why do I have a hangover

How to avoid a hangover

Today is New Year’s Eve and many will be wondering how to drink and not suffer the next day. I’m not saying alcohol is healthy and certainly I don’t entertain irresponsible drinking. However, it’s undoubtedly a significant aspect of social life and there are ways how to minimise its negative effects.

Fun fact

Alcohol is a controversial subject in the world of nutritional therapy and some consider it a deadly poison. But is it really so toxic?

All of us host numerous strains of yeasts in the gut. Some of these produce alcohol in small amounts every single day, given the right nutrition: glucose, fructose and sucrose. It means that when we eat foods containing any of these sugars, the yeasts produce ethanol. This means that we are physiologically designed to metabolise certain amounts of alcohol. Therefore, I do not agree that even the smallest amount is bad (at least not for an average person with no major health concerns). Especially that alcohol has been used medicinally for centuries.

Why do people get hangovers

If you feel that even a small amount of alcohol affects you, it’s most probably down to your internal environment and not necessarily alcohol itself. A nutrient dense diet, efficient liver detoxification pathways, gut microflora composition and genetic predispositions all affect alcohol metabolism.

  1. Slow conversion: alcohol is metabolised to acetaldehyde which is the villain behind nasty hangovers. Normally, it is further converted to acetate, and ultimately to carbon and water. That conversion is catalysed by an enzyme called aldehyde oxidase (AO). When the enzyme doesn’t work efficiently, acetaldehyde poisons the body. Enzymatic reactions hugely depend on gastrointestinal health, nutrient status and genetics.

  2. Histamine intolerance: wine and beer are high in histamine which is normally degraded by an enzyme called diamine oxidase (DAO). When there are not enough DAO producing microbes or there are too many histamine producing microbes in the gut, one can react to dietary histamine. The most common symptoms are migraines and fast heartbeat.

  3. Blood sugar drop: sweetened mixers raise blood sugar fast which then drops below a desired level. Symptoms of reactive hypoglycaemia include lightheadedness, headaches, cold sweats. Wine and beer are quite high in sugar and can induce a blood glucose drop on their own.

  4. Hydration: alcohol draws water out of cells, dehydrating us from inside out. Without sufficient hydration, the brain shrinks. As it shrinks, it pulls away from the skull, causing a tension headache.

  5. Yeast overgrowth: this will result in excessive endogenous alcoholic fermentation.

  6. Amount and type of alcohol: while some alcohol can be perfectly fine, large amounts and poor choices of alcoholic drinks increase the chances of a hangover tenfold.

How to avoid a hangover

  1. Eat while you drink, or at least right after drinking. Most people crave greasy foods after a night out because the body requires three important compounds for alcohol to be detoxified, and fast foods provide all of them:

  • fat (stimulates bile flow, and bile is body’s master detoxifier)

  • protein (certain amino acids are needed for efficient detox pathways)

  • soluble fibre (‘soakage’, also responsible for removing used bile with impurities)

Detox is often associated with juicing and other plant based remedies but without protein and fat the process is not complete. This is also why a green juice is the last thing on a hungover person’s mind.

2. Choose your drinks wisely. Best alcohols in the order of purity are:

  • potato vodka

  • gin

  • tequila

  • rum

  • whiskey

  • dry champagne and cider

  • organic dry wine

My favourite going out drink that is not only tasty but keeps me hydrated:

  • vodka

  • sparkling water

  • 2 wedges of lime, squeezed

  • fresh mint

3. It is best not to mix different alcoholic beverages.

4. If you decide to mix, start with the lower percentage drink and move up the scale as opposed to the other way round.

5. Hydrate: get a glass of water with each alcoholic drink. Also, eat fat. Fat is metabolised to water which hydrates cells. I actually think fat is a better hydrator than water because water is produced directly within cells. No wonder people who eat substantial amounts of fat have supple, firm and smooth skin.

6. Do not get sweetened mixers, stick to dry options.

6. Supplements that are worth having at home if you drink on a regular basis:

  • 1000mg of vitamin C right after drinking

  • N-Acetylcysteine (NAC) right after drinking

  • Probiotics on a regular basis

  • Food based multivitamin which includes all B vitamins in natural forms (e.g. Garden of Life mykind) on a regular basis

Hangover remedies

  1. Water with a good pinch of sea salt or rock salt - to increase electrolyte content

  2. Coconut water - rich in electrolytes

  3. San Pellegrino water - very high in sulphur which is key for detoxification

  4. Meat stock and bone broth - rich in minerals, protein and fat

  5. Home made curry - rich in protein, fat, detoxifying spices

  6. Bananas - rich in potassium

  7. Eggs - rich in cysteine and choline which support detoxification

  8. Walk in the fresh air, leave exercise for another day

Happy partying and all the best in 2019 x