The road to hell is paved with good intentions, like starting with "just one drink" and a commitment to be home by 10pm. The middle part is the stuff of legend, but the ending is awful. We've all been there, but the awful didn't school us - and we keep going back as our curfews are blown.
When I tell patients to curb the sauce I am fully aware that the nods are little more than politeness. It is my responsibility to see you safe, regardless of the situation - and a recurrent conversation I often have after "stop drinking" is "how to handle a hangover".
We use alcohol medicinally in both Asian & Western Medicine (e.g. Robitussin); however, the ancient texts are full of warnings as to what happens when one imbibes in excess. A cocktail can quickly move from medicine to poison since alcohol, technically, is a toxic substance.
Take active charcoal tablets BEFORE going out and AFTER coming home
Active charcoal binds to toxins and alcohol happens to be one such toxin charcoal loves. If you take charcoal on an empty stomach before going out you have a better chance of mitigating the damage.
However, it also binds to medications so be sure to take it at least 2 hours after birth control, antidepressants, or any other pharmaceuticals. Otherwise, the action of charcoal binding to meds is the same as skipping a dose.
If you can remember to take another charcoal tablet when you get home and you're able to keep it down, it will bind to some of what's in your system. Active charcoal can be found in most health food stores, Whole Foods, or online.
Water Water Water
Alcohol is considered a hot substance that burns through body floods and dehydrates. Be sure to drink water throughout the evening to curb some of the dehydration; the rule of thumb is to drink one glass of water after every cocktail, glass of wine, or beer.
Choose your booze carefully
Dark spirits and cheap liquor contain byproducts of the fermentation process known as congeners - chemicals which are thought to contribute to hangovers. Studies suggest that the darker the drink, the worse the hangover. Stick to light spirits which have fewer impurities and thus contribute to fewer headaches.
Stay with the same type of alcohol throughout the night - mixing different spirits makes your body have to process everything that much harder which is taxing on both the kidneys and the liver. By sticking to one type of booze, you have a better chance of morning recovery.
Your head hurts, light burns, you're nauseous, every muscle hurts, your face looks like you time warped forward 20 years, and you have the shakes. Instead of a Bloody Mary, a morning supplement cocktail made of probiotics, milk thistle, stress B complex, and Ibuprofen washed down with a container of coconut water with a pinch of salt is a kinder way to go:
- Probiotics: The friendly bacteria in probiotics will help you detox and settle your stomach in part because alcohol destroys stomach flora. It's important to repopulate the gut.
- Anti-Inflammatory: As a "hot" substance, alcohol makes your face red, raises your body temperature, dries you out, and incinerates your inhibitions for a while. Part of the damage control means managing the after burn, and a gentle anti-inflammatory can help if you're really hurting. Avoid Tylenol (acetemetaphine) and Aspirin since they both tax the liver - you've done enough damage. A single Ibuprofen can begin to bring down some of the systemic inflammation that comes with a night out.
- Milk Thistle: The active chemical in Milk Thistle (silymarin) helps the liver repair itself. Enough said.
- Stress B Complex: B vitamins play a key role in brain and nervous system functions. They also help in breaking down alcohol in the body. Most patients know I'm a huge fan of Blue Bonnet's Stress B Complex because it has the correct blend of B vitamin's and just enough Vitamin C to help your body absorb them.
- Electrolytes: Your smarty pants body tries to protect itself from booze overload by increasing urine output when you're drinking alcohol. Many people also wind up with diarrhea the day after - sometimes known as the "gin shits". One of the casualties of this is that you lose electrolytes which keep your body in balance. They maintain water levels, carry nerve impulses, assist in muscles contraction / relaxation, keep your body from becoming too acidic, and regulate both blood pressure and heart beat. Electrolytes are responsible for carrying glucose and nutrients into your cells while carrying waste products and extra water out - needless, to say, they're important. Coconut water is full of important electrolytes and will help replenish what you've lost. Gatorade runs a close second but is full of high fructose corn syrup which taxes the digestive tract.
- Salt: Sodium is also an important mineral that's lost when the body starts flushing fluids out. It's vital to get sodium back into you, so throw a dash of salt into your coconut water or electrolyte beverage of choice.
Fool proof way to avoid a hang-over
Obviously, the best way to avoid a hangover is to drink somewhere between moderation and abstinence. If you choose to abstain, a good bartender can be your best friend if you're up front about wanting to save the rest of your weekend from being a complete train wreck. Ask them if they can serve you in something non-alcoholic in a cocktail glass - and your friends will be amazed at how seemingly effortless you make a bounce back seem.