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The Holiday Hangover

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While there’s no surefire post-party cure-all, some things help more than others

“Oh my aching head … I’m never drinking again!” Sound familiar? Many of us will be uttering these words at some point over the next month or so. Holiday parties, dinners with friends and festive cocktails after work all provide occasions to overindulge. The season begins with Thanksgiving and continues until the last glass of champagne on New Year’s Eve. The good news is there are ways to drink sensibly, and if we overdo it, there are remedies to ease that aching head and queasy stomach. What causes these awful symptoms? The byproducts of alcohol are potent chemicals called acetaldehyde and congeners (more prevalent in darker liquors) and tyramine, which is present in red wine. Unfortunately, as we get older, our bodies do not break down alcohol as efficiently as they once did. So if you’ve caught yourself saying “I can’t drink like I used to,” you’d be correct! These chemicals, combined with depleted electrolytes and dehydration, can contribute to a one nasty hangover. Symptoms usually include headache, nausea and dry mouth. In addition, the cheaper the alcohol, the more concentrated these “poisons” are. What a great excuse to indulge in the good stuff! Not to worry. Here are a few simple steps to follow, so you can imbibe without suffering the unpleasant consequences.

An Ounce of Prevention …

? Before heading out, have a small meal consisting of protein and carbohydrates. This combination will slow the absorption of alcohol. A glass of milk will also coat the stomach and buffer the absorption of liquor.

? Consume non-alcoholic fluids before, during and after. This will help ease the inevitable headache caused by dehydration and is especially important before going to bed.

? When choosing mixers, stick with water or fruit juices (if calories are not an issue) instead of carbonated beverages, cause alcohol to be quickly absorbed. Fruit juices will help replete some of the minerals lost when we drink.

? Try not to consume more than one drink per hour to allow your liver to process the alcohol.

? Before bed, resist the urge to take a painkiller. Ibuprofen and aspirin can irritate the stomach, and avoid acetaminophen (Tylenol), which can be dangerous to your already overworked liver. When all else fails and you wake up feeling miserable, there are some foods and supplements to ease the pain:

? Resist the urge to consume greasy foods. Instead opt for some protein and carbohydrates, preferably bland choices like soup and crackers or scrambled eggs and toast. These will ease nausea and supply vital nutrients.

? Hydrate with water, fruit juice or sports drinks. The fruit juice contains fructose, which will aid in metabolizing excess alcohol from the night before. Sports drinks will rehydrate with necessary electrolytes. Try to limit caffeinated beverages; they will only exacerbate dehydration.

? Pop a multivitamin. Alcohol depletes certain vitamins, in particular, vitamins A, C and especially B6. Some examples of foods that contain B6 are chicken, tuna, turkey and bananas, which have the added benefit of potassium. A breakfast consisting of oatmeal with sliced bananas and tomato or orange juice will provide all of these nutrients to soothe a queasy stomach.

? Supplements that have been shown to reduce symptoms are prickly pear extract and omega-3 fish oil, both of which will help soothe inflammation. Cysteine is an amino acid supplement that helps neutralize the
effects of acetaldehyde. Always consult your physician before consuming supplements, particularly if you are taking medications.

Bottom line: Stick to lightcolored alcohols mixed with water or fruit juices, preferably no more than one drink per hour on a full stomach. Save the pain medicine for the morning after consuming bland foods, getting plenty of rest and fluids and, if desired, taking supplements. It’s easy to overindulge during the holidays. Just remember to drink responsibly and get back on track with healthy eating and exercise habits.

The Anti-Oxidantal Tourist

Courtesy of Eric Doyle, One Restaurant & Lounge, 8132 Hapmson Street; 301-9061
In a pint glass filled with ice, combine:
2 oz Pomegranate Juice
2 oz Sweetened Ginger/Lemongrass Tea*
1/2 oz Fresh Lime Juice
Pour the ingredients into a mixer and shake. Pour back into the pint glass finishing it with 1oz of soda water. Garnish with a citrus peel.
Ginger/Lemongrass Tea
1 Bunch Lemongrass 2 qt water
1/4 lb Ginger; peeled and cut into long thin strips Honey to taste
Lightly boil whole lemongrass stalks with the ginger for about 15 minutes. Strain out all the solids. Add honey while it is still hot. Let the tea cool completely before using in the drink.