So Christmas is officially on its way and this is my very favourite month of the year. I love everything about it — lights, panto, Michael Buble in the car, mulled wine, the ridiculous over-the-top excitement from the children, planning surprises, stockings, parties, even the bloody elf … all of it. I love how it means different things to different people — and whether that’s something religious or simply a celebration of life with the people you love, either way it adds meaning and rhythm to our year.
If we have to look for downsides, I guess it’s only fair to acknowledge that the hangovers and heavy reliance on fat-pants are a bit of a bummer. Don’t we all have a pair of go-to pants for when things get a little tight around the middle? Christmas is usually the time that sends most people over the edge.
I have a pair of maternity jeans from seven years ago that I will probably never throw away for that reason! However, if you don’t want a serious case of the January blues, you need to try and rein it in a little.
For me, ditching the hangovers has become hugely important. Obviously, I’d like to keep myself as healthy as possible, but also the wasted day afterwards just kills me. I want to be up and running and hanging with the children, or doing something else fun. I don’t want to be dealing with a pounding head and daylong nausea.
But balance is important too and so if you want to be able to indulge without too many repercussions, see below for some really effective tips.
I’ve also given you a great recipe for a detox smoothie. It includes banana for B vitamins (which give you energy), avocado and turmeric for liver support, black pepper to improve the absorption of the turmeric, spinach for folate (which supports detox pathways), berries for antioxidants and a little honey (optional) to sweeten the deal.
Christmas Detox Smoothie
Ingredients (per person)
½ frozen banana
1 cup frozen berries
½ ripe avocado
1 large handful spinach
¼ tsp ground turmeric
Twist of black pepper
Honey to taste
Directions: you know this, just whizz it all up!
Hangover management tips
1. Avoid drinks with congeners (beware of the “nightcap”)
When ethanol (alcohol) is produced by sugar-fermenting yeasts, other toxic side products called congeners are formed too.
Congeners (eg acetone, methanol and isopentanol) seem to increase the frequency and intensity of hangovers, compared to drinks that contain low amounts.
Drinks high in congeners include whiskey, cognac and tequila. Bourbon whiskey is exceptionally high. Drinks low in congeners include colourless drinks such as vodka, gin and white rum. Vodka contains almost no congeners at all.
2. Watch your mixers
A regular hangover is bad enough, adding a sugar hangover is even worse. Ditch the sugary mixers (soda, fruit punch etc) and especially the coolers that serve up a big dose of food dye too. Just one cooler can pack in ten to 20 teaspoons of sugar.
That’s huge and has serious implications for blood sugar management and weight gain. I would avoid diet options as well, given that these also challenge the liver. Note too that bubbles speed up alcohol absorption, so if you are aiming to pace yourself, pick a still option such as red wine or vodka with water and a splash of orange juice.
3. Drink plenty of water and try peppermint tea before bed
Alcohol is a diuretic which means you urinate more than if you were drinking an equal amount of pure water. This can lead to dehydration and contribute to headaches and fatigue the next day.
Rule of thumb: arrive hydrated and then drink a glass of water between drinks. Have at least one big glass of water before going to sleep. I think peppermint tea is great for settling the stomach, so brew a strong one before you go out and then leave it in the fridge to drink on your return! This is a great antidote to rich evening meal too.
4. Balance your blood sugar
Never drink on an empty stomach and note that hangovers tend to be more severe in those who have low or unbalanced blood sugar. Although hypoglycaemia is not a cause of hangovers, it can make symptoms feel worse. If you are just going out for drinks and are not dining, do eat something before you go that includes slow-releasing carbohydrates and protein. Good examples include low-sugar granola and plain yoghurt, or scrambled eggs on wholegrain toast.
5. Eggs and avocado for breakfast the morning after
No doubt you have heard of the “kill or cure” fry-up for breakfast. It’s not the saturated fat that is going to help you, but the amino acids in the protein which can assist liver detox. Eggs are the best choice as they are easily digested and gentle on your stomach. Plus, thanks to their large amounts of cysteine, eggs help to “mop up” alcohol toxins. Whites do contain more protein, but the yolks are cysteine rich so eat both! Avocado is great for phase-2 liver detox, so include that too.
6. Rehydrate with electrolytes
But put down the Gatorade, which contains way too much sugar and unnecessary food dyes. Try chilled unsweetened coconut water (e.g. Zico from Supermart) or the Ultima Replenisher powders (also Supermart.) The Ultima looks like a crystal-light type product but it’s actually free from dyes and artificial sweeteners. After coconut water, it is about as natural as you can get and very efficient for rehydration purposes.
• The advice given in this article is not intended to replace medical advice, but to complement it. Always consult your GP if you have any health concerns. Catherine Burns is a fully qualified nutritional therapist trained by the Institute for Optimum Nutrition in the UK. Please note that she is not a registered dietitian. For details: www.natural.bm, 236-7511 or, Facebook, Natural Nutrition Bermuda