As naturopathic doctors, we tend to suggest that our patients avoid alcohol for many different reason.
But that’s easier said than done, even for naturopaths.
So what’s the best way to avoid a hangover then?
Abstain from alcohol.
That being said, let’s explore alcohol’s effects on the body, and ways we can both drink responsibly and mitigate hangover symptoms.
What are the symptoms of a hangover:
- Fatigue, weakness and thirst
- Headache and muscle aches
- Nausea, vomiting and stomach pain
- Decreased sleep, decreased REM, increased slow wave sleep
- Vertigo and sensitivity to light and sound
- Decreased attention and concentration
- Depression, anxiety and irritability
- Tremor, sweating and increased pulse and systolic pressure
What are the direct effects of alcohol?
What can we do to help the body?
Dehydration and Electrolyte imbalance
- Alcohol causes the body to increase urinary output (it is a diuretic) by inhibition of antidiuretic hormone (vasopressin).
- 4 drinks (50 gm of alcohol in 250 ml) causes the urinary output of 600-1000ml.
- sweating, vomiting and diarrhea during before or during a hangover exacerbate dehydration.
Help your body by drinking a glass of water between each drink.
- Alcohol irritates the stomach lining leading to inflammation.
- Alcoholic drinks like beer and whiskey (often bitter in quality) increases the production of stomach acid and digestive enzymes- leading to heartburn and gut rot.
Help your body by consuming food when having alcoholic drinks.
Disruption of Sleep and biological rhythms
Alcohol induced sleep may be of shorter duration and poorer quality because of rebound excitation that occurs when blood alcohol levels drop.
The body is used to having a depressant- the alcohol in its system and when that depressant is taken away one experiences sweating, anxiety, palpitations and disturbed sleep.
Help your body by discontinuing alcohol intake about 3 hours before you intend to go to bed.
More comprehensive approaches to hangover mitigation exist- including nutrient IV therapy, targeted supplementation and hepatoprotective (liver support) herbal medicine.
But you will have to talk to your ND about those options!