How to Prevent the Holiday Hangover : The Health Guide To Drinking!

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We’re cruising head-on into the holiday season and with that comes many glassfuls of merriment, a couple of splashes of overindulgence, an ounce or two of guilt, often served with a sidecar of morning hangover. Hmph.

Pleasure in the form of all-things spiked does seem to trickle into our social gatherings just a little bit more during the festive season.

So if having one too many cranberry-vodkas or boozy nogs has landed you on the naughty list in the years past – I have some Smarter Sipping Tips for you this year.

Your Ultimate Holiday Hangover Guide

Here are your tips on how to prevent the wrath of the wine grapes, as well as how to manage a hangover if you did "go for it", ending up with Rudolph's-shiny-red-wine-nose in the morning.

This is the really practical advice this holiday season, one that you might actually use! However, besides tipping too much nog, let's also just be a wee bit smarter about all the shenanigans that usually come around this time of the year.

First, be sure to cut yourself some slack when you do overindulge (because you will), continue with daily exercise (more or less), and try not to be elves-gone-wild with all the finger food & sugary desserts lying around. Point being - just do your best.

Ok, let's get this party started!!

Hangover Prevention

First, alcohol is a diuretic (i.e. makes you pee more than usual) and its tendency to dehydrate the body is what gives us the typical hangover symptoms like nausea, headache, extreme thirst, palpitations, sensitivity to light, poor motor skills, achy muscles, and of course - very loud shoes.

What to Do Before You Even Have Your First Drink

1. Take 500-1000 mg of Vitamin C before you begin consuming alcohol. This will help to lower the acetaldehyde that your liver creates as a by-product to the breakdown of ethanol (alcohol). Acetaldehyde is 10-30 times more toxic than the ethanol itself [use referenced link provided or find your own relevant link to support the key claim], and is by far the most damaging alcohol toxin.

More advanced supplemental measures in prevention would be to take NAC (n-acetylcysteine - at least 200 mgs), L-glutathione and B1 (thiamine) or a B-complex at least 30 minutes before alcohol consumption [1].

2. Drink gobs of water before, during & after your alcohol intake, e.g. for every alcoholic drink you consume, drink 2 glasses of water in between.

3. Eat at least a small meal before you drink (or while you're drinking) to slow the rate of alcohol uptake into your bloodstream - preferably something containing protein & healthy fats.This may also help you to not mindlessly munch on all of the salty/fatty party foods as drinking a moderate amount of alcohol tends to increase our appetites, not reduce it. [use referenced link provided or find your own relevant link to support the key claim]

Choose Your Booze Wisely - Sip Smarter!

Drink higher quality liquor, skip the sugary mixes and consider watering down your booze.

Your best bets with little to no congeners (all the added stuff that is so hard for the body to break down) are:
Gluten-free beer - which is also relatively low in alcohol, good quality craft beer, organic red wine, organic white wine, gluten-free vodka (preferably potato, not corn), high quality gin or 100% agave tequila - along with mostly clear mixes like sparkling water, lemon & lime.  Sparkling water (no sodium), unsweetened pure coconut water, naturally decaffeinated green tea and kombucha (fermented tea) all make good hydrating, low/no-sugar drink bases - get creative!

Your not-so-great alcoholic beverage options are:
Regular beer, dark liquors (= lots of congeners + paired with dark, sugary mixes), sugary liqueurs, regular red wine (you would be shocked at the poor quality, fillers & preservatives of most wine), and regular white wine or worse - cheap sparkling wine. Baby Duck anyone?

Mirror.co.uk reports that "white wine contains around 10-11% alcohol. It’s not just this higher content that leaves us with a notorious ‘white wine hangover’. It makes your stomach secrete more acid, irritating the lining and making you feel sick.It also contains sulphites – chemical compounds that stop bacterial growth and act as preservatives. Inside the digestive system, these break down and create sulphur dioxide, which can trigger headaches. In asthmatics, it can cause breathing problems."

After An Evening of Drinking

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Drink 2 huge glasses of water before bed.
Another option is to replace 1 glass of water with pure, unsweetened coconut water (naturally loaded with potassium) and add a pinch of sea salt or pink salt in it. Alcohol also depletes our electrolytes, so this is a simple, yet effective electrolyte replenishment combo.

Take a magnesium supplement before bed. (200-400 mg of magnesium citrate or bisglycinate - not oxide)
Again, it's about replenishing what's been lost during alcohol consumption: water, vitamins + minerals, especially electrolytes (Potassium, Magnesium, Calcium & Sodium Chloride).

