THE HOLIDAYS ARE THE TIME OF YEAR WHEN WE HAVE FULL PERMIS- SION TO EAT, DRINK AND BE MERRY.
However, this season of celebration can lead to our cups running over with a different sort of holiday spirit–specifically, cocktails, eggnog and champagne.
When this happens, a hangover is sure to follow.
A hangover is the body’s reaction to alcohol leaving the blood system, which is why symptoms usually set in the morning following a night of excessive drinking.
Depending on the type of alcohol you consumed and how much you drank, symptoms can include fatigue, dry mouth, headache, muscle aches, nausea and vomiting, increased sensitivity to light and sound, dizziness, vertigo, rapid heartbeat and a decreased ability to concentrate or sleep.
The reason for such a lengthy list of negative side effects is due to how the body processes alcohol.
Alcohol is a natural diuretic, meaning it causes your body to produce more urine. The more you go to the restroom, the more likely you are to become dehydrated, which can lead to feeling lightheaded.
Another cause for sudden dizziness is hypoglycemia, a condition that occurs when blood sugar levels dip below normal levels. Alcohol limits the body’s production of glucose (blood sugar). Drink too much, and you may experience fatigue, weakness, shakiness, mood changes and, sometimes, seizures.
Drinking large quantities of alcohol also increases the acid levels of your stomach and irritates your stomach lining, leading to abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting.
The surest way to avoid a hangover and all its symptoms is to not drink at all.
But if you do choose to partake in a glass or two of good cheer, there are science-backed strategies to emerge from your next holiday party hangover-free.
DON’T DRINK ON AN EMPTY STOMACH.
It may be tempting to skip a meal leading up to a holiday party so that you can indulge in the high-calorie fare customarily present this time of year.
But drinking on an empty stomach speeds the body’s absorption of alcohol, making it more likely you’ll wake up feeling worse for wear.
Instead, continue to eat as you normally would, putting extra emphasis on breakfast.
Starting your day with a hearty meal– something more than cold cereal or a doughnut at the office–allows your body to maintain blood sugar levels, which some studies have shown could mitigate the side effects of alcohol consumption.
Once you arrive at the event, sample a few appetizers before your first alcoholic beverage so that there is some food in your system.
If you’re not sure on the food selection or when you’ll be able to eat, have a small snack before stepping out. An apple spread with almond butter, some veggies with hummus or low-fat yogurt topped with granola all work in a hurry.
SIP WATER THROUGHOUT THE NIGHT.
When placing your beverage order, ask for a glass of water as well. Water keeps you hydrated, and dehydration is a key contributor to a hangover. Alternating between water and alcohol also helps moderate your overall alcohol consumption.
Hot toddies and spiced cider are seasonal treats, but have one too many, and you’ll likely wake up feeling more naughty than nice.
That’s because darker liquors, such as brandy and bourbon, contain larger amounts of congeners, an ingredient that gives many types of alcoholic beverages their flavor. Unfortunately, congeners also contribute to hangovers.
If you truly look forward to these specialties, don’t deny yourself—enjoy your beverage. Sip it slowly. Then, switch to clear liquor-based drinks, such as a vodka soda or cranberry gin fizz.
Keep in mind, though, that alcohol of any color can lead to a hangover, if drank in excess. A safer bet is to move on from alcohol altogether and enjoy a virgin variation of your holiday favorites, which can easily be made using club soda or sparkling mineral water.
If you do wake up atoning for the sins of Christmas past, there are a few at-home remedies that can ease, but not entirely cure, symptoms.
Research has found that certain supplements are highly effective against a hangover.
Red ginseng, prickly pear, borage oil and eluthero (also known as Siberian ginseng) have all been shown to reduce a hangover’s symptoms and overall severity.
Ginger is a well-known nausea reliever, but one study found that combing this medicinal spice with brown sugar and tangerine extract improved vomiting and diarrhea symptoms as well.
Intravenous (IV) therapy can provide relief quickly by providing an elixir of nutrient-enhanced fluids straight to the bloodstream, replenishing the vitamins, minerals and fluids lost from a night of heavy drinking.
You also can get your vitamins by eat- ing a breakfast balanced in protein and fiber. Some of the best foods to quell a hangover include: eggs, salmon, beans, sweet potatoes, avocado, coconut water and dried apricots.
And avoid coffee. Caffeine, like alcohol, is a diuretic that can cause further fluid loss.
Get extra sleep to allow your body the rest it needs to recover, and continue to drink water to flush alcohol out of your system, prevent dehydration and reduce dry mouth, fatigue, headache and body aches.
With a bit of prevention and planning, it is possible to survive the holiday party season sans hangover. Cheers to that!