Natural Hangover Prevention & Treatment

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With Opening Day at the Del Mar Racetrack this Wednesday, and Comic Con this weekend – this is one of the biggest party weeks of the year in San Diego.  So as you navigate the party circuit, here are some tips to help you plan ahead and avoid the ole’ dreaded hangover.

Let’s first understand how alcohol affects the body. Approximately 20% of alcohol is absorbed through the stomach and most of the remaining 80% is absorbed through the small intestine.  So making sure to eat something before your first cocktail is important. Then the liver goes to work – it sends out enzymes to break down and metabolize the alcohol. Generally, the liver can only process one ounce of alcohol (approx. one standard drink) on average in one hour. Consuming more than the liver can metabolize, causes alcohol to accumulate in the blood and body tissues.  Women shouldn’t try to keep up pace with their male counterparts – women tend to be affected by alcohol more than men for several reasons:

  • Women have less water in their bodies by volume, they will dilute alcohol less than men.
  • Women have less dehydrogenase, a liver enzyme that breaks down alcohol, so they will break it down slower.
  • Estrogen can also slow down the body’s ability to process alcohol.

Hangover Causes:

  • Consuming more alcohol than the liver can process, will cause the alcohol to accumulate in the blood and tissues. Ethanol is metabolized into acetaldehyde, which is a toxin.  Until it can be broken down into acetic acid, the body will be experiencing the negative effects of the acetaldehyde.
  • Ethanol increases urine production, and therefore dehydrates us.  Dehydration is one of the reasons we feel terrible the next morning after one too many drinks.  Severe dehydration can not only make you uncomfortable, but it can be life-threatening.  So preventing dehydration is one key to preventing a hangover and staying safe.  One way to prevent dehydration is to make sure to alternate water in between your alcoholic drinks, this will help you stay hydrated, and keep blood alcohol from rising too quickly.
  • Some of the preservatives, sulfites and chemicals in wine and alcoholic beverages can add to the burden on the liver and make you feel crummy the next day, so using more natural alternatives will help lighten the liver’s toxic load.
  • Alcohol can be really tough on our stomach lining, which can make us feel nauseated and sick.
  • Drinking alcohol can also affect our bloodsugar levels – one reason that we might not sleep as well after having a drink too many – our blood sugar can drop in the middle of the night, and wake us up.  Another reason is the glutamine rebound, read more about that here.

7 Natural Hangover Prevention Tips:

If you are heading to a party, a little planning today can go a long way to make tomorrow better…

  1. Chia seeds – soaks up about 10 times it’s weight in water, creating a gel – this gel slows the absorption of alcohol into blood stream, and helps to keep you hydrated. You never want to drink on an empty stomach!!  Add some chia seeds to a smoothie or grab a Mamma Chia drink or squeeze pack.  Always make sure to take chia seeds with plenty of fluids, it is best if you let them soak for a few minutes before ingesting them too.  Read Prehydrate with Chia to learn more.
  2. Coconut oil - multiple studies show that the medium chain fatty acids found in coconut oil protect the liver.  So if I am going to have a drink or two, I like to have a teaspoon of coconut oil first.  Add it to tea, a smoothie, or stir it into your Mamma Chia drink!
  3. Coconut water – called “Natures Gatorade,” coconut water provides the body with more potassium than a banana, a daily supply of vitamins C, and other important vitamins and minerals.  Coconut water provides electrolytes to help prevent dehydration.
  4. Beet juice – rich in a class of antioxidants called betalains, beets are well known for detoxifying the liver, also provide loads of energy (Olympic athletes use beet juice for training – and they say it is like legal blood doping!).  So instead of an energy drink before the party – take a shot of beet juice, it will give you energy and get your liver ready to do it’s work!!
  5. Vitamins B & C – alcohol depletes the body of vitamins and minerals – taking a multivitamin with B & C helps with alcohol metabolism & replenish the lost vitamins.
  6. Magnesium – alcohol consumption depletes magnesium, and low magnesium can bring on migraines among other symptoms (restless legs, eye twitches, muscle aches & pains).  Low magnesium levels even raise our risk of heart attack and stroke.  The majority of Americans are deficient in magnesium, so I recommend that most people take supplemental magnesium.  Magnesium is also responsible for over 300 biochemical reactions in the body.  Too much magnesium can lead to loose stools, so start with a low dose initially.
  7. Skip the “house margarita,” it probably is made with cheap tequila and a premade mix. A lot of premade mixers contain preservatives, artificial colors, HFCS, and other chemicals that will just add to the toxic load on your liver.  Fructose was shown in multiple studies to boost alcohol metabolism by as much as 80%, so using fresh fruit juice and/or organic agave nectar in place of processed mixers to sweeten your drinks is a better choice than a premade mix with chemicals and preservatives.

