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Dr Philippa shares tips for preventing hangovers

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Having a few drinks at Christmas is, for some people, as much a part of the festive tradition as presents, q10 and lipitor decorations and carols. So, if you find yourself nursing a hangover on either Christmas Day or Boxing Day, you are not alone. Hangover symptoms can range from mild to severe and are often accompanied with a pounding headache. Dr Sarah Brewer, Healthspan Medical Director spoke exclusively to to offer her top tips to help avoid the dreaded hangover.

How your body handles alcohol is largely a product of genetics including who is more susceptible to the debilitating symptoms.

According to a 2008 review, roughly a quarter of the population do not get hangovers at all.

Other groups, particularly people from East Asia, have a genetic variant which makes it harder for them to metabolise acetaldehyde, so their hangovers are much worse.

Even if your genes allow you to drink your friends under the table, most of us are susceptible to hangovers the next day which often feel worse as we age.

READ MORE: Omicron: Two symptoms that come on ‘rapidly’ – not seen with a cold 

Dr Brewer’s top tips to help reduce your hangover the next day include:

Drink plenty of water

Alternate alcohol and non-alcoholic drinks and drink according to your size. Someone weighing eight-stone can only handle half as much alcohol as someone weighing 18-stone so don’t even try to keep up with heftier heavy drinkers. 

Stock up on hangover supplies. Globe artichoke and milk thistle are good for the liver, and lower cholesterol too. There are quite a few natural cures promoted as helping with hangovers but one to try is globe artichoke extract.  These supplements stimulate bile production and can help to relieve bloating and other symptoms of indigestion associated with alcohol consumption.

Take vitamin C and a high dose vitamin B complex which are needed to metabolise alcohol.

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Don’t start drinking on an empty stomach

We have all experienced this one, and it’s never a good idea. Drinking on an empty stomach causes a more rapid rise in blood alcohol levels, meaning you will quickly feel the effects.

It’s easy to do, especially if you’re going for drinks straight from work.

Try to eat something before hitting the bar, even if it’s a sandwich on route to the pub.

Alcohol is also an appetite stimulant, so lining your stomach with something solid may help you avoid the munchies, which will do little for your waistline. 

When asked what the worst offenders for drinks causing hangovers, Dr Brewer said: “Research shows that dark coloured drinks could make things a whole lot worse.

“Red wine and brown spirits contain a high level of compounds called congeners.

“These compounds are impurities produced during the fermentation process that contribute to the taste, aroma, and appearance of dark coloured drinks.

“Research published in the journal Forensic Science, Medicine and Pathology suggests that one of the reasons why congeners leave us feeling more hungover is because breaking them down competes with the breakdown of alcohol in the body.  

“This means that alcohol and its by-products are left to hang around in the body, making the symptoms of a hangover more severe.

“Congeners can also stimulate the release of stress hormones causing inflammatory responses in the body, resulting in fatigue and other symptoms associated with a hangover.”

Most are aware of the power of staying hydrated to avoid a hangover.

“Alcohol makes you pee more and this is one of the reasons why you become dehydrated when drinking which contributes to how rough you feel the following day,” added Dr Brewer.

She continued: “Alcohol blocks a hormone called vasopressin (antidiuretic hormone), which helps the body hold on to water.  

“Excess urination can lead to a more rapid loss of electrolytes such as sodium-potassium which help the body to maintain fluid balance.”


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