Ahhhhhh New Year’s Eve. THE night of the year for drunken fun to end the old and ring in the new. While New Year’s certainly isn’t the only holiday we use alcohol to celebrate with, it does seem to be the one most people think about when you mention the word hangover.
Yeah, it’s all fun and games until you wake up the next day…. Head pounding, throat as dry as the desert, inability to think straight… and is it me or is the room still spinning??? The symptoms you experience from a hangover can range from extremely mild dehydration to full on vomiting and complete loss of memory of the event.
Hangover’s are the WORST! But thankfully there are some healthy ways you can get rid of that horrible feeling fast so that you bounce back to real life fast.
WHAT IS A HANGOVER?
A hangover is a series of symptoms brought on by a physiological response to the presence of alcohol in the bloodstream, digestive and urinary tracts of the body. The amount of alcohol it takes to cause a hangover depends upon the individual, but things like genetics, age and body weight play a role in an individual’s likelihood of experiencing a hangover. As a person ages their body is less able to metabolize alcohol the same way a 21 year old’s body does. A person’s weight also plays a role in alcohol metabolism. The heavier the person the longer it may take for that individual to “feel” drunk. And unfortunately, some people are just genetically either able to tolerate better or worse than others.
Alcohol contains 7 calories per gram, but even though it contains energy, it cannot be stored in the body as energy and must be metabolized and eliminated from the body. Alcohol is mainly metabolized in the liver, however some metabolism happens in the pancreas, brain and other tissues throughout the body. I won’t go into the in depth science of alcohol metabolism today, but here’s the Cliff’s Notes version via the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. “Most of the ethanol in the body is broken down in the liver by an enzyme called alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH), which transforms ethanol into a toxic compound called acetaldehyde (CH3CHO), a known carcinogen. However, acetaldehyde is generally short-lived; it is quickly broken down to a less toxic compound called acetate (CH3COO–) by another enzyme called aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH). Acetate then is broken down to carbon dioxide and water, mainly in tissues other than the liver.” It is this breakdown process that contributes to your hangover.
HOW TO PREVENT HANGOVERS
So now that you know the science behind the symptoms, there are several ways you can prevent a hangover. My first piece of advice after that would be to start to learn your body. Pay attention to the types of alcohol that make next day hangover symptoms worse and which types don’t affect you as badly.
Some of us enjoy social drinking more than others, so these lessons will help you learn how to enjoy alcohol responsibly and within the context of an overall healthy lifestyle. Remember, by the time you were legally allowed to drink that also meant you were a legal adult and had learned self control back in Elementary School.
Several foods have been shown to provide the body with a boost at ridding alcohol from the system and lessening the severity of hangover.
- Prickly Pear Extract
Have all been shown to reduce symptoms of hangover by up to 50% when ingested PRIOR to drinking alcohol. Alcohol has a dehydration effects on the body as it pulls a significant amount of water as it is being metabolized. Getting hydrated prior to drinking will help mitigate symptoms of dehydration which can worsen a hangover. Food like pears, bananas, pretzels and asparagus are also high in potassium, sodium and electrolytes. Each of those will help prevent hangover symptoms when eaten prior to or during consumption of alcohol. Prickly Pear extract has been shown to work effectively when taken approximately 5 hours before beginning to drink.
HOW TO TREAT HANGOVERS
If in the event you either don’t take those precautions ahead of time or still end up with a hangover there are several easy things you can do to lessen symptoms quickly and get back to feeling like yourself.
Rule number one is going to not only be to get some water into your system ASAP, but getting some electrolytes in will be important too. Personally, I prefer the Simple Truth Organic Electrolyte Solution (found at Kroger) because it’s free of food dyes, but if you don’t care Pedialyte works as well. A lot of people may tell you to grab another beer, but consuming more alcohol won’t actually cure your hangover. It may temporarily make symptoms appear better, but more often the symptoms come back even worse.
If you CAN’T keep food down, opt for bone broth only or just the electrolyte solution. If you CAN keep food down, focusing on nutrient density is going to be your best bet. Take is as much food as you can tolerate with as many vitamins and minerals as possible. Some people swear by eating greasy foods when hungover, but that is completely person specific, and if you’re stomach is a bit upset, opting for easier to digest foods would be a good idea. Speaking of stomach upset… supplementing with crystallized ginger can help settle your stomach as well. And last but not least is rest, rest and more rest. Allowing your body to heal and recovery will help you feel better sooner. Get up, hydrate, eat, supplement and then back to bed.
And there you have it. Some tips and tricks for not only preventing a hangover in the first place, but getting rid of it fast if in the event you accidentally over do it. I hope you’re able to put some of these tricks into action on New Year’s Eve!