If you Google “new year clip art”, the images that appear include party hats, noise makers, confetti…and champagne.
The tradition of making a toast to the new year with the tinkle of champagne glasses is deeply embedded in our culture. While letting loose is a fun way to celebrate, greeting the New Year from bed with nausea and a headache isn’t such fun. Fortunately, a New Year’s Day hangover doesn’t have to be part of your tradition.
A combination of effects contribute to hangovers, including dehydration, a buildup of toxins in the liver, blood sugar dysregulation and sensitivities. Each individual responds to those factors differently, which explains why your hangover feels different than your friend’s, even though you’re the same size and drank the same amount.
The most obvious way to combat dehydration is to drink more water! If you’re planning on having a few drinks, be proactive. Get in your two to three quarts of water during the day before the evening’s festivities begin. Then, try to rotate between an adult beverage and a glass of water. Preparing for the night might also include picking up a bottle or two of coconut water. The electrolytes in the coconut water allow even better absorption of liquid into your tissues.
Alcohol is detoxified by your liver in (basically) a two-step process. The first step converts alcohol into acetaldehyde, which, unfortunately, is even more toxic than alcohol. The acetaldehyde then moves into the second stage, and is rendered harmless. Problems arise when the rate of alcohol consumption exceeds the liver’s rate of detoxification. The feeling of getting “buzzed” indicates the start of a backup. At this point, one option is to give your liver a rest by switching to water. Alternatively, you can plan ahead by supporting your detoxification pathways with supplements. Some options are Vitamin C, milk thistle extract (salymarin), molybdenum, and N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) before starting your night. Taking activated charcoal before going to bed can also absorb some of the alcohol from your system.
This is a multi-faceted issue. Your cells, especially liver cells, must work overtime to deal with the alcohol onslaught, and require extra energy to do so, which may sap your blood sugar levels. Additionally, drinking often leads to snacking. I know that a piece of cake I could easily turn down under normal circumstances seems to develop a tractor beam after a few drinks. Unhealthy foods can make blood sugar go haywire. Eating a healthy meal before going out can be very helpful in normalizing blood sugar levels, and well as combat tasty temptations that might arise. Keeping some fat in your system, such as coconut or olive oil, can also slow the digestion of alcohol.
One challenge I find with alcoholic beverages is that they rarely come with a Nutrition Facts label or set of ingredients! This gives, I believe, the false impression that various liquors are generally pure substances. This is truly not the case, especially with wines. Wines, particularly those produced in the US, may have added sugar, artificial colors or flavors, or preservatives. The same goes for flavored liquors and beers. Many people are sensitive to gluten, artificial ingredients, and sulfites, which will lead to feeling much worse in the morning. You are best able to avoid these additives by purchasing unflavored liquors and higher quality wines.
The Next Morning
If you still wake up New Year’s Day feeling crumby, remember to take care of yourself. Continue drinking water or coconut water and eat a nourishing meal. If you can get to a sauna, the extra sweating can help rid your body of the toxins that overwhelmed your liver. The sweat glands serve as an alternative detox pathway after your liver and kidneys are at full capacity. Ever notice that you stink after a night of drinking? Those are toxins oozing from your skin!
Of course, the number one way to avoid a hangover is to avoid drinking. Sobriety, among some circles, is getting pretty trendy (check out James Swanwick’s program at 30daynoalcoholchallenge.com to get started. I doubt you’ll find him boring or “missing out” on anything). There are many easy beverage recipes out there that will allow you to feel indulgent, sans alcohol. Just mixing a fancy fruit juice like pomegranate with sparkling water will give you a drink to toast with, and toast to!
Mercola, J. Hangover Hacks You Can Hang Your Hat On. articles.mercola.com. December 31, 2013.
Fotheringham, R. How to Build a Hangover Prevention Pill Pack. Biotics Insider Update. November 3, 2016.