By Rachel Grunwell
A shorter version of this column appeared in Indulge magazine. Rachel is a weekly wellness columnist for Indulge. She is a freelance health journalist for several of NZ’s top lifestyle publications. She’s the author of the book Balance, which features 30 global experts sharing science-backed wisdom on living healthier and happier. Follow Rachel on Instagram & Facebook.
So, everyone has had the hangover from hell. Come on. We’ve all experienced it at some point. Let’s be honest. Me included. We all know how easy it can be to be carried away at a social event. One friend even put me to bed after her party once as the party was ending. I was the last one dancing due to a few drinks that got me “happy”.
I had too much of a good night. I felt mortified the next morning of course over my unintended sleep over. That is, until I heard another guest slept outside their posh place under some bushes. So my night ending was (slightly) less dishevelled. The party story that won out was about the bush-sleep, rather than sleeping beauty if you get my drift. Chuckle.
As I get older, I’m less eager to return to that hangover state. Maybe it’s because I’m older and wiser (and like sleeping in my own bed..). But really I think it’s that I’ve got to a stage in my life where I’m more excited about training hard at the gym or running because I’m so goal-driven these days. And I usually have to take one of my kids to a swimming lesson or birthday party in the weekend and the suffering can be absolutely punishing then, right! So I’m a glass or two to celebrate these days kinda girl…
You know that feeling you want to try and avoid….the pounding headache, fuzzy brain, nausea, low energy, and a mouth that’s desert-like dry…
I interviewed nutritionist Catherine Saxelby about her new updated book, Nutrition for Life, which is full of lots of great info on how to fuel your body well. Her expertise is epic. She has been an authroity on diet and healthy eating for three decades. I skipped immediate to the section on how to handle hangovers. I dig her real-world approach and that she included this. Rather than trying to be virtuous – like some nutritionists kinda do. She knows in the real world people generally enjoy wine or beer and her nutrition bible helps with everything… so why not include hangover cures. I loved it. I also coach clients around how to balance some drinks in their week if they ask for advice around this…
Saxelby and I end up spending an hour on Skype. She’s so cool. And I love her lowdown on alcohol from our chat and some bits from her book… So here goes… this stuff is good!
She says hangovers are caused by dehydration and things like the substances in alcohol like congeners, such as tannins, volatile acids, methanol and histamines.
Dark-coloured drinks like red wine, brandy, and sherry can cause the worst hangovers – especially the cheaper brands. Mixing drinks can also spell bad news for a sore head (and leave you witch-like the next day – likely! Or is that just me? ha ha ha ha ha).
However, you won’t escape a hangover if you drink lots of other things too like beer, white wine, whiskey, gin, and rum too…
However Saxelby says the least effect around hangovers is caused by vodka. I bet a whole lot of you are vowing to celebrate now with that drink on the next celebratory occasion!
Meanwhile, champagne can get you intoxicated quickly as the bubbles push the alcohol into the body more quickly, the nutritionist says.
Speaking from Australia via skype Saxelby quips there’s only one sure way to avoid a hangover: “Don’t drink too much in the first place!”
But if you do over indulge, here are her top tips to avoiding a hangover – because you can’t always count on a bush-sleeping guest to outdo your party girl/Goldilocks-style-behaviour the next time…
1. Drink non-alcoholic drinks in-between to slow down how much you drink ie water, fruit juice etc
2. Have lots of water to counteract the dehydration.
3. Have something like milk, or cheese, before you drink. So our mothers telling us to “line the stomach with food” wasn’t just nonsense!
4. Foods like toast, fruit (fresh or canned), flat lemonade, weak black tea with sugar, boiled rice, and eggs, can be kinder on the stomach too.
5. Sleep it off. You should feel better by 24 hours later.
6. Don’t bother with the effervescent hangover remedies. “I think you just produce expensive urine,” says the author.
Meanwhile, another nutritionist I met last year, also Australian- based and also super lovely and knowledgeable, Michele Chevalley Hedge, says “fish oils at bed are key to avoiding a hangover”.
Meanwhile, when I coach clients on how to move, eat and live healthier and happier, I’m guided by the national guidelines when it comes to alcohol. Firstly, alcohol has a lot of calories (7 calories per gram). A lot of my clients are chasing weight-loss goals. So there’s that to consider too.
Importantly, the guidelines are to limit alcohol intake to one or two standard drinks a day at the most. These guidelines warn that a daily alcohol intake in excess of four standard drinks for men and two for women could lead to serious health problems. Alcohol impacts people differently too. For example, I’m a bit of a light weight with it. So I’m really considered about what and how much I drink these days. Except for that night of the party with the unintended sleep over…. chuckle. We can all got a bit wild sometimes, right!
Also, it’s important to note that the national guidelines idea of a standard drink could be different to what you may think. For example a standard stubbie of beer contains 1.3 and 1.5 standard drinks. Watch the percentage of alcohol amount too on the beverage. Some can be quite high.
ps remember all things in life in “balance” can be okay. Just make informed choices about how you fuel your body.
Find out more about Rachel’s real-approach coaching and wellness workshops services, public speaking engagements and her book Balance: Food, Health and Happiness via inspiredhealth.co.nz Instagram @RachelGrunwell or click here for her business Facebook