alcoholic drink with a drink of water to ensure you stay hydrated.
  • If you’re suffering from a hangover, supplementing with water or an electrolyte drink can do wonders for your recovery. Coconut water is an excellent natural source of electrolytes.
  • Some say that the “hair of the dog”, an alcoholic beverage consumed at the start of a hangover, is a cure-all. The truth is, it may only postpone your symptoms and delay recovery.

3. Eat Up

Drinking lowers your blood sugar so it’s essential to eat sufficiently prior or during consuming alcohol.

  • Try to consume good fats such as avocado, nuts and seeds as this will slow the absorption of alcohol into your blood stream.
  • If you find yourself suffering from the fatigue and headaches of a hangover, opting for a carbohydrate rich meal will help normalize your blood sugar levels.
  • Do steak and eggs really kick a hangover? Potentially. Eggs contain cysteine that helps break down the hangover-causing toxins in the liver. As for the steak, eat before drinking.
  • Bananas may also be a good choice. They are packed with potassium, which will help to boost your depleted electrolytes.

4.  Opt for light coloured spirits

Beer before liquor, never been sicker? It’s not so much the order of consumption, but rather type that matters.

  • Clear liquors such as vodka and gin have been shown to cause hangovers less frequently.
  • Darker colored liquor, such as brandy and whisky contain larger amounts of a chemical compound called congeners.  These compounds are especially toxic and tend to cause a more severe hangover.
  • Sweet drinks cause fluctuations in blood sugar. As well, because they are so palatable you may not be able to judge how much alcohol you’re actually consuming.
  • Gluten sensitive? Avoid drinks such as beer, rye and scotch.

5.  A note about pain relievers

The throbbing headache that comes with a hangover may have you reaching for some pain relief but think twice before doing so.

  • Tylenol, when combined with alcohol, has a very toxic effect on the liver and should be avoided.
  • NSAIDS, such as ibuprofen and aspirin, may be a good alternative to Tylenol. However, they tend to irritate the stomach lining and this can worsen any abdominal discomfort felt with a hangover.

6.  B Vitamins

Alcohol blocks the absorption and increases the excretion of many important vitamins and minerals found in the body. Most notable are the b vitamins that play a vital role in the breakdown and elimination of alcohol. Popping a B-complex prior to drinking as well as when you come home, or even the next day can help to replace any lost nutrients and has the potential to reduce your hangover symptoms.

7.  Liver Support

Alcohol is a huge stress to the liver. To support liver detoxification and the metabolism of alcohol, consider:

  • Liver friendly supplements such as milk thistle, n-acetyl-cysteine (NAC) and globe artichoke.
  • Find a liver support formula and take it continuously if you are planning to indulge regularly throughout the season.
  • For a big night, consider taking the formula for a few days before and after.

Note: Be sure to consult a naturopathic doctor before making any additions to your supplement regime.