Hangover 101- Getting through the festive season.

Spoiler Alert: I am about to describe what alcohol does to your body, so if you would rather stay blissfully unaware, tune out.

Before I begin, I have to say that I am no stranger to alcohol and think it is there to be enjoyed. It's more that people need to adjust their intake according to the health and wellness goals. So now we have that out of the way, let's look a bit closer into alcohol and its affect on our body.

 I'm embarrassed to say I have 1 and a half glasses of champagne and get a great big dirty hangover (I drink about once every 2 months or so). So first piece of advice is, make sure the hangover is worth it. Friends, family good times and celebration are key deciders. Sad, angry, bored, insecure...well alcohol is not likely to help in the long run, so maybe look elsewhere. Because the next day, you really want the hanging ten on waves of nausea to have been for a good cause.

So about those waves of nausea- hat exactly is going on here ?? Firstly Alcohol is the product of carbohydrate fermentation, and on its own has no nutritional benefit, however contains 27 kj/g and that's before you add the muddled berries, sugar syrup and umbrella.

Because alcohol is a toxin to the body, when you drink it, the first thing your body wants to do is get rid of it-stat! It gets broken down in two steps, from alcohol to acetylaldehyde (which is themost toxic bit) then to acetate. To make this happen effectively and as quickly as possible, every other metabolic process gets put on hold to metabolise and excrete (pee out) the toxins, which means protein, fat and carbohydrate metabolism are put on hold...we don't want fat metabolism on hold! But how muchis damage done depends on how much alcohol is in the blood steam, along with how frequently you are exposing your body to it. A little bit infrequently is nothing to worry about, however chronic large volumes of alcohol can lead to more permanent damage and potential disease. Our body is prepared to metabolise about one standard drink per hour, which is what drink driving laws are based on.

'But why do I feel so bad he day after', I hear you ask? Along with excess levels of the breakdown product, acetyl aldehyde, which can cause symptoms such as nausea, dizziness and headaches, there are two main layers to a hangover. Low blood sugar and dehydration. (alcohol is also a depressant, which only adds to low mood post party, but that is a story for another day)

First off, impaired carbohydrate metabolism leads to low blood sugars- THAT'S what makes you feel sh*tty the next day. We have all gone that little bit too long between meals and have started to feel nauseous? I believe the term is 'hangry' (hungry + angry).  

To boot, alcohol inhibits the hormone which makes you hold water (a hormone call 'antidiuretic' hormone)- which is why you need to pee every 5 seconds after a few dranks, and this inevitably leads to dehydration as no one thinks to rehydrate when knee deep in tequila. So the combination of low blood glucose levels and dehydration are what combine to deliver the hangover form hell. So what to do, in the case where you haven't prepared yourself in advance for a night out?

Get water into you ASAP, sip regularly! Have a good meal, alcohol is easily absorbed through the stomach and small intestine, so drinking on and empty stomach means you will probably peak to soon and end up asleep in the corner before mid-night. Food will slow the absorption process and give you some time to think twice before pressing 'copy' while sitting bare bottomed on the office photo copy machine. Try to keep it as a healthy choice, but if this is damage control, anything you can get your hands on is good! Here is my morning-after-the-night-before food combination. (I use in case of emergency, and by no means condone binge drinking, consult your doctor etc :) )

Banana smoothie (banana, skim milk, protein, honey)

1 slice sourdough with vegemite and butter

Asprin + Becocca in water


So drinking in moderation might be fine, perhaps maybe even improve health. But. and it's a BIG BUTT (I mean but), excess plonk can cause vitamin and mineral deficiencies, sleep disturbance, mood issues and is a risk factor for heaps of diseases including cancer, diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular disease. Sorry I think I just ruined the festive season...

But to redeem myself, the take away message/recipe for hangover avoidance is:  Drink in moderation and for fun, eat food when drinking, and preferably before hand, have LOTS of water pre/during/post tipple and leave plenty of times between drinking sessions to give you body a chance to recover! Ho ho ho, you have been warned!

Harriet WalkerComment