The Christmas gatherings, lunches and parties are in full flow! And what better time to talk about alcohol 🙂
Several factors are in play when you over-drink, especially if you’re over-drinking as a rule – with one factor, “dehydration,” sounding like a walk in the park compared to the rest:
Acetaldehyde accumulation (chemical poisoning), metabolic acidosis (inflammed stomach), alteration in glucose metabolism (blood sugar crash), increase in cardiac output (that heart attack feeling), inflammation of the immune system (feeling like you’re coming down with something, possibly a slow death), vasodilation (mega throbbing headaches), sleep deprivation (wide awake at 2am realizing death may be coming faster than you initially thought), and, finally, and quite majorly, malnutriton.
If you don’t normally over-drink, you can discount malnutrition, but basically the rest are happening, even if you only have ‘one drink too many’.
Here’s a Fact Sheet to help get you through the next few weeks so you can start the new year with a healthier spring to your step – and with a good chance of seeing in the year after.
- Alcohol dehydrates. The ethanol in that drink you’re holding increases urine production so you will not just be needing the loo far more, but you will also be getting very thirsty (hence you will then drink more alcohol). Dehydration not only causes thirst, but it will give you that awful headache, a dry mouth and make you feel lightheaded or even dizzy.
Top Tip: have a glass of water next to your wine or spirit glass, and alternate. One sip alcohol, next sip water. That way your glass of alcohol will last longer, and you’ll be hydrating your body with water. And did you know that fizzy drinks speed up the alcohol absorption into your system – you get drunk faster, with an additional whammy that you’r drinking a bucket-load of extra calories in those sweet carbonated drinks
- Alcohol irritates your stomach lining – in fact it inflames the lining of your gut. Not good if you have a sensitive tummy at the best of times. Alcohol will increase stomach acid and delay stomach emptying, both of which can lead to nausea, vomiting and pain.
Top Tip: never drink on an empty stomach. Eat! Preferably eat dinner, but if that’s not possible, eat some soup before you go out, or some of the healthier snack options on offer. Nuts would be good…avocado or humus dips….something that will give your stomach lining a buffer before alcohol lands (and if only pizza and chips are on offer, eat those – just don’t go without food). You could have a thick winter soup in your fridge – something with lots of alcohol-absorbing starch, like parnsip or sweet potato – and have a cuppa-soup before you head out.
- And because alcohol irritates the gut lining, you are likely to wake up feeling nauseous or downright sick. Hair of the dog does NOT work. It will overload your system, esp your liver, plus it’s just a delay tactic – eventually you’ll have to face the music coz there’s just so much hair of the dog a person can take.
Top Tip for the morning after: keep it simple. A fry-up is not the healthy option, but certainly eating foods like scrambled egg or your usual oat breakfast or a bubble and squeak creation from left-over veg will work. Nothing fancy because your stomach may heave (and fried food for many may qualify as ‘fancy’).
- Alcohol will have depleted you of those invaluable water-soluble vitamins, including the wondrous B complex vitamins which are so important for nervous system support a.o.
Top Tip: When you are hungover you will need all the nervous system support you can get, Keep a good multi, or a B complex, in your stockpile and give your body a dose for a few days after you’ve indulged – take with meals, or you may feel worse.
- The ethanol in alcohol is metabolized into acetaldehyde which is far more toxic than alcohol itself. If you’ve drunk excessive amounts of alcohol it’s going to take time to break down that acetaldehyde toxin into acetic acid – during which you’ll experience all the symptoms of acetaldehyde exposure, aka chemical poisoning (look it up – not nice).
Top Tip: drink in moderation. No way around it.
- Alcohol can cause a blood sugar drop, and if it falls too low you might feel weak, shaky, irritable… and downright exhausted. Some people may experience seizures!
Top Tip: make sure you’ve eaten something beforehand – that cuppa-soup? Don’t arrive at the party and remember you forgot to eat breakfast and lunch that day. Blood sugar needs to be balanced otherwise it can play havoc with your health long term. Don’t skip meals…and healthy snacks are fine for a lot of people (no matter what your mother told you about eating inbetween meals…a few nuts and some apple may save you from one heck of a hangover too).
- Alcohol makes you sleepy…but not for long. You will either wake up at 3am feeling terrible but unable to go back to sleep. Or you will have poor quality sleep and wake up feeling tired and washed out in the morning.
Top Tip: what can I say? Moderation…..
- Alcohol will cause blood vessels to expand – which leads a.o. to headaches.
Top Tip: rather than taking a paracetemol, drink water (not just a sip) before you crash into bed after your debauched drinking. When you wake at 2am it’ll be too late
- If you have to choose between the greater and lesser evils, research shows that dark liquors such as rum or brandy, contain higher amounts of congeners (which are impurities produced during fermentation and which contribute to hangovers).
Top Tip: so, logically, clear liquors like vodka and gin will have less congeners (and also less calories), but research states they should be drunk neat (or with some ice) not with sweet juices – and, most importantly, sipped, not slung back in a gulp.
- Moderation is the bottom-line. Enjoy the occasion but drink consciously so you not only relish the taste, but you also have a vague idea of how much you’re drinking. Have some plain water in between drinks, and why not have a quick bite to eat before you head off. These simple steps will make all the difference to how you feel the morning after – your body and head will love you for it.
I’ll be posting more healthy Christmas tips next week!