By Julia Powers
Celebrating family holiday traditions can be joyous… maybe a little too joyous, you realize the next morning. A hangover is never fun. Ever. When you awaken with a throbbing headache, nausea, dry mouth, dizziness, and fatigue (as well as a big dose of regret), you want one only thing—to feel better. Obviously, the best course of action is to avoid this unique brand of misery in the first place. Although we’re all well-schooled in drinking responsibly—being mindful about and limiting alcohol consumption, drinking plenty of water between drinks, and never drinking on an empty stomach—sometimes you over imbibe and pay the price with a hangover. Understanding why your body feels the way it does will help you determine what you can do to bounce back as quickly as possible.
During a hangover, your body is feeling the effects of:
- Dehydration. Alcohol is a diuretic, which can lead to a headache and dry mouth. Frequent urination also depletes electrolytes, contributing to the headache as well as nausea and fatigue.
- Low blood sugar. Alcohol can cause blood sugar levels to drop, leaving you shaky, moody, and fatigued.
- Toxic by-products. When overwhelmed with too much alcohol, the nutrients needed to metabolize the alcohol become depleted, causing acetaldehyde, a toxic by-product of alcohol to build-up in your body, leading to fatigue, headache, malaise, and an upset stomach.
While there is no magic hangover cure, here are some strategies to help alleviate the symptoms:
- To counteract the effects of dehydration, drink plenty of fluids, both before bed and the next day. Coconut water is a great choice since it also replenishes your electrolytes. Think of it as a sports drink without all of the artificial ingredients.
- Eat! To stabilize blood sugar, skip the greasy, fatty food that has become standard morning-after fare. Instead, choose a meal that contains a mix of protein, healthy fats, and complex carbs.
- Ginger tea can calm an upset stomach, as well as provide necessary rehydration.
- Vitamin depletion. Because the enzymes needed to break down alcohol require B-vitamins, these vitamins may become depleted with excessive alcohol intake. To give the body the nutrients it needs to metabolize the alcohol, eat foods high in B vitamins, such as whole grains, dark leafy greens, eggs, dairy, meat, nuts, seeds, citrus fruits, broccoli, avocados, and bananas. Cysteine, an amino acid, is also needed to metabolize alcohol. It is found in eggs, seeds, dairy, meat, and some whole grains.
One strategy to dodge a hangover is to avoid alcohol with high amounts of congeners, which are toxic chemical by-products of alcohol fermentation. Red wine and dark liquors such as whiskey, bourbon, and brandy have higher amounts of congeners than white wine and clear liquors like vodka.
The holidays are too busy to lose a day to nursing a hangover. While prevention is the best approach, if you do over-imbibe, here are some recipes that will help bring you back to center.