Planning to celebrate St Patrick’s day and hopefully a big rugby win this weekend? If you are going to party, our top tip is to drink a glass of water between each alcoholic drink. If you are reading this afterwards or have ignored our words of wisdom, tune in to hear Heather’s hangover recovery advice on TV3 this Sunday at 10.15 am. Read on for our tips and new recovery smoothie recipe.
So what happens when we drink?
After having a drink, the alcohol is absorbed into the blood via the stomach and small intestines and we start to feel the effects of this after about 10 minutes. That is the reason why having something to eat before drinking is so important. Having food in the stomach dilutes the alcohol and slows down it’s absorption. Rather than thinking of it as ‘eating is cheating’ think of it as feeling the effects more gradually – delayed gratification!
From the gut, alcohol travels throughout the body in our blood, including to the brain, where we feel the effects. Most of it ends up in our cleaning unit, the liver, where it is broken down and removed using water from the kidneys. That’s why it’s so important to drink plenty of water both while out and the next day.
How much is too much?
The amount of alcohol we can tolerate and break down varies hugely from person to person, depending on age, sex, fatigue, whether the stomach is empty…. On average, we can break down 1 unit of alcohol an hour – c. 1/3 of a pint or a small glass of wine. That’s important to understand if you were drinking late and are planning to drive the next day. Best rule of thumb is an hour for every unit i.e. if you had 6 pints starting at 8pm yesterday (= up to 17 units of alcohol), you are likely to still be over the limit at midday today.
Can coffee help a hangover?
Drinking coffee does not speed up the process of eliminating alcohol or sober you up more quickly. It’s stimulant properties just give you a quick but short-lived energy boost. Having some food, water or sleep the next morning also won’t reduce your blood alcohol concentration but will help you to feel better.
It’s worse for women!
In general men have proportionally more water in their body due to their higher muscle levels. This means that a woman’s blood alcohol concentration can be higher, even after drinking the same amount.
Some preliminary studies also indicate that women have lower levels of the alcohol dehydrogenase enzyme that the liver used to break down alcohol.
Dealing with the symptoms of a hangover
|Symptom||Why?||What to do|
|Upset stomach, nausea, diarrhea||Alcohol irritates the lining of the stomach and can increase the production of stomach acid. It also speeds up the elimination process through the digestive tract and upsets the balance of beneficial bacteria, which can cause diarrhea.||Some herbs and spices like ginger and peppermint can help settle the stomach. Try drinking them in a tea or including them in a smoothie. Avoid coffee, which can irritate the gut.|
|Low mood||Alcohol is a depressant and on top of that, disrupts sleep patterns and causes you to spend less time in deep sleep and more time in REM sleep.||Get out for a walk and then consider a short nap to catch up on some rest|
|Shakiness / dizzieness||Usually caused by rebound low blood sugar||Eat something! Or if you can’t manage food, try a smoothie|
|Headache||Usually caused by dehydration as the body requires up to 4 times the amount of liquid to flush out alcohol. Also flushes out minerals like calcium and magnesium||Rehydrate. Drink water or even better, try some coconut water, rich in natural electrolytes which replace some lost minerals|
Is there any miracle cure?
In short, no, beyond drinking less and having a glass of water between each alcoholic drink. Some supplements like Milk Thistle, N Acetyl Cysteine and B vitamin complex like Revive Active can help to support the liver and energy levels, especially if you take them before you drink. But there is no miracle cure.
So what should you eat
Try something simple, like a slice of wholegrain toast with an egg or peanut butter and a banana. This provides slow burning carbohydrates with protein to help support energy level
A smoothie is a great option combining slow burning carbs with protein for energy and liquid to rehydrate at the same time. You can include spices like ginger to help nausea.
Recovery Smoothie (for 1)
1 ½ cups coconut water
½ mango / 1 cup frozen mango
Thumb-sized piece fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
Juice of ½ – 1 lime
Handful baby spinach / 1/3 cucumber
2 tbsp. full fat natural yoghurt (or use ½ avocado / 1 tbsp. chia seeds)
Place in a blender / Nutribullet and blend until smooth
Replace mango with banana, an apple, orange, frozen berries…..
How it helps
- Ginger helps quell nausea. Use powdered ginger or even contents of a ginger tea bag if you don’t have fresh ginger
- Coconut water contains electrolytes and helps to rehydrate
- Mango, spinach, cucumber add vitamin C, fibre and antioxidants as well as flavour
- Natural yoghurt contains protein and beneficial bacteria
Have a Happy St Patrick’s weekend, from Heather, Ciara and The Glenville Nutrition Ireland Team