By Natalie Lamb
When it comes to alcohol, moderation appears to be key. Whilst some studies indicate that up to one drink a day may be associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease and cognitive decline, regularly drinking more is associated with numerous detrimental health effects.
Most people like to let their hair down every once in a while, so try these top tips for damage limitation, to help you avoid the hangover from hell:
1- EAT WELL BEFORE YOU HEAD OUT
If you’re going out and know you’ll be having a few drinks, it’s best to eat a nutritious meal, high in antioxidants in preparation. This will line your stomach and slow the absorption of alcohol into the bloodstream. Antioxidants (rich in colorful veg and fruit) help reduce cellular damage caused by alcohol, so try a smoothie with berries and spinach. However, even a kebab at 3 am would be a better option than not eating at all!
2- ZINC-RICH FOODS
The enzymes involved in the breakdown of alcohol by the body rely on zinc, and deficiency of this important mineral could potentially contribute to alcohol-induced liver injury. Good sources of zinc include organic/grass-fed meats and dairy products, fish and shellfish (especially oysters), nuts, seeds and eggs. Legumes such as lentils and chickpeas also contain zinc but in a less bioavailable form, which is often inhibited by their phytate content, so it is best to soak before eating to increase absorption.
3- BALANCE YOUR BLOOD SUGARS
Alcohol sends our blood sugar into a crazy roller coaster of peaks and troughs, which is why we tend to wake up so early after we’ve been drinking, as our blood sugar comes crashing down. Protein can help stabilize blood-sugars so make sure your evening meal contains a decent portion and try to have a protein rich snack (rather than just gorging on chips) before going to bed.
4- WATER, WATER, WATER
As we all well know, one of the main culprits of a hangover is dehydration. Alcohol is a diuretic, meaning our kidneys fail to reabsorb water into the body, causing us to run to the toilet more often than usual. An easy way to ensure some extra hydration during the evening is by using soda water and fresh lime as a mixer for spirits, turning wine into a spritzer or ask for a glass of water alongside your alcoholic drink. This will also reduce your sugar intake, helping to stabilize blood sugars. Drinking a pint of water just before going to bed will also hopefully save you from waking up in the morning with a mouth like the Sahara!
5- REMOVING THOSE TOXINS
Healthy digestive function and regular removal of waste products and toxins could help us feel lighter, more energized and look great in that partywear! Vegetable juicing, drinking hot water with lemon and adequate protein intake is believed necessary to support the liver’s natural detoxification process. Maintaining regular healthy bowel movements is essential to remove waste substances and toxins from the body. Consumption of high-fiber foods such as vegetables, salads and legumes, alongside adequate water and herbal tea intake helps stool to stay soft and easy to pass.
6- LOOK AFTER YOUR GUT BACTERIA
Alcohol can cause an imbalance of our delicate gut flora and damage to the gut lining1 where our beneficial bacteria lie. Research shows that drinking in excess causes our gut microbes to release toxins, inflammatory markers and increase the alcohol loving microbes, which in turn drive us to want to drink more. This increase in serum endotoxin levels needs to be broken down by the liver into less harmful substances ready for excretion. The speed at which this happens can vary per individual and is now believed to be affected by the mix of microbes in our gut. If the liver can’t keep up then hangover symptoms such as nausea, headaches and tiredness can occur. Restoring levels of the gut flora and its byproducts has been shown to stabilize the intestinal gut barrier and reduce alcohol-induced liver injury from gut-derived toxins and inflammation. Probiotics (live bacteria supplements) have been shown to prevent alcohol-induced changes to the gut microflora and harmful inflammation to the liver. So, taking a multi-strain probiotic such as Bio-Kult before you go out drinking could soon be the solution to help ease those hangover symptoms!
The gut-friendly craze for fermentation shows no sign of going bad. Boost your gut health naturally with these tasty recipes from HIGH MOOD FOOD.
- Bjarnason I, Peters TJ, Wise RJ. The leaky gut of alcoholism: possible route of entry for toxic compounds. Lancet 1984;1(8370):179-82.