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How to avoid hangover hell

Oh dear, all is chaos in the Burns house! Belle has the sniffles, Chloe has croup and the lovely husband has a touch of man-flu. To top it all off, the back of my throat is scratchy, and the aches and chills are beginning to kick in.It’s nothing that a good night’s sleep wouldn’t fix, but I’m not holding out much hope. Last night, I had to wake Mr. Man-Flu from his Nyquil coma as both the kids woke at the same time.Mummies perform multi-tasking miracles every day, but wiping away the tears of two babies and hushing them back to sleep simultaneously was finally beyond me.Oh, and this also coincided with a midnight ant invasion in the bedroom. So you see, clearly I killed someone in a previous life.So I wish I could pretend that I provide perfect nutrition for my family and that as a result we never get sick, but it’s not the case.Most days are super-healthy, but I have to confess, I let the treats flow over Christmas. Chloe had chocolate money for breakfast on Christmas Day… followed by an orange and some wholegrain toast, but the chocolate was first!It’s funny though, now that she is sick, she seems to know what is best for her.Today all she wanted was a kiwi, some watermelon and a banana. I persuaded her to eat some pasta too, but only by mesmerising her with a Christmas movie on TV.If only you could explain to a two-year-old that prevention is so much better than cure.But even as adults, we struggle to accommodate the good sense of this philosophy especially when weighing up the pros and cons of a boozy night out.Hats off to those of you that don’t drink, but to those of you that do, have a look at the tips below.Forgive me, I’ve given you some of this advice before, but as I’m now watching our littlest wriggle about on the video monitor, time is of the essence.So, as has been the theme of the last few weeks, this is an exercise in damage limitation.I am not saying you shouldn’t drink at all, but to avoid starting 2011 with a canon firing inside your head and your tongue stuck to the roof of your mouth, try out the tips below.Preventing hangover hell:1. It matters what you drinkRed wine is a much better option than white wine, beer or spirits. It is rich in compounds called proanthocyanidins or OPCs. These are powerful antioxidants that are known to work with vitamin C to protect your heart, brain, eyes, joints and they boost your immune system.However, take it easy, because if you drink more than two glasses, the quantity of alcohol becomes counterproductive.2. Avoid sugary or artificially sweetened mixersIf you do drink spirits, avoid sugary mixers such as cola, tonic, ginger beer and Sprite. Refined sugar is a burden for the liver and so makes you less able to detoxify alcohol efficiently.Artificial sweeteners also need to be detoxified, so the best option is to mix spirits with soda water or fruit juice with LOTS of ice.3. Add ice to your drinksAdding ice dilutes the alcohol and slows down the rate at which you drink. Have a white wine and soda with lots of ice, or ask for your gin and tonic to come in a tall glass packed with ice.4. Don’t drink on an empty stomachThe alcohol will pass through your system much more quickly and you can get drunk on much less than you think. Make sure you have a meal or at least a healthy snack before you go out.5. Avoid fatty/rich mealsFoods like steaks, pasta in a creamy sauce and pizza are hard to digest and the excess saturated fat can congest your liver, making it harder for it to detoxify the alcohol.These meals are also harder for your stomach to digest so can leave you feeling nauseous in the morning.6. Try peppermint tea before you go to bedThis is especially effective if you have had a heavy meal too. Peppermint helps settle digestion and ease nausea.If you don’t think you will be coordinated enough to make it when you get in, make it beforehand and store it in the fridge. Peppermint tea tastes great cold put an extra cup by your bed to sip on if you wake.7. RehydrateMake sure you drink at least one pint of water when you come in, before you go to sleep. One of the major reasons hangovers can be so bad, is simply due to dehydration. Rehydration sachets can work wonders the morning after just make sure you dilute them with the right quantity of water to ensure electrolyte balance.8. Have a substantial but low-fat breakfast the next morning“Kill or cure” cooked breakfasts do precisely that. Either you are so hungover that your liver can’t cope with the fat and you feel worse, or the food helps to settle your stomach and replace your lost energy.Even if it does make you feel better, fatty cooked breakfasts can cause further liver damage so they are best avoided. Instead try something substantial, but lower in fat such as beans on whole-wheat toast, grilled bacon and poached eggs or muesli with low-fat yogurt and berries.9. Try the Life Extension brand “Anti-Alcohol Antioxidants” available from Rock On.This formula contains powerful antioxidants such as vitamins C, E and the mineral selenium, that help to prevent cell damage. It also contains milk thistle (see below) and nutrients that specifically support the detoxification of alcohol, such as glutathione.However, if you have a sensitive stomach, be careful. At the full dose, this formula contains 3000mg of vitamin C in an ascorbic acid form.This form can aggravate a sensitive digestive tract (eg if you have IBS), in which case you’d be better off taking a multivitamin, a B-complex and 1000mg of Ester-C (a gentler form of vitamin C), always with food.As always though, if you have any medical concerns, or are taking any medication, please check with your doctor before taking any supplements.10. Try taking a milk thistle supplementIf you want a simpler supplement, try milk thistle. Recent research suggests that it can help detoxify and replenish liver cells. Whilst it is helpful on the day and the day after, it’s often a great idea to take a course once or twice a year especially if you drink frequently.Again, if you are taking any medication or have a health concern, please consult your doctor and note that milk thistle should not be used by anyone who has a liver disease or diagnosed liver damage. Milk thistle is available from both Down to Earth and Rock On.The advice given in this article is not intended to replace medical advice, but to complement it. Always consult your GP if you have any health concerns. Catherine Burns BA Hons, Dip ION is a fully qualified nutritional therapist trained by the Institute for Optimum Nutrition in the UK. Please note that she is not a registered dietitian. She can be contacted at nourishbda[AT]gmail.com