The truth about hangover cures
Nearly all of us suffer from overdoing it a little from time to time. But are the usual cures for hangovers valid, or just useless myths? Here’s what you really need to feel fresh as a daisy by mid-morning…
“Alcohol is a diuretic, meaning that once it’s in your blood your body needs to put its water supplies in your bloodstream to dilute it,” says Shona Wilkinson, head nutritionist at www.nutricentre.com. “This creates an increase in blood volume and pressure. To bring your blood pressure down, we then need to excrete the water down the toilet. The problem being, now our cells are lacking the water they need. Our brain is around 70 per cent water, and dehydration can lead to brain shrinkage, which is what causes the pain.”
Water seems like the obvious cure, however not all water is equal. “The control of hydration is at the hands of electrolytes, which are minerals found in water. For your best chance of beating that hangover, choose mineral-rich water or add in some extra electrolytes that are designed for athletes and sports people. The water will also help to flush out toxins, speeding up the detoxification process. Drink a large glass before going to bed and be sure to drink plenty in the morning. You can also try coconut water, which is naturally packed with electrolytes and minerals.
The water and mineral content of fruit will help to rehydrate you and put an end to your hangover headache. “There is an enzyme in pears that scientists are currently investigating for its ability to help us metabolise alcohol and prevent us from having a hangover. If you’re going to eat fruit, it makes sense to choose a pear!” advises Shona.
If you are not a big fan of pears, go for berries. “They are rich in antioxidants and offer protection from free radicals, which are considered another cause of hangovers,” adds Dr Marilyn Glenville, one of the UK’s leading nutritionists (www.marilynglenville.com).
You can also top up your antioxidant levels by taking the right supplement. “The blend of organic wholefoods in Nature’s Plus ageLOSS Women’s Multi (www.revital.co.uk, £28.45) will help to replenish the vitamin and mineral loss and counteract the free radicals your liver will release,” suggests Michela Vagnini, nutritionist at www.naturesplus.co.uk.
Your muscles are achy and – lets face it – it is very unlikely that you’ll go for a run or bike ride. How about yoga then? “The movement of yoga will help to increase blood flow to all parts of your body, but more importantly, your liver. The more blood that passes through, the quicker your liver can detoxify the alcohol. The sweating will help to eliminate the toxins through your skin but it can make the problem of dehydration worse, so ensure that you drink plenty of water at the same time!” explains yoga teacher Minta Allred.
Fizzy vitamin C
Many of us crave a cold, fizzy orange drink the morning after a big night. Why? It’s our body asking for vitamin C. “Vitamin C will help your body recover from the ingested toxins as its speeds up metabolism of alcohol by the liver. Even though drinking depletes vitamin C in body tissues, it can be easily replenished by having a fizzy vitamin C that will also quench our thirst. Try Effervescent Vitamin C by Quest Vitamins (www.revital.co.uk, £2.49)
Having a decent breakfast will help to replace some of the lost nutrients your body used to detoxify the alcohol. “Ideally choose eggs because they are rich in cysteine, which is needed to break down acetaldehyde. Try a healthy cooked breakfast of poached eggs, green leafy vegetables, grilled tomatoes and wholegrain bread. Keep your energy up by having plenty of slow-release carbohydrates from wholegrains and vegetables. Beans are a good source of fibre and folic acid, as well as protein to help with the body’s recovery. It is however better to avoid bacon and sausages. The nitrites in them will only add to the toxic burden on your body,” explains Wilkinson.
Hair of the dog
As tempting as a Bloody Mary sounds and looks, drinking alcohol won’t help your hangover. You might think it will take the edge of the pain, but it will only make it last longer! Drinking more alcohol will dehydrate you further and burden your liver with more toxins to get rid of. Not a good idea…
“Before, during and after drinking it’s best to avoid sugary foods and drinks, as alcohol consumption tends to play havoc with energy and blood sugar control. It’s better to focus on proteins and unrefined carbohydrates, which release glucose slowly. Say no to caffeine and spicy foods that can not only worsen the dehydration, but also irritate your stomach,” says Dr Glenville.