Most of us like a few drinks at this time of year. But as many as 75 to 80 per cent get hangovers, even after just a few drinks. Here’s how to avoid a hangover and failing that, what you can do to fix it. By Anna Magee
I only need to sniff a drink and I get a sore head. That’s meant either never drink at all or investigate which hangover cures really work, for me at least. I hope they work for you.
1. Get your electrolytes
This may be obvious, but it is still ignored by most drinkers. It can be helpful to have a large glass of water before starting on the alcohol, a glass between each alcoholic drink, and at least one large glass before going to bed. To improve your hydration, it’s ideal to drink water that contains extra electrolyte minerals such as potassium, sodium and magnesium – the minerals that are easily lost in sweat and urine and that are particularly important to have in the right balance in our cells and blood. Natural coconut water is ideal for this, as it naturally contains a good balance of the electrolyte minerals. Another alternative is to add a natural electrolyte concentrate to your water, such as Grenade’s 50 Calibre Lemon Raid which is high in electrolytes (£26.99 from Healthista Shop). Keep drinking water (or electrolyte rich coconut water) the next day to re-hydrate.
2. Eat protein and fat before you drink
Make sure that what you eat contains protein and ideally some healthy fats, as these are broken down more slowly than carbohydrates or sugars and stay in the stomach for longer. Good protein foods are meats, fish, eggs, beans and lentils, and nuts and seeds. Healthy fats can include olive oil or other good quality seed oils (e.g. flaxseed), avocado, nuts and seeds. It can also be helpful to take a few capsules of a high quality fish oil or omega-3 and 6 oil such as Minami Nutrition’s MoreEPA Smart Fats (£28.95 from Healthista Shop) before drinking to help coat the stomach and replenish levels of fatty acids that may be depleted later through alcohol consumption.
3. Eat liver-supporting foods
The liver is responsible for processing and breaking down about 95% of the alcohol we consume. So to help your liver to do this – and to get rid of chemicals such as acetaldehyde – try to include foods that promote liver function, both before and the day after drinking. Protein-rich foods are one of the food groups in this category, as proteins break down into amino acids that are used by the liver for detoxification. Particularly important is the amino acid cysteine, which has a specific role in acetaldehyde breakdown: as well as in protein-rich foods such as eggs, it can be found in onions and garlic, and ‘cruciferous’ vegetables such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale and cabbage.
These foods are also great sources of minerals, as well as antioxidants that could help to quench the free radicals produced by alcohol consumption – one of the potential factors in hangovers that we saw above. Other liver-supporting foods include artichoke, which can increase bile flow (to support elimination of toxins through the liver) and is thought to help protect the liver cells from damage; turmeric, which can also improve bile production; bitter leafy salad greens such as rocket and watercress; and lemon juice – after an evening of drinking, try starting your day with a large glass of water containing the freshly squeezed juice of half a lemon. A breakfast of omelette with onions and rocket would be great option to follow this up.
4. Replenish your vitamins and minerals
Green leafy vegetables, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and red cabbage are great sources of vitamin C and minerals including magnesium, as well as helping to support the liver. Nuts and seeds are loaded with zinc, magnesium and calcium, as well as healthy fats. As well as being a good source of protein, eggs are rich in B vitamins, as are beans and lentils. Whole grains are also good sources of B vitamins, minerals and fibre to support elimination of toxins. You can also take a multivitamin to help restore your nutrient levels – see below under ‘Supplement support’.
5. Milk Thistle
Perhaps the best-known and most traditional remedy for hangovers – it has been proven to protect the liver cells from damage, including that resulting from alcohol, and reduce inflammation in the liver. I take two Schwabe’s Thisilyn Milk Thistle Maximum Strength (£13.25 from Healthista Shop) before starting to drink, two before bed and two the morning after.
6. Essential Fatty Acids
I take two before drinking to help line the stomach (with some food, as we saw above) and the morning after with breakfast to replenish healthy fats. If you don’t like the idea of swallowing a fish oil capsule when you’re feeling nauseous, a more palatable alternative is Efamol’s Eflaex Liquid Lemon and Lime £8.49 (from Healthista shop), a creamy syrup flavoured with lemon and lime that may also be better absorbed than standard fish oil supplements.
7. High Dose Multivitamins
Ensure they contain high levels of vitamin C and B vitamins which your body uses up when you drink. I take a high dose, high quality multivitamin such as NutriAdvanced Multi Essentials One-A-Day £24.95 (from Healthista Shop) which contains high levels of B, D, C and K vitamins – all of which may be easily depleted by alcohol intake as well as the amino acids essential to brain function, glutamine and lysine. If I am drinking, I take one before drinking, one more when I get home and then another with breakfast the day after.
8. Extra Vitamin C
Vitamin C is necessary for energy production, for proper immune function, and as an antioxidant to neutralise free radicals. I like Biocare’s Vitamin C Powder £30.60 which is gentler on my stomach than some vitamin C supplements because of its powder form and also comes in a form called magnesium ascorbate which does not leach the minerals potassium and calcium from the body – all ideal to prevent extra irritation. I take a serve every day in my smoothie but if I am drinking, I take a little in water before going out, with my multivitamin and omega oils, one before going to bed; and if I still feel rough the next day, one tablet every two to three hours.
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