For many of us, the holidays are a difficult time of year to start off, and this coupled with a near-constant holiday hangover can be too much. But not to worry, you can take steps to prevent it from happening and in the event that you have a bad night, here’s what to do to feel better fast.
The Physiology of a Hangover
According to Dr. Dawn DeSylvia, a nationally recognized board-certified doctor in family medicine with over 15 years experience in functional and integrative medicine, when you’re hungover you’re feeling the effects of both dehydration and inflammation in the brain, which can impact different people in different ways depending on any underlying health issues. What’s happening in the body is the same, but some of us may, as a result, experience brain fog, headache, anxiety, depression, and so on. To combat these side effects, says Dr. DeSylvia, the key is to rehydrate but also detoxify the body rapidly to stop the chemicals that are causing inflammation in the brain from continuing to do harm.
How Alcohol Impacts Sleep
Especially as we get older and our sleep becomes lighter, one of the worst issues associated with heavy foods and alcohol is that it disrupts our sleep, leaving us feeling exhausted the next day. The reason alcohol often causes us to pass out and then wake up in the middle of the night, says Dr. DeSylvia, is because of the liver. Alcohol is a depressant that causes us to fall asleep but once the liver gets to work on detoxification (which occurs in the middle of the night), it can cause us to wake up. We’re basically overworking the liver. A heavy meal right before bed can do the same thing as excessive alcohol.
7 Tips for Preventing and Dealing with a Hangover
Now that you know what’s going on in the body, you’re probably wondering how to prevent it. Here’s how.
1.Start with a healthy baseline. According to Dr. DeSylvia, you can reduce a hangover by starting from a place of good foundational health. This means that you don’t have any underlying issues that are stressing the body. Talk to a good integrative functional doctor to ensure that an infection, allergies, or your diet isn’t throwing off your health.
2. Get real with yourself. Social triggers are one of the main reasons that we tend to overindulge during the holidays.
“We think we have to be happy and sociable during the holidays,” says Dr. DeSylvia. “But for many of us, they come with a lot of pressure which causes us to drink too much. Before you go into a social situation where you know you’re going to be drinking, do an emotional check in.” If you’re feeling stressed, she says, don’t sugarcoat for family and friends, try and be mindful and authentic about how you’re feeling and it may reduce the pressure that causes over drinking.
3. Have something to do with your hands. If you’re just chatting and drinking at a holiday party, you’re much more likely to drink too much. Instead, be the one to keep everyone else's glasses filled, serve food, or help with cleanup. If you’re hosting the party, have activities or games that keep you from drinking continuously throughout the party. If there’s dancing, get your groove on.
“Dancing is great because it’s fun and it’s hard to dance with a drink in your hand,” says Dr. DeSylvia.
4. Drink activated charcoal drinks. Activated charcoal detoxifies the body, says Dr. DeSylvia, so it’s actually one of the better cocktails you can drink. Activated charcoal actually binds to toxins in the body and moves them through your system faster. One note of caution: activated charcoal can also bind to vitamins and minerals and extract them from the body, so just make sure that when you’re drinking that activated charcoal cocktail you don’t drink it near a time when you’re taking medications or supplements.
Once a hangover sets in….
Once you get a hangover, it's all about rehydrating and boosting detoxification in the body. Talk to your doctor before taking any supplements.
5. Take glutathione. Glutathione acts like a garbage collector in the body. It’s a master at boosting detoxification, says Dr. DeSylvia. You can buy supplements at the health foods store, but the best way to aid absorption is through IV, which can be done by a professional integrative or functional doctor.
6. Take silica drops. Silica is known for improving your skin but it can also help with rapid rehydration. Especially when you add it to your water. You can purchase it at your local health foods store.
7. Lose the guilt. Hangovers are often made worse by the weight of guilt that takes an emotional toll. According to Dr. DeSylvia, this causes us to spiral downward.
“Give yourself a break,” she says. “Be as compassionate to yourself as you are to others over the holidays.”
When you’re hungover, consciously take the opposite approach and be kinder to yourself than you normally would be. Go get a massage, a facial, or just put your feet up and take a snooze. This isn’t the day to double down on your New Years resolutions.