We all have those experiences in life which we would prefer not to revisit, those “Been there, done that scenarios.” For me university the first time round falls under this heading. Those heady undergraduate days of….well less days and more blurry daylight moments, coming to around 4pm then continuing through the much less harsh twilight hours and well into the night…!
This isn’t to say that I didn’t thoroughly enjoy the 4 years I spent up in the frosty climes of Northern England, but rather if I was to attempt to repeat that time now I doubt I would survive! With hindsight (and a far greater understanding and respect for my body) I recoil from the flashbacks of the sheer quantity of alcohol I must’ve consumed over that period and send my poor old Liver a little cuddle and silent thanks for keeping on trucking through for me.
(Don’t worry this isn’t where I say we must never drink again, stick with me.)
In terms of optimal health it’s true that alcohol isn’t really our friend and there are certain instances where I would say that it really should be avoided. Any conditions related to poor liver function, autoimmunity, cancer, blood glucose issues, blood pressure, kidney disease or cardiovascular disease will be exacerbated by the extra burden alcohol places on the system. We are all human though so if you have one of these and just really want to raise that glass of champagne on a special occasion by all means do but make sure you’re giving your body everything it needs the rest of the time to mitigate the effects.
And thus we return to my running theme; life is to be lived and enjoyed, optimising our health through the best dietary choices possible allows us to revel in all the wonderful experiences out there, and if we have a drink or two along the way our detoxification systems will be primed and ready with all the components they need to get us back up and running again in no time.
So what are the mystical compounds that will stave off that groggy head and nauseous tummy the morning after? Read on and all shall be revealed……
Our Liver is our body’s filtration system, it takes everything we put into it (whether swallowed, inhaled or absorbed through the skin) and separates the nutrients that the body needs and prepares to dispose of metabolic waste, toxins and excess substances. Now he’s pretty great but there’s a lot of stuff floating around in our environment, dissolved in our water and present in many of the things we consume to be dealt with so making sure all the bits he needs are in good supply is a great way to keep everything ticking along nicely.
Foods that are particularly pals with our Livers are:
- Sulphur-rich foods: Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Garlic, Kale, Onions, Radishes, Watercress
- Green Leafy and Bitter vegetables: Artichokes, Aubergine, Beet Greens, Bitter melon, Chicory, Collard Greens, Dandelion Root, Endive, Kale, Mustard Greens, Parsley, Rocket, Spinach, Watercress
- Glutathione rich & glutathione increasing/preserving foods: Avocado, Asparagus, Walnuts, Milk Thistle, Cumin, Turmeric
- Vitamin C rich foods: Papaya, Peppers, Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Strawberries, Pineapple, Oranges, Kiwi, Tomatoes
- Colourful vegetables: Asparagus, Beetroot, Butternut Squash, Carrots, Celery, Courgettes, Fennel, Leeks, Mushrooms (especially ShIitake, Chestnut), Okra, Olives, Pak Choi, Peas, Rhubarb, Sprouts (e.g. Alfalfa, Broccoli, Radishes), Sugar Snaps, Sweet Potatoes, Swiss Chard, Turnips, Water Chestnuts
- Others: Tree nuts (almonds, cashews etc, not peanuts), Oats, Brown rice, Blueberries, Oily fish, Probiotic foods, Legumes, Pulses
Including a number of these into your diet on a daily basis will ensure that your Liver is functioning the best it can at all times which is imperative when it comes to steering clear of disease.
Just as an aside it’s important to remember that the Liver is not only responsible for detoxing harmful substances but also hormones. Reproductive issues and pathologies related to hormonal imbalance are becoming more prevalent in the modern day for a variety of reasons but making sure we are getting rid of both the ones we produce in the body, as well as those taken therapeutically, once they have done their work is crucial to prevent accumulation as this can result in a number of issues. Examples of such being:
- Excess oestrogen – PMS, anxiety, migraines, breast pain, lumps, heavy periods, weight gain on the hips, buttocks & thighs
- Excess testosterone – excess facial & body hair, greasy skin, acne, loss of hair from the scalp
- Insulin imbalance leading to metabolic syndrome, weight gain, fatty accumulations in the liver
So basically we should all look after our Livers all the time!
Now back to the topic of today. We’ve prepared our bodies as best we can and it’s time to go and have some fun.
The next consideration to bring to the party is the alcohol we choose to enjoy. Now I am a sucker for a good cocktail I must admit but within that list of enticing ingredients we do tend to find our old foe sugar, as syrups, agave, the granulated stuff, fruit juices, carbonated mixers or just within the actual spirits used. Try to choose blends that are free from such things (opting for artificially sweetened diet mixers is not a positive swap by the way!) flavoured with citrus juices and fizzy from soda water if you require a bubbly finish.