If you have chosen to drink a lower quality alcohol containing more congeners (e.g. tannins in wine, fillers in beer, etc., then I suggest you take 4 capsules of activated charcoal (AC) before bed, along with your 2 extra glasses of water.  Yep, I just suggested that you swallow some burnt dirt!Oddly as it sounds, charcoal has the ability to bind with toxins through the process of adsorption, allowing for easier removal from our systems and can effectively reduce blood alcohol concentrations [2] [3]. 
NOTE: Do not take AC too close to medications or other supplements as it may bind to them and hinder their absorption.

Hangover Management

Ok, so you ended up with the brown bottle flu because you got sloshed before you had a chance to read any of the above tips. I get it, but you made your sloppy, nog-soaked bed, now ya gotta lie in it. But, I can help make it a bit more comfortable for you.

First things first -- drag your sorry hungover butt out of bed, make the necessary motions and gestures to stay upright, then head to the kitchen.

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Proceed with one or more of the following Hangover Management Tips:
✔ Do NOT take acetaminophen (Tylenol) as it's hard on your already bogged-down liver. If you simply must pop something for that pounding head, try ibuprofen (Advil) or aspirin instead.

✔ Squeeze a half of a lemon into a glass of warm water or pure aloe juice. Drink through a straw as it's initially acidic, so it's hard on tooth enamel. However, this drink is actually very alkalizing to the body and will help to get the detoxification process underway.

Feel free to combine it with a cup of unsweetened coconut water with a pinch of sea salt in it -- like you were supposed to do the night before!

✔ AND/OR drink herbal tea containing any of the following detoxifying components: dandelion root/leaves, milk thistle (active ingredient = silymarin), stinging nettle leaves, burdock root, turmeric and ginger.

Turmeric (active ingredient = curcumin) is also a powerful anti-inflammatory and it is reportedly good for the hangover headache. You can easily make a "golden tea" out of the bright yellow pungent spice - which is best absorbed with a fat like coconut oil or ghee.  Ginger is also a classic herbal remedy for nausea and other digestive upsets.

✔ AND/OR drink bone broth [use the link provided, use your own preferred link/recipe or unlink] -- plain, simple and full of vitamins & minerals.

✔ Resist the urge to now fill your wobbly gut with buttered white bread, greasy sausage links and a wedge of cheese.  Instead, make yourself a balanced breakfast of "slow carbs" like sweet potatoes, topped with nitrate-free turkey sausage and a free-range egg (high in cysteine - remember NAC?) cooked in coconut oil, ghee or clarified butter.

✔ Also, if you can stomach it, make yourself a huge detoxifying green foods drink: water or coconut water as the base, then throw in any of the following: green apple, cucumber, spirulina &/or chlorella powder, wheatgrass, romaine lettuce, baby spinach or kale, celery, mint leaves, parsley (or cilantro) PLUS lemon, lime & fresh ginger.

Go for organic, washed green foods to decrease your exposure to even more toxins.

Even just putting a teaspoon of spirulina or chlorella powder in water with lemon juice would be hugely helpful at this point!

Or, you can try this Liver Lovin' Detox & Hangover Helper Recipe:

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✔ All-day sipper: water infused with hydrating & rebalancing plant foods like ginger, cucumber, mint leaves, berries, lemon & lime slices. Make a huge jug and drink it all day. (I add watermelon to the mix in the summer!)

✔ Exercise. If you can possibly muster up the energy to move your body more than just back and forth to bed, then try to work up a sweat for 15-30 minutes. Done. Back to bed.

Something else to consider on The Morning After...if you do find yourself feeling rather lousy, use this "condition" as information and take a mental note for future reference of how truly un-hot you feel. Just sayin’.

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Written By: 
Krista Goncalves is a Registered Nutritional Counselor (RNC) and Wellness Business Copywriter who lives in Kelowna BC with her husband and two young kids.
When she’s not writing, she’s outdoors hiking & paddle boarding with the family, or doing bootcamp in the park or on a beach!
While Krista enjoyed her combined 10 years as a Bootcamp Company Owner and Women’s Nutrition Expert, she’s now incredibly passionate about helping other Health & Wellness Pro’s to “juice up” their online businesses with her web content writing, health coaching & business resources at Making Lemonade with Krista Goncalves

Feel free to connect with Krista on her Facebook page: @MakingLemonadeHealth

Additional references:
[1] https://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2013/12/31/hangover.aspx
[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3710499
[3] http://www.princeton.edu/~oa/safety/alcohol.shtml