The internet loves to tell us what we should do when we’re curled up in a ball on the sofa, making noises like a dying animal and racked with regret at how much booze we guzzled at that party the night before.
‘How do I cure my hangover?’ we type desperately into Google, squinting at the screen because our heads can’t handle the glare, but the answers rarely seem to help. In short, that’s because much of the advice out there is bullshit.
To help us separate the wheat from the chaff, lifestyle consultant and registered nutritionist Yvonne Wake gave us her top tips on how to survive the after-effects of too many tequilas:
So what exactly is a hangover?
When you drink alcohol, it breaks down in the liver to a toxic compound called acetaldehyde that makes you feel bad. But also, one of the biggest problems with alcohol is that it depletes you of energy and nutrients, making you lethargic, sleepy, droopy and severely dehydrated. So in essence, we need to replenish those lost nutrients and the lost liquid to rehydrate.
Do I really need a big meal before going out?
The best way to avoid a hangover is to eat before you drink, and prepare your liver for the onslaught, but sometimes it’s not possible to know if you are going to have a heavy drinking night or not. People out on the razz are rarely prepared! Drink water throughout the evening so that you can remain hydrated.
I forgot the water…
Drink plenty of water now to rehydrate yourself. Try to avoid sugary drinks as this can affect your blood sugar levels in the wrong way. There are sachets of electrolytes that can be bought over the counter to rebalance the system and replace important nutrients like potassium and magnesium, as well as calcium and the B vitamins. These are generally good and not bad for your health. They do help.
Is hair of the dog worth a try?
No matter what anyone says, this is not the answer. This is an old-fashioned notion that makes people laugh, but you don’t want to put more alcohol into your body the morning after. It’s an old wives tale!
Limit caffeine as this will only aggravate the hydration levels – one cup is fine, but don’t just sit there drinking a pot of coffee – that’s for films only!
Can I have some chocolate?
Sugar cravings will set in of course, but resist that as once again this will only unbalance the blood sugar levels in the body. Instead, try to eat fresh fruit, or make a nice healthy smoothie using yoghurt and fruit, especially banana. Green vegetables like kale will increase bile flow through the liver to remove toxins effectively. Cucumber is also useful to add as it is watery and will help hydrate the body.
Should I eat anything else?
Try to avoid the old fashioned greasy fry-up people swear by. Fatty foods take a long time to digest and can make your already sensitive stomach even more sensitive and encourage heartburn. By far the best idea is to eat a full healthy breakfast containing all the nutrients to replace those your body loses as it works hard to process the alcohol. Think poached or scrambled eggs, grilled tomatoes, grilled mushrooms, wholemeal toast and a glass of freshly made juice. Or even just eggs on toast, as this is a good source of amino acids and the cysteine therein helps to break down acetaldehyde in the liver.
Can I take painkillers?
Even if you can’t face food, try to eat something that will ‘line the stomach’. It’s not a good idea to take aspirin or this type of medication as it will upset the stomach even more.
Can you sum this all up for me?
There are lots of concoctions out there that are ‘sold’ to us as the perfect hangover cure, but in reality hydration is what is needed, so drinking water is key. Eating healthy food is key also, and getting sleep is as important as this helps the body to regain its energy levels. There is no magic bullet for this and, as I always tell my students, there really is nothing better than not going over the limit to the point that you are so drunk you don’t know your own name! Drink in moderation.
Yvonne Wake (BSc MSc RPHNutr) is a wellbeing and lifestyle consultant and life coach, a university lecturer and a registered public health nutritionist. Her website is here.
Originally published 31 March 2017