At the other end of the sippable spectrum is wine. Many will have heard of the benefits of red wine due to the antioxidant Resveratrol that is found within the grapes. This is indeed true and regular, low consumption has shown to be protective in some cases. The caveat here is like the majority of these healthful phytonutrients, Resveratrol is easily destroyed and found just under the skin of the grape so any spraying of the crop and you’ve lost it. A local small producer (following organic principles) or organic vineyard however will preserve the antioxidant component which can then go on to contribute to health promotion and relaxation at the end of a busy week.
Most importantly of all whatever you opt for keep yourself hydrated throughout the evening. For each alcoholic beverage you consume try to match it with a glass of water as this helps to flush everything out through the Liver and Kidneys. Part of the horrible ill feeling you have the next day is due to the accumulation of toxins in the bloodstream, fend this off at the pass however and you’re one step closer to a wool-less head come tomorrow morn.
You’ve done all that & it’s still not a good morning however……
OK so despite all your best (ish) endeavours the joys of spring have not sprung so how do we take that frown and turn it upside down? Well there are a few crucial things that your poor old bod is crying out for right now to get things back on track.
1. More water: That’s right first and foremost you’ve got to get your fluids waaaay back up. Alcohol is a diuretic which means you’ll have dehydrated without even realising it, plus alcohol plays with your temperature regulation so again this increases the amount of fluid you lose. That before we even get to the aforementioned toxins waiting to be diluted. So how much is enough? We’re talking 2 litres of the plain stuff, maybe with a bit of lime juice or fresh ginger to cut through any funny tummies. Coconut water is also great in addition to the plain 2 litres as it’s full of electrolytes which will be all over the place (they are the true party animals but with no staying power whatsoever 😉 ) give raw coconut water a try – my favourite is the newly re-branded Rebel Kitchen version (previously Unoco) or equally delicious Chi, both of which are available from Ocado, Waitrose, Planet Organic, Whole Foods & other independent health food stores or online.
2. B vitamins: Alcohol depletes the body of B’s whilst also increasing out requirement for them (nice ey!) as they are necessary for detoxing the alcohol in the Liver. So you can either grab a nice B vitamin supplement (consulting a practitioner beforehand to check for any contraindications!) or include some lovely grains, protein and a selection of veggies into your day.
3. Magnesium: Next up is our old friend the magnificent Magnesium. Again this marvellous mineral is depleted by alcohol and is known to contribute to that lovely headache you may be suffering from. Including Magnesium rich foods into your diet as a general point is a fab idea, but boosting those levels now with dark leafy greens, nuts, seeds, fish, beans, whole grains, avocados, yogurt, bananas, dried fruit and some raw cacao is a sensational idea. Soaking in Epsom salts is also a wonderful way to get those levels back up whilst also aiding a bit of liver detox at the same time. Winner.
4. Protein: Along with all its other guises protein is vital for our immune and detoxification systems – without it the Liver can’t work properly which is not what we want right now! Try and get some lovely lean protein in your brekkie/brunch – chicken, turkey, salmon, eggs, tofu, beans etc (see recipes below) or if you’re really struggling with the thought of eating whip up a protein shake and get all your Magnesium rich greens and antioxidant rich berries in there too.
5. Sulphur: Previously mentioned as a general Liver pal, this mineral is again vital for Liver function. So get snacking on some eggs, garlic, onions and those cruciferous veggies (broccoli, kale, cauliflower, cabbage, kohlrabi).
6. Veggie Juice: Even with great intentions you might be finding the thought of the above all just a little too much to handle so if you’re sticking to liquids for the time being try a super veggie juice with plenty of greens, beetroot, ginger & some turmeric to get those nutrients in, bolster your hydration and allow the room to stop spinning 😉
So that’s my idealised list of how to give yourself a helping hand the morning after. Even if you aren’t whipping up beetroot juices or protein shakes all I can say is try and avoid the junk food! Even though you may think it’s what your body wants, adding in extra sugar and processed fats just puts more strain on an already overburdened system lengthening the recovery process (not ideal!).
Below I have a few of my favourite cobweb brain busting recipes for you to try, these are not at all reserved for hungover days but just happen to fit the criteria (as I said though pre-arming your Liver is always the best policy). I hope they serve you well!
And if all else fails go to the sofa, cue Netflix and call your Mum 😉