Mind & Spirit

Cures for holiday hangovers

Author: Canadian Living

Mind & Spirit

Cures for holiday hangovers

At any celebration even health-conscious hard-liners roll off their yoga mats and indulge in a little hedonism. Face it; a good party is a potential quagmire for the wellness minded. Office parties, family get-togethers, birthday celebrations and tempting cocktail hours create a glut of temptation that can undermine even the most disciplined lifestyle.

After all, who isn't sorely tempted to overindulge in the luxurious pleasures of silky liqueurs and buttery desserts?

You can also blame some of it on stress. A time of celebration is when you're spending time you don't have cooking, baking, shopping for things you may not find and socializing a lot -- sometimes with people you don't care for. The result: you might seek comfort in food or drink -- even though experts say this only succeeds in making you feel worse.

But take heart. If past festivities have left you feeling bloated and grumpy from overindulging on your mom's tasty baking, there's still hope for you. If it was the booze that did you in, I'll debunk some popular hangover prevention myths and provide some soothing tonics to counteract your temporary bingeing behaviour.

Healing hangover hazes
As everyone knows, even a moderate drinker can veer from normal drinking patterns under party pressure to "celebrate". In our family, my cheeky sportswriter father, John Robertson, likes to refer to New Year's Eve as "Amateur Night." According to him, a notorious imbiber turned teetotaler, that's when many of the less practised drinkers used to horn in on his binge-drinker's turf.

I credit maternal guilt, rather than paternal example, for keeping me healthy and sane. My hangovers were often short in duration, or nonexistent, due to the dreaded anticipation of my mother, Betty's, ire. The thought of her Hoover Upright vacuum banging loudly against my bedroom door the day after a good party (when she surmised I'd likely overindulged the night before) was the best preventive cure for hangovers I've encountered. If you don't have a Betty in your life, indulge yourself with these tips and advice before (and after) you drink.

Page 1 of 3 -- Can a little more wine actually cure a hangover? Find out the answer to this and other hangover myths on page 2

Myth or reality?
Hair of the Dog: Drinking a little of what ails you actually cures you
MYTH
This approach is often promoted by more seasoned drinkers as the way to ease a pounding headache. Just drown it with a little more alcohol, a "cure" commonly known as "hair of the dog." I read that Ernest Hemingway, a legendary drinker, liked to down a tonic of tomato juice and beer after a night on the town. This might be just a thin justification for continuing the party one more day. Or is there some merit to Hemingway's hair of the dog philosophy? "None," says Dr. Peter Selby, an addictions expert and the clinical director of the addictions program at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto. "After a night of heavy drinking, you still have alcohol in your system when you wake up. Morning drinking just delays hangovers."

Always drink on a full stomach. Keeping well nourished and well hydrated throughout the evening is a good idea, says Selby. Matt Gowan, a naturopathic doctor, also supports this strategy. "Increased urine output when you drink leads to loss of water and electrolytes," says Gowan, who has a practice in Toronto. "Drinking a lot of alcohol will also irritate the stomach, so eating complex carbohydrates, protein and some 'good' fat will help protect it."

"There's a fixed rate at which you can metabolize alcohol, so you have to work with your body," says Selby. Your body can only break down a limited amount (one standard drink) of alcohol each hour. When you drink, your kidneys want to purge the toxin so they increase urine production, resulting in dehydration. "Drinking water will help replace the fluid lost from your system because your kidney function is affected by the hormones altered by drinking." And it will help prevent dehydration.

Women can't handle alcohol as well as men
FACT
If you don't want to wake up looking like Faye Dunaway's haggard alcoholic character in the movie Barfly, you need to take a few precautions, says Selby. First of all, women feel the effects of alcohol more dramatically. They cannot tolerate as much intake and have a different body-fat-to-water distribution than men, which means they experience an increased concentration of alcohol in each drink. So women shouldn't even try to match male cohorts drink-per-drink. Women also have fewer digestive enzymes and can't break down the alcohol as readily, which means they feel the effects of one drink more strongly than men. Both Selby and Gowan concur that hormones are a factor when you drink, so if you're premenstrual, don't overindulge. Your hormones are peaking at that time, which means you're more prone to experiencing severe nausea with a hangover, and menstrual symptoms are more pronounced.

As for long-term health effects, women are also more prone to liver disease and breast cancer if they consume more than a moderate intake. (Moderate intake is one standard drink per day for women and two for men. A standard drink is equal to 142 mL/5 oz of wine, 341 mL/12 oz of regular-strength beer or 42.6 mL/1.5 oz of spirits.)

Page 2 of 3 -- Find easy hangover cures on page 3

Remedies for imbibers
Obviously, the best advice is to not overimbibe at a party. But if you do, Julie Zepp, a naturopath who operates out of the Regina Rehab and Family Medical Clinic, has this advice.

Drink fresh. "The fresher the drinks, the lesser the intensity of the hangover," says Zepp. "Be sure to drink from a freshly opened bottle of wine. If the bottle has been open for a few days, it will be subject to oxidation, which can increase your hangover."

Choose clear drinks. Steer clear of darker drinks such as rye, rum and whisky in favour of vodka, brandy and gin. Dark drinks are high in cogeners, chemicals produced during the distillation and fermentation process. Cogeners are made up of methanol and butanol and contribute to hangover side-effects when consumed. Clear alcohol is unfiltered and does not contain cogeners.

Avoid sugary and carbonated drinks. Carbonation causes the alcohol to be absorbed faster. And the combination of alcohol and sugar can cause blood glucose to fluctuate, either going too high or too low.

Drink water. Drink water throughout the evening to counter the dehydrating effects of increased urine output. Take a vitamin supplement. When you drink alcohol, you lose vitamins and minerals due to increased urine output. Take a high potency B- and C-vitamin complex before a night of drinking to replace lost vitamins. If you supplement after a hangover, take liquid or powdered vitamins instead of a pill since they are easier for your body to absorb. Liquid vitamins are available at most health food stores and some pharmacies.

Consider a cleansing. Zepp advises people to do two cleanses a year. The primary goal of an internal cleanse is to improve the liver's function and restore good gastrointestinal health. "The cleaner your liver is, the better your overall state of health," says Zepp, who adds that a healthy diet, nutrients and natural detoxification supplements (herbs such as dandelion or milk thistle, for instance) can help stimulate internal cleansing. Stress on your liver is cumulative. The more toxins you introduce to your system, the more stress you put on your liver. The key signs of a stagnant liver, says Zepp, are pain in the right side, constipation or diarrhea, headache, dry or red eyes, low energy and fatigue.

It's advisable to consult your doctor or health-care provider before undertaking a cleanse, especially if you have other health concerns.

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Cures for holiday hangovers

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