It’s that time of year when festivities abound, and this may include drinking alcohol in its various forms to excess. Even moderate drinkers might have a tendency to overdo it this time of the year.
Those who drink only on the holidays may have forgotten their limits or perhaps pass out before reaching them. Non-drinkers for religious or health reasons are in the safest spot here and won’t be victims of the toxic effects on the body of too much alcohol.
Though alcohol is a revered drink in nearly all cultures, it is actually a metabolic toxin, affecting the body in powerful ways. It affects the gut, nervous system, liver, muscles, heart, sex organs and nearly every other body part, especially when taken in excess. The hangover is the penalty paid for those who drink faster than the body can metabolize it, roughly one drink per hour.
There are ways to prevent this problem, of course. The first is obvious, just pay close attention to your intake and avoid overdoing it.
Drink a glass of water after every alcoholic beverage as this offsets the dehydrating effects of alcohol. Alternating alcoholic drinks with nonalcoholic ones is useful.
Making sure you have food in your stomach also helps, particularly if the food is fatty or greasy as this slows gastric emptying. Watch that cholesterol though.
If none of this works and you wake up with a throbbing headache, sick stomach, a dry tongue tasting like it just licked the bottom of the kitty litter box, a bad attitude an so on, a number of remedies for the hangover can be found from across the world.
The Brits favor a breakfast heavy on bacon for one too many at the pub. The old “hair of the dog” cure, which involves drinking more alcohol, is common, though it may make symptoms and dehydration worse or cause further risk of dependence.
The Bloody Mary is a perennial favorite, though the Virgin Mary is better for you. In Poland, some sauerkraut or sour pickles are the preferred remedy. The Japanese like the salty Umeboshi plum for relief.
Germans will gnaw on a pickled herring wrapped in cucumber with onions and a beer. Mexicans feast on menudo or “vuelva a la vida,” or return to life, which is tomato juice with cocktail sauce and pico de gallo.
Russians love to go to the sauna, though this can also cause worse dehydration. They also self-flagellate with birch branches to drive out the vodka demons. Peruvians favor “leche de tigre” or tiger’s milk made from the leftover marinade and scraps from a well-made ceviche.
Pickled sheep’s eyeballs in tomato juice will help you clear your head, and likely your stomach in Mongolia. The whiskey-loving Scots have created “The Highland Fling” composed of buttermilk, corn flour, salt and pepper.
Less exotic cures include analgesics like acetaminophen (Tylenol) can also be helpful, though doses more than 4 grams in a day can worsen liver damage. Ibuprofen (Advil) or naproxen (Alleve) also can be helpful but likewise can aggravate stomach, liver or kidney damage caused by drinking. Buffered aspirin or Alka Seltzer might be safer and more helpful.
Drinking lots of water after overindulging is essential to recovery. Waking up with a raging thirst is a cue that your body needs fluids. Orange juice, other fruit juices or sports drinks can help replace low sugar and potassium levels and fluids lost from overindulging.
Other practical treatments include Tums, Maalox, Zantac, Pepcid and other fast-acting antacids to take the ache and nausea out of the gut.
Ginger as tea, pill or candied form also can be helpful for stomach issues. Turmeric can ease headaches associated with hangovers. Mints such as peppermint and spearmint as teas also can ease stomach symptoms.
Milk thistle is a botanical proven to reduce the negative influence of alcohol on the liver. B vitamins are depleted with chronic use of alcohol, which can lead to neurological problems.
Take a high potency B complex after drinking. Bananas soothe the stomach and help replace potassium and magnesium lost after alcohol intake.
Sleep is maybe the nicest way to cure yourself as the body has an amazing way of healing itself. It also prevents you from sharing your misery and grouchiness with those around you.
Some gentle exercise can be useful in getting all your systems back into function. A swim, run, yoga, tai chi or a brisk walk are all good.
Remember that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. So if you choose to drink, do so sensibly, responsibly and with mindfulness about its effects on your health. Appoint a designated driver or get a cab or limo if you are out and impaired.
The art of drinking, like the art of eating, is a part of the art of living.