Overindulgence, by definition, is when we are enjoying something a little too much – usually in the form of food or alcohol.
A big night on the town generally won’t cause major health issues, but it can leave you feeling bloated, sluggish, headachy, sleep deprived or just plain old cranky – not the best place to be when you’re on holiday, or have lots on the go.
While I don’t endorse binge drinking, sometimes even the healthiest of us get to have a bit of a party. Here are a few steps you can take to try and avoid any unwanted side effects which can destroy your productivity and mood for the days after. However, these tips aren’t meant for those who are struggling with alcohol or want to stop drinking.
What causes a hangover?
Physiologically too much alcohol is quite simply something your body cannot handle which is why you may feel the symptoms of overindulgence or a hangover.
The cause of the hangover in general terms is a combined result of dehydration, the effects of acetaldehyde (the toxic byproduct of alcohol metabolism) and an increase in inflammation.
Your digestive system, liver, kidneys and pituitary gland all have to work harder than usual to process the alcohol in your system. While it’s doing that, it can cause bloating, indigestion or heartburn, abdominal pain, constipation, vomiting and diarrhoea. All the elements that make a nasty hangover.
How to prevent a hangover – before, during and after
- Sleep: One to three days before the event, get some extra sleep as it is shown to help the effects of sleep loss further down the line.
- Saturated fats: You should drink a spoonful of avocado and olive oil, 1 – 3 hours beforehand, according to biohacking guru Ben Greenfield. It protects the liver against alcohol-induced oxidative stress.
- Light meal: If you think you are going to get hungry, eat a light meal along with the fats above. Some food in your stomach can slow the absorption of the alcohol. Even a good cup of organic bone broth will do.
- Supplement cocktail, boost with your daily dose:
- Milk thistle – Incredible for liver support.
- Vitamin C – Powerful antioxidant.
- Glutathione – Powerful antioxidant. Alcohol depletes glutathione levels.
- Berberine – Ideal for sugary overindulgences as it stops your blood sugar from spiking. Take 30 min before a meal or alcohol.
- Choose clean drinks: Drink only the highest-quality alcohol available that’s free of sugar, fructose or synthetic chemicals. If you are drinking wine, drink organic or biodynamic wine and ideally add soda or sparkling water to provide hydration. Here’s a guide to the ‘healthiest’ alcohols, according to Bulletproof:
- Best choice: Vodka
- Other unsweetened spirits
- Dry cider
- Dry champagne
- Dry white wine
- Colored, sweetened spirits
- Red wine
- Most damaging: Beer and lager
- Hydrate: With filtered water whilst drinking, pretty much one glass of water with every glass of alcohol. Add a squeeze of lemon to your water for insulin resetting.
- Salt: Add a pinch of salt to each glass of water for valuable electrolytes.
- Move: If it’s a dance event, dance! It will help you metabolise the alcohol better. Ben Greenfield even does squats every time he goes to the bathroom.
- Vitamin Bs – Your body uses vitamin B to process alcohol. Take a vitamin B supplement during the party.
- Concoction: Ben Greenfield recommends this clever concoction before bed:
- Mix ½ teaspoon of sea salt, the juice from 1 lime or lemon, 1 tablespoon of blackstrap molasses, and 1½ cups of water (preferably mineral water or, despite the extra sugar content, coconut water, as long as you have been careful not to have too much sugar at the party). Ideally, drink this thirty to forty-five minutes before bed to give yourself enough time to pee before you fall asleep.
- Curcumin – A potent anti-inflammatory that can help decrease inflammation and improve liver detoxification. There is no limit – it’s a great daily supplement.
- Activated charcoal – Take after drinking or before going to sleep. Charcoal absorbs some of the toxins in the stomach. Recommended dosage is 4 capsules.
- Magnesium: Is depleted with alcohol primarily because of dehydration. Magnesium is involved in a myriad of functions in the body, including blood sugar, inflammation and insulin resistance.
- Melatonin: Alcohol reduces melatonin secretion, which can affect sleep.
- Concoction: Drink the same pre-bed drink as above..
- Breakfast: Rather than starting the day with a fatty breakfast which will over burden your liver, making you feel worse, start the day with hot water and lemon, a fresh green juice or fresh fruit for hydration like papaya. Fresh herb teas and a bone broth are also good. even some coconut water. Coconut water has a high number of electrolytes which can help with rehydration.
- Move: Any exercise, even walking, will speed up your metabolism and raise your hangover mood. Perhaps do this before your first meal.
- Cold shower: A great way to increase circulation and eliminate toxins from your system.
- Gut love: To balance your gut bacteria again, add probiotic foods and soluble fibre to your meals over the next couple of days. Foods such kefir, sauerkraut, tempeh and kimchi: sweet potatoes, avocados, and brussel sprouts.
- Milk Thistle – To support your liver, take in the morning on an empty stomach.
- Vitamin B – Depleted with alcohol. Take a vitamin B supplement the morning after. If you really overdo the alcohol, a vitamin B IV treatment is a quick and effective method to combat hangover symptoms within 30-60 minutes. An IV drip bypasses the digestive system and goes directly into the bloodstream for a speedy recovery.
This may seem all overwhelming and a bit too much prep and planning, but you (and your liver) may well be grateful the next day!