Moderation – perhaps the most important step in avoiding a hangover is to practice moderation – make sure you do not drink on an empty stomach, limit yourself to no more than what your liver can process (about 1 drink per hour), and make sure to alternate with fresh filtered water to stay hydrated.

3 Natural Hangover Treatments:

Already overdid it? The old adage “hair of the dog” is just going to delay the inevitable pain and discomfort so…instead, try some of these alternative remedies.

  1. Drink artichoke, turmeric*, ginger & lemon tea (“Ultimate Detox” recipe below) – this is the ultimate detox drink – I love to make this in the Summer and drink it on ice even if I did not drink at all the night before – it is yummy!
    Turmeric Roots

    Turmeric root

    • turmeric* will help to reduce the pain & inflammation (puffy eyes, anyone?) – it is kind of like nature’s Advil.
    • ginger helps with stomach upset (natural Pepto)
    • artichoke is detoxifying to the liver, also helpful in lowering cholesterol!
    • lemon will help to support the liver detox and balance out your pH.
    • salt helps to replenish lost sodium
    • Add in a touch of agave – because the fructose will help to metabolize any of the alcohol that is left.  
  2. Put an electrolyte & vitamin C pack into your water – don’t have any fresh ginger and turmeric root laying around? Then grab one of those electrolyte vitamin packs – and stir it into a tall glass of water – it will help to replace the lost electrolytes and vitamins and help you feel better.
  3. Have a banana or some coconut water – both are excellent sources of potassium – which alcohol depletes. Bananas also soothe the stomach – and alcohol can damage the stomach lining and make you feel nauseated.

If you do decide to take a pain reliever the next day – avoid acetaminophen – because it can harm the liver if there is still alcohol in the system.

Ultimate Detox Tea Recipe:

Ingredients:

  • organic artichoke (can’t find an organic artichoke?  Skip it then – artichokes can be high in pesticides and the last thing you need is pesticide tea. This is delicious with or without the artichoke!)
  • one 2 inch piece of ginger root, peeled
  • one 1 inch piece of turmeric* root, peeled
  • 3 organic lemons
  • 1/8 teaspoon pink Himalayan sea salt (or Celtic sea salt, or Real Salt)
  • agave and/or stevia to taste

Directions:  Thoroughly rinse the artichoke – making sure to get dirt out between leaves.  Cut it lengthwise twice, so it is in 4 pieces. Peel the turmeric and the ginger, cut into a few slices (use a spoon to peel, that is the best way!).  Put the artichoke, ginger and turmeric root into a large pot filled with filtered water (about 8-10 cups) over high heat – once it comes to a rolling boil, turn it down to a simmer uncovered for 20 minutes.  Take it off the heat and allow it to cool in the pot for about 20-30 mins.  When it is cooled, strain it and put it into a glass jar. Squeeze in the juice from 3 lemons, add in the salt, and approx. 2 teaspoons of agave and 10 drops of stevia liquid (or your choice of sweetener – add more or less as you like, to taste).  Serve over ice, or room temperature if you prefer (I like it iced).

NOTE: As with all herbs and supplements, please consult your doctor if you are on medication before taking this tea.  Herbs can very powerful and may interfere with and interact with medications! 

*Contraindications: Turmeric should not be used by people with gallstones or bile obstruction. Though turmeric is often used by pregnant women, it is important to consult with a doctor before doing so as turmeric can be a uterine stimulant.

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A Nutritionist and Kids Yoga teacher, Sara offers programs for individuals, families and groups to transform their health.  Sara also educates through her television segments, School assemblies, corporate nutrition programs, speaking engagements, and her writing.  Sara has appeared on eHow, and filmed a series of kids yoga classes for Gaiam TV.  Sara authored a free eBook called Cooking with Superfoods, and is currently looking to publish her Perfect Metabolism book.  Stay in touch with Sara Vance at ReBalance Life on Facebook.

©2013, all rights reserved. Sara Vance.

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*This article is for educational purposes only.  The content contained in this article is not to be construed as providing medical advice. All information provided is general and not specific to individuals. Persons with questions about the above content or how it relates to them, should contact their medical professional. Persons taking prescription medications or with an existing health condition should consult a doctor before taking the above foods, herbs, vitamins or supplements to be sure there are no interactions.