The Naturopath Says…
Classic hangover symptoms, including headaches, body aches and nausea, seem to be caused by inflammation and dehydration, as alcohol acts as a diuretic and can wreak havoc on the body. Surprisingly, there is still some debate in the scientific world about the true cause.
In any case, the best thing to do is to rehydrate.
Stock Up On Coconut Water
Coconut water is great because it has all the electrolytes you need; I also like Emergen-C and Vega Sport Electrolyte Hydrator because both are lower in sugar and contain fewer chemicals and processed ingredients than other brands available at the drugstore. Also, aim to drink two litres of water over the course of the next day to ensure that your hydration status is back up to where it should be.
When it comes to nausea and vomiting, I find it really helpful to take ginger. Finely grate a piece of ginger and make a tea out of it by letting it steep in hot water for 10 minutes. Squeeze the juice of half a lemon into the tea to detoxify the liver.
As for hangover foods, eggs are a really good choice because they’re high in cysteine, an amino acid that helps increase glutathione – your body’s main antioxidant – and is very effective at helping your body process toxins.
Take Red Ginseng and Vitamin B
To help prevent a hangover, I recommend taking red ginseng – either in pill form or liquid shots – at the same time that you consume alcohol. Studies show that it can reduce blood alcohol levels and hangover severity.
Additionally, your body uses up all the B vitamins in your system to process alcohol, so taking a vitamin B complex before drinking alcohol will help negate this effect. You can also take milk thistle, an herb that has been proven to protect the liver from alcohol damage and improve liver function.
Fuel Up On Protein
I also suggest getting some protein in your system before a night of drinking or during a cocktail party to help balance your blood sugar, protect your immune system and detoxify and metabolize the alcohol in your liver. Snack on some chicken bites or cocktail shrimp – filling up on magnesium-rich foods, such as dark leafy greens, pumpkin and black beans, before imbibing can help prevent a headache.
Dr. Sarah White is a naturopathic doctor in Oakville, ON
The Pharmacist Says…
If you wake up “the morning after” feeling less than great, there are some things you can do.
First, you need to rehydrate. If all you have is water, drink that, but if you have an electrolyte drink handy, this will also help replace minerals that have become depleted from the night before and may help speed recovery faster than water. Have a couple of glasses – more if you’re still craving fluids – and consider drinking more water throughout the day if you’re still feeling thirsty.
I recommend the oral rehydration drinks designed for kids, such as Pedialyte, which are lower in sugar than sports drinks. (If you prefer a sports drink, cut it in half with water.) Having something to eat is also important: If you feel nauseous, reach for a bland food, such as plain toast, to help settle your stomach. Another natural option is to simply sleep it off, but some people swear that getting up and moving around can help. It’s an individual choice as to what feels best for you.
Be Weary of Tylenol
As far as medication goes, I generally recommend an anti-inflammatory, such as ibuprofen or naproxen, for a hangover headache and body aches, but check with your pharmacist first to make sure it’s safe for you. For many people, it’s the best thing for pain, and acetaminophen (like Tylenol) may be dangerous to mix with alcohol. The drawback is that these drugs can be hard on an upset stomach for some people. Also, taking a dimenhydrinate (like Gravol) is an option that can help to quell nausea, but it may cause drowsiness.
A good strategy for avoiding a hangover altogether is to have a plan before going out. Limit yourself to a set number of alcoholic drinks throughout the night and then switch to non-alcoholic drinks later on. It’s also important to make sure that you’re not dehydrated before you start drinking and to avoid drinking on an empty stomach.
Have some snacks throughout the night – keeping food in your stomach can slow the absorption of alcohol and your drinking rate.
Avoid Dark-Coloured Beverages
And beware of dark-coloured beverages, such as red wine, dark beer, whisky and scotch, because they are higher in congeners, a compound found in alcohol that contributes to hangovers.
Ian Wasserman is a pharmacist in Yellowknife, NT