It's the holiday season and chances are, you're knee-deep in parties, eating and stress. We all know that there is an increase in the frequency of these three components during the holiday season, however, what you may not be aware of is that fact that alcohol goes hand-in-hand with all three. You may find yourself drinking more than usual and before you know it, you're waking up more often with those telltale signs of man's greatest "last night" regret. Yep, you've got a hangover, and it's bad. Immediately, you realize that your day is shot, you feel miserable and nothing can take the misery away. You swear to yourself that you'll "never drink that much again" and you may even start surfing the Web for "hangover cures" as a desperate attempt to cure what ails you. What if the answer to feeling better though, was right in your kitchen? What if, amongst the gingerbread and the stuffing, you had a holiday hangover remedy that could help decrease some of those common, awful symptoms?
What's a hangover? If you've ever had one, you know what it is. You feel awful and that's the end of it. But if you're looking for a more scientific approach, researchers from the University of California, San Francisco explain it well in this Annuals of Internal Medicine article, published in 2000. Their review describes a hangover as "characterized by headache, tremulousness, nausea, diarrhea, and fatigue combined with decreased occupational, cognitive, or visual-spatial skill performance." It also found that hangovers were mostly classified to light or moderate drinkers in terms of societal costs (loss in job productivity, absenteeism, etc.) and that the symptoms were caused by dehydration, the toxic effects of alcohol, hormonal changes and deregulated signaling of cells.
Sounds pretty bad, right? You may be thinking, can food actually help? Although no strong scientific evidence exists classifying these foods as cures, given the physiologic changes that occur with a night of drinking, they surely can't hurt!
We all know that soup tastes and feels great when we have the sniffles, however it's also essential the day after too much drinking for several reasons. First, it rehydrates you. Alcohol is a huge dehydrator. Just one look at your urine after a few drinks and you'll see it -- it will be the color of the yellow brick road and that means you need fluid -- now! The second essential thing that chicken soup provides is salt. In line with dehydration is electrolyte loss. Electrolytes are essential for maintaining physiologic body functions, and dramatic changes can have a drastic effect on the body. Further, if you've got the runs (which is very likely with a hangover), you'll really need to get some electrolyte therapy! Can't stand soup? Opt for a sports drink instead to build back sodium and potassium stores. Flickr photo by Kind of Bruin
Salmon is what I call a "one shop stop" for a hangover because it contains nutrients that may help ease your pain: B6 and omega-3s. B6 in particular has been found to be effective in helping with hangover symptoms. In addition, omega-3s have been found to boost mood. Pair your yummy salmon with a side of brown rice and you'll reap the benefits of boosting your blood sugar as well; low blood sugar will only make you feel worse, so make this a meal that makes you feel great! Flickr photo by Girl Interrupted Eating
Fructose, a simple sugar found in fruit, was once thought to help clear alcohol faster from your body. Although there is no hard evidence that this is actually true, there is anecdotal evidence that fruit simply makes you feel better the next day. Bottom line, if you feel that an apple or a few berries makes you feel even just a little better, it's worth it. No harm in taking advantage of this potential placebo effect! Flickr photo by Dan McKay
While you'll rarely find me suggesting sugar-laden foods, gingerbread is more common and accessible during the holidays. One of its main ingredients is -- no surprise here -- ginger, the wonder root that helps to ease gastric distress. Nausea is a major symptom of a hangover and when you have it, you want it gone -- and quick. Several double-blind studies have found ginger to be effective in easing the symptoms of stomach pain and nausea, two things you may find yourself waking up with after a night of too many drinks. Thai or Indian cuisine traditionally has plenty of ginger-laden dishes as well. If you want to forgo the cookies, go out to lunch instead! Flickr photo by SuperFantastic
In addition to having soup, you should avoid any caffeinated beverages for at least 24 hours and focus on water and caffeine-free teas and drinks. Dehydration causes headache and fatigue -- sound like a familiar morning-after symptom? Flickr photo by Greg Riegler
A 2002 study in the Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that, in animal studies, chronic alcohol ingestion significantly reduced the intestinal absorption of dietary folate. While cold cereal may not necessary make you feel better the next morning, cereal is fortified with folic acid, a man-made form of folate commonly found in foods. Getting enough folate is a good step in keeping yourself healthy. By the way, if you are in your childrearing years, you should be taking a multivitamin with folic acid as well. Flickr photo by Y'amal
Although a hangover may seem like nothing more than a bad day after a hard night, a review in The Annals of Internal Medicine found that hangovers also increased the risk of injury due to diminished visual spatial skills and dexterity. Hangovers, they concluded, also could be an independent risk factor for cardiac death. They not only cost you, but they affect society as well. Researchers found that there were substantial economic consequences stemming from poor job performance and increased absenteeism. If you came across this article after a night of drinking, and you felt better by eating these suggested foods, it's hopefully the last time you'll need to read it. A 2005 study in the British Medical Journal found that the only true scientific "cure" to a hangover was to practice abstinence or moderation. Sounds like your vow to "never drink that much again" should be one you might want to keep. New Year's resolution anyone?
Follow Kristin Kirkpatrick, M.S., R.D., L.D. on Twitter: www.twitter.com/KRISTINKIRKPAT