New Year’s Eve looms, and many of us will be brewing up for the bout of heavy drinking this night of celebration traditionally entails. Such intoxicating pleasures tend to come with some pain too, however, usually in the form of the hangover from hell the morning after the night before. Alcohol in excess has a number of undesirable effects in the body including an ability to up the toxic load on the system, dehydrate the body and induce subnormal levels of sugar in the bloodstream. Once the morning comes, these imbalances can show up as a barrelful of undesirable symptoms such as a thumping headache, queasiness in the stomach, and feelings of general weakness and fragility. Those of us who plan to drink like fishes this New Year’s eve can probably count on feeling distinctly green around the gills the next day too.
Fortunately, there is much that can be done to bolster our defences against an onslaught of alcohol. One way to reduce the toxic shock alcohol can induce in the body is to name our poison with some care. Some alcoholic beverages such as port, brandy and cheap red wine tend to be loaded with substances called congeners that are believed to contribute to the thick head and feelings of internal pollution brought on by a big night. Vodka is relatively pure spirit and generally the best for those attempting to make New Year’s day a hangover-free affair. For those wedded to beer, it may pay to opt for German varieties such as Holsten and Becks: the lacing of these beers with potentially toxic additives is strictly verboten.
Because alcohol and congeners are detoxified in the liver, another approach to preventing hangovers is to support this organ in its house-clearing duties. The herb Milk thistle (Silybum marianum) is renowned for its ability stimulate and protect the liver, and taking 500 mg of this even just a few hours before a serious session can buy some grace. However, if you can, I recommend taking this herb from today, as a few daily doses before a drinking binge does seem to work better than a one-off hit on the day.
Matching each alcoholic drink with a glass of water is another prime tool for reducing internal toxicity as it helps to dilute alcohol and other toxins in the system, and speed their elimination from the body. Water also combats the desiccating effects of alcohol, and can help ensure that wetting our whistle does not leave us feeling like we’ve been hung out to dry. Those seeking a simple but effective way of diluting alcohol’s impact on the body should just add water.
Alcohol tends to cause quite brisk release of sugar into the bloodstream, though this can cause blood sugar levels to come crashing down some time later. Sugar lows can disrupt sleep and may can contribute to the pounding head and feelings of fatigue that can come with a hangover. I recommend downing a fruit smoothie or perhaps some tomato juice before collapsing into bid as this may help maintain blood sugar levels throughout the night and aid restful sleep. More of the same in the morning may help to restore sugar levels and help with rehydration too. These and other healthy drinking games can help make having one over the eight a much cushier number for the body.