My grandmother was especially fond of the expression, “All things in moderation, including moderation.” I took this sentiment to mean that we all need to cut loose every now and then, that over indulgence is actually good for us – occasionally. And what better occasion than the holiday season?
It’s the time of year when we catch up with family and friends, connect with co-workers over something other than the water cooler, festoon our homes with variably tasteful or gaudy decorations, and generally celebrate excess. But when that excess meets adult beverages, we often end up with one of life’s nasty little consequences: the hangover.
The common symptoms of a hangover include headache, dry mouth, increased thirst, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, fatigue, excess salivation, anxiety, irritability, depression, difficulty concentrating and increased sensitivity to light, noise and smells. Even just a few of these symptoms can take the glee right out of that holiday cheer. So what are the best ways to cope on the bleak day after?
Because my own expertise is homeopathy, I want to start with three hangover cures my grandmother never heard of. First, if you know your “constitutional” homeopathic remedy (one that you take as a long-term treatment to optimize your health), take some. One dose before bed and another on rising can help to put your system right.
Second is the homeopathic remedy Nux Vomica, which has a broad and deep resonance with the common symptoms of a hangover. Moreover, Nux V, as it’s called, is a great remedy for overindulgences of many types, so it is also useful after too much spicy food (or just too much food), and even helpful for the overachieving, Type-A holiday behavior you’re exhibiting in procuring all those perfect gifts.
The third homeopathic solution to consider is the remedy Phosphoricum Acidum. Its close cousin, homeopathic Phosphorus, earns second place by a strict look at the numbers but Phos Ac gets my vote because it can also help heal the effects of “burning the candle at both ends,” something very familiar to many of us during the holiday season. And if this is your first brush with homeopathy, you really can use these remedies as needed. But homeopathic remedies are also powerful medicines; one dose may be all you need.
Beyond these “Big 3” of the 30-plus homeopathic remedies that aid in curing hangovers, the list of reputed hangover cures and preventative tips is even longer than the list of common symptoms. Almonds, bananas, coconut water, Dramamine, exercise, fatty or carb-rich foods, Gatorade, Ibuprofen, juice, mineral supplements, prickly pear fruit extract, sleep, vitamins, water and Zantac all have their proponents. A shocking number of these “remedies” even make sound scientific sense.
Almonds contain a chemical that changes alcohol metabolism in the body. Bananas are a natural antacid that calm the inflamed stomach and, as a mineral-rich food, they help restore electrolyte balance to dehydrated bodies. (Many of the notable symptoms of a hangover are actually symptoms of dehydration caused by the alcohol.) Coconut water, plain water and even real juice are all terrific hydrators and not as loaded with sugar as Gatorade. Mineral supplements may also help restore electrolyte balance, and vitamins, particularly the Bs, begin replacing nutrients that were lost (or not absorbed) during drinking.
The probiotic Bifidus (natural to the digestive tract, but also available in supplement pills and powders) detoxifies acetaldehyde, a by product of alcohol metabolism and a producer of hangover symptoms. Exercise helps the body eliminate many of the toxins that have built up as the result of alcohol metabolism. Also, the blessed relief of sleep allows the body to recuperate and repair at a faster rate than when awake. Even the idea of a fatty or carb loaded meal gains some validation in that it slows down the absorption of alcohol into the blood.
Any of the hangover cures related to absorption (almonds, fat- and carb-rich meals, etc.) are best employed before the drinking, while the true detox techniques (Bifidus, exercise, etc.) are most effective after.
If hangover prevention is your real objective, then water is your best friend. Drink a glass of plain water between each alcoholic beverage to slow down your consumption of alcohol and help keep the body from dehydrating. The old axiom suggesting the consumption of only one alcoholic beverage per hour is also a reasonable guide because it takes that long for blood alcohol concentration to peak. But please remember that it takes another hour per drink for blood alcohol concen tration to return to normal. And always, always, always have a designated driver if you’re going to be drink ing alcohol.
After all, we want to keep our departure from moderation in the occasionally-good-for-us column – good for us and safe for everybody else on the road- ways!