Ok, we all drink more at this time of year. But what can you do to protect yourself when you do indulge?
WHAT DOES ALCOHOL DO TO YOUR BODY?
In the long term…
too much alcohol over time can impact your health in several ways:
- Liver damage – it can increase your chances of developing liver cirrhosis.
- Blood pressure – it can raise your blood pressure, putting you at higher risk of stroke.
- Rosacea – if you’re prone to flushing, alcohol can eventually cause blood vessels in your skin to permanently enlarge and break.
- Depression and anxiety – because of the effects on your brain, it can cause low mood.
In the short term…
This pounding headache and sickness you get after a big night out is down to ethanol, a toxic substance in alcohol. It acts on the kidneys to make you pee more, so you lose fluid from your body fast and end up dehydrated – one of the main causes of hangover symptoms.
Alcohol also lowers production of vasopressin, a hormone that tells your body to hang on to water. It doesn’t make any difference whether you drink tequila shots or pints of beer – it’s not the volume of liquid that makes you pee more, but the diuretic effect of ethanol.
Take vitamin C and vitamin B complex before you drink and the next day, as both these vital nutrients are depleted by alcohol.
THE MORNING AFTER FEELING OF FEAR
Alcohol crosses the blood-brain barrier (which separates the blood from your brain), where it can affect behaviours linked to self-control, such as judgement, planning and reasoning.
That’s why something can seem a great idea at the time but fill you with regret the following day – once your brain is working normally again. It also explains why having a few drinks makes it harder to resist doing things you know you shouldn’t – from eating that greasy kebab to phoning your ex…
Did you know?
Hangovers are worse after 40 because the organs that deal with it, the liver and stomach, shrink slightly as you get older. Also, your blood becomes more concentrated, so the alcohol in your system is less diluted.
SMALL CHANGE, BIG DIFFERENCE
“Have at least two consecutive alcohol-free days every week,” advises consultant hepatologist Professor Ian Gilmore. This gives your liver a chance to recover and breaks the habit of drinking every day. Try the British Liver Trust’s Spruce app, to monitor your days off.
4 WAYS TO… HANGOVER-PROOF YOUR BODY
So, we’re unlikely to give up drinking for good, but there are a few ways you can help your body cope with the after-effects of booze…
- As dehydration is the main cause of hangover symptoms, drinking lots of non-alcoholic fluids is one of the best ways to feel better the morning after. Alternating an alcoholic drink with a soft drink – try fizzy water to keep your calorie count down – can help keep you hydrated and also slow down how fast you’re knocking back the vino.
- “Eating high-fat foods before drinking lines the stomach and slows the absorption of alcohol in the bloodstream,” says nutritional therapist Alison Cullen. “Choose a healthy meal, such as salmon with avocado and salad with olive oil.”
- Try the herb milk thistle to support your liver in processing alcohol. “Milk thistle can help to block toxins entering the liver and stimulate the production of new liver cells,” says Cullen. Try A. Vogel’s Milk Thistle Complex.
- A poached egg + granary toast + orange juice = your perfect morning-after breakfast. “The mix of protein and carbs helps balance your blood sugar, which sinks low after a blowout,” says Cullen. And the hydrating orange juice also puts back some depleted vitamin C.
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