While I'm not advocating for drinking too much alcohol, the reality is that people drink—and they often drink too much or at least more than the body can handle without symptoms the next day. You may, for example, notice that you get headaches and brain fog the day after drinking one or two alcoholic beverages and can't figure out why. What you may not have realized is that the combination of alcohol (usually some sort of grain) and the sugar that is in most mixed drinks is a double whammy and can knock out your energy and brain.
And then you have your holiday parties, weddings, bar or bat mitzvahs, family events…you get the drift. You go to parties that involve a lot of celebrating and boozing and you find yourself worse for wear the next day. And of course, you swear you'll never drink again while suffering through the hangover. As a physician, my recommendation to you is to avoid drinking too much at one time. But knowing that you likely will at some point, there are some hangover healthy tips you may greatly benefit from.
This is your body on alcohol.
It's important to know that the science is not definitive on why we get hangovers. It's likely a result of a combination of factors. First, you're suffering from dehydration (caused by the diuretic effect of alcohol) that ultimately leads to rebound fluid retention as the body holds onto sodium while losing potassium. Alcohol also releases toxic by-products like acetaldehyde, congeners—which are found in the dark alcohol drinks—essentially act like free radicals in the body, a poor night's sleep disrupts the body's natural rhythm, and a lot of subsequent inflammation can give you those flu-like achy symptoms. Essentially, there's a perfect storm of factors making you feel less-than-ideal.
So if you want to enjoy your party and also the following day, you may want to think about staying better hydrated, keeping inflammation at bay, and living as cleanly as you can:
1. Hydrate with water, lemon, and coconut water.
On a daily basis, you want to make sure you drink at least half your body weight in ounces of water—and often more when you exercise. But like exercise, where you lose electrolytes like potassium, you also need to replenish electrolytes when you drink. Though you may forget to drink your water sometimes, don't forget on the day you plan on drinking alcohol. Add in coconut water (one of the best sources of potassium) and throw in a bit of lemon (for detoxification) and you'll be supporting your body's recovery.
2. Eat meals high in antioxidants.
Eat healthy and often during the day and when you drink; if your gut is busy digesting, it will also slow down the rate at which you absorb alcohol. There's also no point in provoking your immune system more than you have to. Eating regular meals throughout the day and during your evening will ensure that you're fueling your brain. It will also make sure you're providing your body with antioxidants—that will help prevent inflammation and oxidative stress—as well as healthy fats and protein.
3. Replenish your body with key nutrients.
Consume a lot of dark leafy greens, which contain necessary vitamins that you can lose with alcohol consumption. Add turmeric to your meals or drinks as it's a wonderful antioxidant, liver detoxifier, and nausea preventer. I would also recommend taking a B-vitamin complex the day of and the day after, as these vitamins are usually depleted with alcohol intake.
4. Turn your day into a detox.
As I mentioned, throwing a lemon into your water makes for a good detox drink as it helps clean out the liver. You can also add in a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar and several drops of dandelion root tincture, both excellent sources for detoxifying the liver. The greener you eat the day after indulging, the better. Dark leafy greens, broccoli, and kelp aid the liver in its work and also provide antioxidant coverage.
5. Don't skip your workout.
One of the best ways to sweat out toxins, reduce inflammation, and release endorphins is through exercise. Exercising earlier in the day—not right before you imbibe—is best, as you take the risk of being more dehydrated and hungry, and therefore more susceptible to the effects of alcohol. Moving your body and sweating the day after is also a great way to avoid the continued effects of too much alcohol by getting it out of your system. You may opt out of activities that are less rigorous but still make you sweat, like yoga, swimming, or walking outdoors.
6. Naptime is your friend.
As alcohol can disrupt your sleep cycle, you may find yourself needing to take a nap, which will do your body a lot of good. Before bed, you may benefit from drinking chamomile tea. You can add in turmeric and milk thistle as well.
One last piece of advice: Lighter alcohol is less likely to contain congeners, which can contribute to hangovers. These may include vodka, light tequila, gin, light beers, and wine, versus brandy, dark beers, and whiskey. If you are grain-sensitive, you may find you feel better when drinking alcohol made from agave (tequila) or potato (vodka).