Eat, drink and be wary of morning after night before

Posted On December 30, 2006

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It’s the time of year when we’re gearing up for a month of festive cheer and bonhomie, when we eat, drink, make merry and feel hellish the morning after.

You know the symptoms: a banging headache, lethargy and a tummy that’s screaming out for some TLC. But this is no winter bug, it’s the sign of a self-inflicted hangover thanks to over-indulgence during the party season.

Not only are puddings over-egged, but stomachs over-stuffed and heads over toilet bowls, as the full impact of seasonal excess hits home hard. After all, if we consume a gluttonous 6000 calories on Christmas Day alone though food and drink, when you multiply that by the countless invites to festive dining that are sent out by friends, relations and workplaces, it’s no wonder that our bodies are left with a desperate need for Alka Seltzer and a lie down.

More than 17 million working days are lost each year in Britain through hangovers, according to government research, and an estimated two million people will fail to turn up for work over the festive season after downing too much drink or food during parties, losing the economy some £110 million.

Yet, while everyone knows what causes a hangover, getting rid of one is another matter. What should be remembered is that a hangover isn’t just about having a bad head, but muscle cramps, indigestion, tiredness and dizziness. And, of course, once a hangover has kicked in, there is no way of stopping it, all you can do is alleviate the symptoms.

The British Medical Association advises taking aspirin or ibuprofen to get rid of the headache, drinking fluids to offset dehydration and eating foods high in carbohydrates and fructose (a natural sugar found in fruit juices and honey) to deal with nausea.

But while many will turn to painkillers to curb that morning-after-the-night-before feeling, not all are ideal.

Aspirin, for instance, is an anti-inflammatory drug and is effective for treating headaches, but if you have acid indigestion it should be avoided. Ibuprofen is also an anti-inflammatory and a pain reliever, but again not great for those with indigestion. Paracetamol is a kitchen cupboard favourite because it’s a highly effective pain reliever, but remember the maximum dose you can take in 24 hours is 1000mg – that’s two tablets, four times a day. Overdosing can lead to liver damage.

There are other options. For a start you could try Hangover Hotch Potch Bitters, available from Napiers Herbalists’ Stockbridge and Teviot shops. It is a herbal solution which should leave you feeling bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, as long as you take a little in a glass of water before you go out, another dose before bed and one more first thing in the morning.

Loretta Seagrave, shop manager at the Hamilton Place branch, says: “It has a lot of bitter herbs that stimulate the digestion, some ginger for nausea and there are also tonic herbs in it like milk thistle which have traditionally been used to benefit the liver.”

Peppermint and chamomile are also good for sensitive stomachs, while artichoke and feverfew are ideal for hangover headaches. Lavender oil is also soothing for a painful head, add two to three drops to a carrier oil and massage into the temples or neck.

At Holland and Barrett you can stock up on Evening Primrose Oil which contains essential fatty acids to keep cells strong and healthy, which could help prevent the need for a big fry-up.

Similarly, Cynara Artichoke supplement, available at Boots, contains extract of dried artichoke leaves, which stimulates the liver to help break down and eliminate fatty foods and alcohol from the body. Also at the high street chemist, you’ll find Vitabiotics Wellwoman Fizz, dissolvable tablets which produce a cranberry flavoured drink, combining B-complex vitamins, Goti Kola, Gurana and L-Carnitine, which should make you good again.

Apparently, the fitter you are, though, the quicker you’ll bounce back from a hangover. Malcolm McPhail, health and fitness director at the Next Generation club in Newhaven, advises:

  • Being fitter makes you more capable to cope with hangovers.
  • If you do have a hangover, the best thing to do is a bit of gentle exercise such as a nice walk or a couple of miles on an exercise bike. And don’t use a steam room. It will only make you more dehydrated.
  • Drink plenty of water in between alcohol. And the following morning, rehydrate with sports drinks.
  • Rather than having a big greasy fry-up, I would recommend something light such as scrambled eggs on toast. And steer clear of milk, as it’s too heavy on the stomach.

If all else fails, then there’s always the hair of the dog.

That wonderful mix of vodka, sherry, tomato juice, Lee & Perrins and Tabasco is almost a meal in itself. Or if you need a stronger kick-start and think your stomach can take it, try a Prairie Oyster, brandy, Worcestershire sauce, ketchup, vinegar and an egg yolk. You never know, it could work.

  • Clear thinking needed to fend off the hangover from Hell.
  • Drink plenty of fluid to counteract the dehydrating effect of alcohol; aim to drink twice as much water as booze.
  • Eat something sugary to counteract the alcohol’s blood-sugar lowering effect.
  • Choose your favourite pain relief but beware the stomach-irritating effects of aspirin.
  • Take an indigestion remedy, which contains an alginate – a compound which forms a protective layer over your irritated stomach lining (ask your pharmacist).
  • Vitamin C may help.

Web links >
Alcohol Focus Scotland >
Health Education Board for Scotland – alcohol >  
Alcohol Concern > 
Alcohol Information Scotland >