Hangover Tips After a Wild Night Out
Have too much to drink last night? We’ve all been there. While I recommend drinking in moderation, leading an healthy lifestyle doesn’t mean that you have to skimp on socializing and forego the nightlife altogether. And while I definitely do not aim to encourage an overzealous participation in nightlife until 6am every weekend, I know that we all stumble upon a wild night from time to time…and with a wild night often comes the dreaded hangover – the headaches, fatigue, nausea, poor sleep, disturbed digestion (1) and the total inability to be around other humans.
Unfortunately, the hangover is your body’s way of letting you know that you took it a bit too far last night and that it needs some recovery time. The positive sides of eating a well-balanced diet far outweigh the one negative, which is that you might end up feeling a bit more sensitive to alcohol’s effects than you did when you were loading up on mac & cheese, frozen pizza and cheeseburgers before you realized that the standard American diet was actually hindering your journey towards clear skin. Generally, the “cleaner” our bodies are, the more sensitive they can be to stimulation. But they are also much more capable of handling stress, fighting infection and keeping us well. So here are some tips for helping keep the hangover in check, and better yet, for preventing it in the first place.
HYDRATE We’ve all heard this one before: drink plenty of water before, during and after your big night out. Alcohol’s diuretic effects take an extraordinarily dehydrating toll on the body as we flush essential electrolytes out via our urine. Ever wake up with a splitting headache that makes you want to spend the day on the couch with the real housewives of New Jersey? Or do you wake up completely lacking the energy to even move from the bed to the couch? Or are you afraid to leave the toilet’s side because of that gnarly nausea? These are signs that your electrolytes have left the building, so boosting and replenishing their stores throughout the night and the next morning are huge steps in the fight against the hangover. Not only should you drink AT LEAST one (large) glass of water for every 1oz of alcohol (liquor), we also recommend sipping on beverages with naturally-occurring electrolytes like coconut water (no added sugar) and mineral water (with magnesium, potassium, sodium, etc). Drink these luscious libations all throughout the night between your cocktails – you won’t even remember that they’re alcohol-free and you’ll be doing your head a favor.
BE BEVERAGE-SMART What about alcohol? What should you drink to avoid a debilitating hangover the next day? I am a huge advocate of any low-sugar clear liquor and recommend avoiding anything with added sweeteners, colors or strange chemicals. Wine and cider are okay, but they are full of natural (and sometimes added) sugars, so be careful about ingesting too many of these. If you really gotta have your apples, there are more and more low and sugar-free ciders on the market these days, like the probiotic ciders by 101 Cider House.
If you find yourself at a swank cocktail bar, you might be lured in by their infused simple syrups, but if you have the option, try to go for natural fruit sweeteners instead. Tequila packs a natural sweetness so it can be enjoyed with a simple combination of tonic water and lime. Add citrus, add bitters (and ease your digestion in the process), and get creative! Order a gin and tonic and add a splash of coconut water or an herbal elixir of elderberry that you had the foresight to stash in your bag before leaving the house. The bottom line: keep it simple!
SLOW DOWN No need to pound 5 drinks over the course of one happy hour. Pace yourself and take a break between drinks by going for a walk around the block, walking to grab a bite or a coconut water, or just by getting outside for a breath of fresh air. Plus, the more slowly you drink, the less money you will spend and the better you will feel in the morning, both physically and financially.
EAT FOOD! Because we absorb alcohol through our stomachs, and because alcohol can upset both the stomach lining and gut microbiome, eating a substantial dinner before running out to the bar is essential. Get your vitamin B6 from a dinner featuring poultry or beef and stock up on vitamin C in the form of bell peppers, citrus, dark green vegetables, and tomatoes. These vitamins can help detox the alcohol from your body, so try to plan your meals throughout the night and the next day around these star nutrients. If you really don’t have time to eat a full meal, pack some snacks, preferably ones with tons of fat and/or protein to balance out your blood sugar and to prevent your insulin from running haywire – things like jerky bars, packets of nut butter, an avocado, or even a handful of trail mix. Drinking caffeine the next morning can also help to reduce the size of those pumping blood vessels in your brain and can bring your headache down. The bottom line: don’t skip meals when you know you will be drinking. Eating well-balanced meals for dinner and breakfast the next day will help prevent and ease any signs of a hangover.
ADDRESS YOUR INFLAMMATION At some point during the night, take a Zyflammend to keep your inflammation in check. Alcohol has an acidifying effect on the body as it zaps hydration from our cells, causes our hormones to fluctuate and generally stresses the body out. If you’ve ever woken up from a night of drinking with no appetite or with an inability to recall your conversation with that fly bartender, your inflammatory response was most likely on red alert. Do what you can to mitigate these inflammatory effects by eating alkalizing foods like green vegetables and avocado, and by calming your body’s stress response with some soothing herbal tea before bed (if you remember, that is). The bottom line: alcohol is highly inflammatory – take this into consideration if you deal with systemic inflammation and either avoid alcohol for a while or cut back.
