A Little Too Much Eggnog
How to heal your morning pain after one too many
It’s the happiest season of all—giving, family, celebrations, cookies and cocktails. Once the Thanksgiving turkey hits the oven, the holidays are in full swing. Christmas music wafts through the air, and parties don’t stop until January 1. The holiday punch bowl beckons, the eggnog flows freely, and the wine pours never stop. It’s great to embrace the holiday spirit, but the morning after can be a misery.
Dehydration, nausea, headache, foggy brain and cravings are a few common signs of a hangover. Whether you wake up with a clear memory of the previous night’s events, or groggily hoping that you didn’t break your aunt’s Chinese ceramic set, the morning after a boozy night could make you want to stay in bed bingeing on carbs all day.
Hangover symptoms are similar for everyone. The good news is there are natural ways to shake off your pain. TOTI Media consulted a Southwest Florida nutritionist for some advice.
ALCOHOL VS. HUMAN BODY 101
Alcohol metabolism begins in the liver, where it’s broken down to acetaldehyde, a toxic byproduct and known carcinogen. It’s further metabolized down to another, less active byproduct called acetate, which then is broken down into water and carbon dioxide for easy elimination.
Internationally recognized sports and functional nutritionist Barbara Lewin, based in Naples, told TOTI Media what helps break down acetaldehyde is an amino acid, called l-cysteine. “When there is not enough l-cysteine available, acetaldehyde can build up in the body, and it is partly the acetaldehyde toxicity that causes symptoms of a hangover,” she explains.
“L-cysteine is part of what makes up glutathione, an extremely important antioxidant in the body that helps fight oxidative stress,” Lewin continues. Research has shown that although oxidative stress is present during normal metabolism, when it increases without the rise of antioxidants, it can lead to cell malfunction.
One of the easiest ways to avoid a hangover (besides abstaining from alcohol) is to keep well hydrated. “Most people walk around in a state of suboptimal hydration/ somewhat dehydrated,” says Lewin. “We seem to forget that we’re at least 60 percent water, and thirst is not a good indicator of hydration status. When you then add in a couple of alcoholic beverages, you are more likely to feel the effects of the alcohol on your body.”
Drinking can precipitate a drop in blood-sugar level, so eating well can help stave off hangovers. “Drinking on an empty stomach can be a recipe for disaster as it can lower your blood sugar,” says Lewin. “Don’t skimp on meals during the day if you’re planning on going out that evening. Have something in your stomach before you have your first drink, and I would recommend getting in some nonalcoholic fluids during the evening.”
Finish off the night with a he althy snack and some coconut water, which will provide you with fluid, carbs and a good source of potassium. Also, Lewin recommends alternating your drink (possibly clear alcohol) with a glass of club soda and lime.
If your first trip out of bed in the morning when you are feeling hungover leads you directly to the medicine cabinet for an aspirin, then keep reading. The kitchen may be a better destination.
Lewin already mentioned the importance of l-cysteine and glutathione in metabolizing alcohol, so here’s how to make sure your body has enough of these two substances to break down alcohol efficiently and, for your sake, quickly.
Good sources of l-cysteine are red peppers, garlic, onions, broccoli, brussels sprouts, oats, wheat germ, sprouted lentils, meat, eggs and dairy, notes Lewin. Also, sulfur is needed for production of glutathione. Sulfur-rich foods include garlic, onions, eggs and cruciferous vegetables. You can also add turmeric to boost glutathione levels.
“In addition, vitamins C and B1 (thiamine) have been found to help with the detoxification process,” she adds. Also be sure to get plenty of electrolytes such as potassium (bananas, potato, tomato) and magnesium (avocado, nuts, legumes, leafy greens).
Ultimately, as long as you keep your diet clean, your drinks clear, drink plenty of water and give your body time to recover, you won’t want to make the promise, “I’ll never drink again,” after every holiday party. Klaudia Balogh is a health and fitness writer for TOTI Media.