Drinking and Making Merry

 This time of the year, over-indulgence is a popular topic. You can find plenty of magazine articles with tips on how to not over-eat at holiday parties, how to not over-spend on presents, and how to not get over-stressed about the holiday chaos. But I don’t often see any articles about how to avoid drinking too much and/or how to deal with the consequences of drinking too much. (For the purpose of this post I’m going to stick to the symptomatic consequences of the dreaded hangover since I am not a psychologist and the other possible consequences of drinking too much require a much lengthier and more in depth examination.) In this blog post, I’d like to talk about nausea. And headaches. And feeling like a wrinkly, parched raisin that someone pulled out from the couch cushions.

If you wake up after your holiday celebration and wonder how did this happen? Here are some tidbits from the Mayo Clinic that will demystify the hangover:

• Alcohol causes your body to produce more urine. In turn, urinating more than usual can lead to dehydration — often characterized by thirst, dizziness and lightheadedness.
• Alcohol triggers an inflammatory response from your immune system. In particular, your immune system may trigger certain agents that commonly produce certain symptoms, such as an inability to concentrate, memory problems, decreased appetite and loss of interest in usual activities.
• Alcohol irritates the lining of your stomach. It increases the production of stomach acid and delays stomach emptying. Any of these factors can cause abdominal pain, nausea or vomiting.
• Alcohol can cause your blood sugar to fall. If your blood sugar dips too low, you may experience fatigue, weakness, shakiness and mood disturbances, even seizures.
• Alcohol causes your blood vessels to expand, which can lead to headaches.
• Alcohol can make you sleepy, but your quality of sleep will decrease. This may leave you groggy and fatigued.
• Alcoholic beverages contain ingredients called congeners,which give many types of alcoholic beverages their flavor and which can contribute to hangovers. Congeners are found in larger amounts in dark liquors, such as brandy and whiskey, than in clear liquors, such as vodka and gin.

And then there is the Liver. Everything that is digested must then pass on to the liver for clearance, but the liver can only process so much at a time. The sensation of being drunk is called intoxication because it is just that: toxins circulating in the bloodstream because the liver is working overtime and can’t keep up. Don’t worry, I am not about to launch into any sort of rant about the evils of drinking alcohol! In fact, I am here to suggest that there a few things you can do to support your body through the holiday drinking. The truth is that people will indulge, and I’m a practical person that likes to help people in need. So if you plan on indulging, or are reading this already hungover, you need this advice. (I assuming if you are reading this blog, you are interested in health and may occasionally over-indulge. I am not trying to make light of alcoholism or suggest that if you do what I recommend it will negate the serious effects of alcoholism. That is a separate issue and requires medical attention.)

So, if you are like me and are very sensitive to alcohol but would like to have a glass or two, here are my go-to recommendations:

- A liver support formula like LIVER by New Roots, or a similar one containing milk thistle
- A good quality multivitamin (will help with phase I detoxification pathway of the liver)
- Coconut water (will help supply electrolytes to address dehydration)
- Eggs (contains the amino acids necessary for phase II detoxification pathway of the liver)

These things can be taken before drinking as well as the morning after to show your liver and body some tender loving care.
However, I can also tell you after refraining from alcohol for almost 8 years, that I could take it or leave it. If I find myself in a situation like a holiday party where most people are drinking, I will drink sparkling water with lemon or lime (maybe even in a wine glass). We are social animals, and it is normal to want to fit in, to feel togetherness- sometimes these things get mixed up with the way we consume food and drink. But don’t feel bad about not drinking! If you are hosting, make some pretty pomengranate ice cubes and add sparkling water with a shot of elderberry syrup. It looks and drinks like a cocktail! If you are in a situation where you are asked why you are not drinking, and have a reason you wouldn’t like to share you can always default to: I’m just finishing up a cleanse. No one in Victoria will even bat an eyelash.

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