Ultimate Hangover Cure – Eat Well and Have Fun
We are going to explore how the body responds to drinking alcohol and therefore how we can help reduce the hangover feeling! Alcohol often leaves us feeling dehydrated, tired, with a headache and at its worst nauseous leading to sickness and vomiting. Understanding the body’s response to alcohol can help us take measures to reduce its negative impact whilst still enjoying ourselves.
Eating before and during drinking alcohol is helpful. Having alcohol on an empty stomach will magnify its effects because not only is the alcohol absorbed into the bloodstream quicker but it also irritates the stomach lining.
When there is food in the stomach the impact will be reduced. Alcohol stimulates the production of hydrochloric acid (stomach acid). When the stomach is empty this is more likely to cause irritation and inflammation to the stomach lining resulting in the desire to empty the stomach and hence nausea and vomiting.
Another reason for eating is to aid in stabilising blood sugar levels. Alcohol is often high in sugar particularly if combined with high sugar mixers. The fast rise in blood sugar levels followed by a fall leaves us craving carbohydrate as a quick energy fix. Eating a meal alongside drinking alcohol will slow down the sugar absorption into the bloodstream avoiding the highs and lows and energy crashes.
The ethanol content of alcohol is toxic and we have mechanisms for its detoxification. However this takes some time and ethanol meanwhile suppresses vasopressin, a hormone that inhibits excessive urination. In other words, when we drink alcohol we urinate more resulting in a loss of fluids and electrolytes leaving us dehydrated and with a headache.
Drinking enough water alongside alcohol is important as well as replenishing electrolytes sodium and potassium. Think about foods traditionally eaten in hot climates; they often have a high salt content that in this case is useful. Olives, anchovies, smoked salmon, sun-dried tomatoes and salted nuts all contribute to sodium replenishment.
Salmon and tomatoes are also good sources of potassium. The added advantage of salmon and anchovies are their high content of omega 3 and anti-inflammatory action. Remember that alcohol as well as being toxic and inflammatory results in an increase in stomach acid production with resulting inflammation.
Our bodies need to detoxify the ethanol in alcohol. Initially, ethanol is metabolised to acetaldehyde which is also toxic and a build-up of which results in a headache and sickness. The quicker and more efficient the breakdown of acetaldehyde the better and the process requires a number of nutrients including B vitamins, vitamin C, magnesium, zinc and glutathione. Hence the importance of a good supply of these nutrients.
So are there any particular foods to focus on containing an array of these nutrients? Foods that contain potassium required to restore electrolyte balance but also B and C vitamins are avocados, bananas, tomatoes, asparagus and potatoes. Vitamin C is also found in peppers, broccoli, carrots, brussel sprouts, and strawberries.
Any sulphur containing food like eggs, broccoli, brussel sprouts and garlic will aid the synthesis of glutathione required for detoxification. B vitamins, magnesium and zinc are found in nuts and seeds.
So apart from ensuring you eat a balanced meal and stay hydrated with water, it is also very easy to make starters, nibbles and picnic food with the ingredients we have mentioned. Try bruschetta with sun-dried tomato and garlic, avocado and olives, roasted red peppers, anchovies, smoked salmon or any combination of these. What about egg mayonnaise sandwiches or egg and asparagus. Crudites of broccoli, peppers and carrots with a variety of dips and strawberries for dessert.
Don’t forget the nuts and seeds and if you get to the end of the evening without having remembered any of this, grab a slice of peanut butter and banana on toast with a big glass of water and look forward to a good night’s sleep!