Dr Sally Norton talks you through the steps you can take to help avoid a hangover this New Year.
It’s the time of year to eat, drink and be merry – but we all know that going too overboard isn’t good for us. In particular, knocking back too much alcohol doesn’t just take its toll on our health – it can lead to the dreaded hangover too.
Experience tells us that our hangovers seem to get worse as we get older – so for no other reason many of us try not to drink to excess simply to avoid them. However, New Year’s Eve can be the one time in the year when we seem to forget just how horrible they can be!
At VavistaLife we are concerned by the increase in liver disease that is happening (even in ‘social’ drinkers) as a result of alcohol. What’s more, for those of us watching our weight, an evening of drinking can be just as bad for our waistlines as munching our way through a box of doughnuts! That’s why we advise sticking to the recommended limit of around a couple of units of alcohol a day – or less. That said, if you’re set on knocking back a few drinks this New Year’s Eve there are a few things you can try to prevent the hangover from hell.
The accepted wisdom is that we should line our stomachs before a night on the booze, but is that based in truth? Actually, yes. A good meal, particularly one high in fats will slow down our stomach emptying and the absorption of alcohol. If we feel full, we may also be less tempted to over-do the drink.
…Water, that is! Alcohol dehydrates you, so the more booze you drink, the more dehydrated you’ll be. When you wake up feeling groggy, and with a pounding head, that’s dehydration. How can you combat this? Make sure you are well hydrated before you even start your night out. Then try matching each glass of wine with a glass of water. Or drink spirits with lots of mixers to dilute drinks. That way you’ll not only stop yourself from drinking quite as much alcohol, but you’ll feel better the next day too!
In a study from the University of Manchester, researchers found that those drinking alcoholic drinks mixed with carbonated mixers actually absorbed the alcohol faster than when they were mixed with still drinks. Which means that those fizzy mixers could be helping your body to get drunk quicker! Not good news for that prospective hangover. So try switching to still mixers like cordial or juices (though be wary of the high sugar levels in most fruit juices). Or if you do have something fizzy, try to alternate each alcoholic drink with something non-alcoholic.
As well as avoiding bubbles, you are best to keep to clear or pale drinks. The darker your poison the more likely it is to have impurities – which can make that headache worse the next day. It also pays to invest in more expensive booze if you want a hangover-free day. The more expensive your alcohol, the greater the chance of it being free of impurities. What’s more, if you are paying through the nose for your drinks, you are likely to drink fewer of them! So go for quality, not quantity.
Make the most of a night out with friends and enjoy their company to the full. The more you chat, dance or do anything other than drink, the less of a hangover you will have come New Year’s Day.
But, what about the morning after the night before? If, despite the tips above, you are still feeling rough, read on…
Avoid hair of the dog
The idea of ‘hair of the dog’ always bewildered me a little. Your body is suffering from the effects of alcohol so why give it more? While there is some evidence to suggest this could help in the short term, long-term you are only delaying the inevitable – or possibly even just making yourself feel worse!
Over the counter pain-killers will help the headache. Choose paracetamol over other common pain-killers including aspirin which can irritate the already fragile stomach lining. Just keep to the recommended dose as excessive paracetamol can actually damage the liver.
The wonders of fresh air
We all know that feeling of not wanting to leave the sofa after a big night out. But staying huddled up in your PJs indoors can leave you feeling worse in the long run. Instead, get yourself up and out of the house, even just for a quick walk. If you really cannot bear the thought of leaving the house, then open some windows and let that fresh air in.
A good meal can work wonders the day after a heavy night of drinking. Just be careful what you eat, as certain foods could end up making you feel worse. Bananas and kiwis are good sources of potassium – a mineral you lose when drinking because of the diuretic effects of alcohol. A good base of protein, such as eggs on toast could also help to stabilise your stomach and give you a much-needed energy boost.
Unfortunately however, while implementing some or all of these could help you to feel better, there is no guaranteed ‘hangover cure’ – if there was, the shops would sell out pretty swiftly! The quickest way to avoid that dreaded hangover is simply to avoid drinking too much – your head will thank you for it the next day, and your body will thank you for it in the long run too.
Either way – alcohol, or no alcohol – have a great New Year’s Eve, from me and the whole VavistaLife team.