What is a hangover? Alcohol is a diuretic so most of the symptoms associated with overindulging are related to dehydration. Over time the alcohol we consume breaks down into acetaldehyde, which our bodies find toxic. It’s normal for your body to try to get rid of this toxin, hence nausea. In response to the toxins, the liver swells, reducing blood flow and stopping its normal functions which include processing hormones and expelling toxins hence the aching and malaise. Finally, alcohol stops our bodies from processing glutamate, one of the body’s stimulants. At first, this makes us feel sedated which is part of the fun, but as the alcohol wears off, our bodies realize that they are lacking in glutamine and so produce more of it. This excess glutamine inhibits sleep and is the reason we wake up in a sweat after drinking.
However, help is at hand in the form of an age-old Chinese herbal formula called Bao He Wan which is available at our clinic. It can be used either to treat a hangover or as a preventative if you take it before you start to drink. It’s particularly useful for treating the digestive problems associated with a hangover and when combined with lots of water or fruit juice, it can be a great way of treating a fragile system after too much holiday indulgence. The ingredients include hawthorn fruit and radish seed which get your digestive system flowing again combined with tangerine peel, melia, pinellia, and ginger which treat nausea and headache. White peony helps your liver to function normally and poria harmonizes the relationship between your liver and your digestive system. Coptis and forsythia clear heat and help treat that clammy feeling after one drink too many.
A hearty breakfast the morning after may be the last thing you feel like but it can help. Carbohydrates help to stabilize your blood sugar and can reduce stomach acid and the cysteine in egg yolks binds to the acetaldehyde and neutralizes it. Avoid caffeine, however. A cup of coffee may be what you’re craving but it’s a diuretic and will only exacerbate your dehydration. Likewise, exercise may not be the first thing you feel like doing but going for a brisk walk increases circulation, helping your body to expel toxins and getting blood and oxygen to your brain.
Of course, the best advice is to take steps to prevent a hangover! Don’t drink on an empty stomach and alternate each alcoholic drink with a soft drink or glass of water.