NEVER LEAVE THE HOUSE WITHOUT ACTIVATED CHARCOAL While drinking alcohol, pop 1-2 activated charcoal pills. Charcoal is a powerful tool for detoxing the body and can be a great sidekick to the liver, which already has to work double time in the presence of alcohol. Charcoal binds to toxins in the stomach and helps remove them from the body before we have a chance to absorb them through our blood streams (2). Detoxing excess hormones, like estrogen, from the body is vastly important, but this task becomes herculean when alcohol is involved. Just one drink of alcohol can elevate estrogen levels in women by 10-15%, which puts an extra strain on the liver as it frantically attempts to process and detox the extra hormones (3). So give your liver a break by drinking slowly over the course of the night and by consuming some charcoal alongside your alcohol. It will bind to both the alcohol and to any other nasty ingredients that may have crept into your cocktail, and it will help flush them out of your system. Bonus: charcoal is great at expelling gas and decreasing the bloating that can often accompany a night of drinking. Just don’t consume charcoal within an hour of any other supplements or nutritious foods.
TAKE MAGNESIUM I love this potent miracle mineral! Magnesium is an essential electrolyte that is involved in over 300 bodily processes, so it’s extra important to stock up when you’ve had a night of raging at the bar. You can either take it before bed in supplement-form to help you get to sleep (it’s also a muscle-relaxant), or you can eat tons of magnesium-rich foods throughout the night and for breakfast the next day. If you didn’t already run to the store and buy a grip of coconut water after tip #1, do it now! and then make a breakfast with a huge bunch of leafy greens, a handful of almonds and pumpkin seeds, a banana, some avocado and…dark chocolate (4).
Magnesium is also important to take after a night of drinking because it helps synthesize tryptophan into serotonin, which is a neurotransmitter that elevates our moods and staves off depression. Alcohol can cause temporary boosts in serotonin but ultimately has a dampening effect on the neurotransmitter, causing it to drop to a level lower than before drinking (5). So taking magnesium at the end of a party night can help protect against those hangover blues. Bonus: magnesium aids in digestion by activating the enzymes that help break down food and it sends you into a deep, tranquil sleep (6).
SLEEP Ever wonder why you wake up so painfully early after a night of drinking, when you need the extra sleep the most? Alcohol can be extremely disruptive of sleep, especially REM, which is the deep, dreamy restorative sleep cycle, as well as, the later stages of sleep (7). This is known as the rebound effect and it occurs because the sedative qualities of alcohol wear off as the alcohol becomes metabolized by the liver (8). Because of this, for every drink you consume, you should wait that number of hours before trying to fall asleep. So if you have three drinks by 8pm, you would (in a perfect world) wait until 11pm to get to bed in order to give your body a chance to adjust and re-balance itself (9).
MOVE YOUR BODY If a wild night of drinking left you feeling out of sorts, lethargic and totally bummed out, get up and move your body. I know it’s so tempting to lie around in bed all day, nursing your hangover with self-pity and Pedialyte, but your endorphins are begging to be activated after being depressed by hours of alcohol consumption. Endorphins, like serotonin, help us feel good. They are released after physical activity – but don’t take it too far. A simple 20-minute yoga session or a brisk walk around the neighborhood can do the trick. Just remember to hydrate!
What about going out if you don’t drink alcohol? You can still party with the best of us! Just reach for a sparkling water or kombucha, or better yet, find a bar in your area that serves kombucha on tap. Sip on some tonic water with lime and bitters or bring your own herbal syrup to make a luxurious alcohol-free cocktail that will tempt even the most hardline mixologists. I love bringing our local bay area syrups by Taproot to the bar and pouring a couple spoonfuls into a glass of seltzer. So refreshing and healing!
If you do have a wild night out, have fun and don’t stress. Worrying about how much you are drinking while you are drinking will only increase your cortisol and lead to elevated systemic inflammation. So have a good time, drink wisely and in moderation, and take care of yourself the next day.
1. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. Diseases and Conditions: Hangovers. Accessed August 2017. 2. Hultén, B. A., et al. (1986) Does Alcohol Absorb to Activated Charcoal? Human Toxicology. 1986 May; 5(3):211-2. 3. Balanced Bites Podcast (2017) Self-love & Adrenals, Stress & Alcohol, Hormones & Birth Control with Dr. Jolene Brighten. Episode #302; June 29, 2017. 4. Dr. Axe. (2017) Top 10 Magnesium-rich Foods Plus Proven Benefits. Accessed August 2017. 5. Pietraszek, M.H., et al. (1991) Alcohol-induced Depression: Involvement of Serotonin. Alcohol and Alcoholism. 1991; 26(2):155-9. 6. Abassi, B., et al. (2012) The Effect of Magnesium Supplementation on Primary Insomnia in Elderly: a Double-blind Placebo-Controlled Clinical Trial. Journal of Research in Medical Sciences. 2012 Cec; 17(12):1161-9. 7. Roehrs, T. and Roth, T. Sleep, Sleepiness and Alcohol Use. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Accessed August 2017. 8. Mann, J. (2017) 8 Ways That Booze Messes With Your Sleep. Sleep Junkies. Accessed August 2017. 9. Wolf, R (2017) Wired to Eat: Turn off Cravings, Rewire Your Appetite for Weight Loss, and Determine the Foods That Work for You. Harmony: New York.