Want to know WHY hangovers happen? Ethanol is converted into a toxic compound called acetaldehyde during the first phase of alcohol metabolism. In the second phase, acetaldehyde has to be tagged for excretion from the body as the water-soluble molecule acetic acid. This second phase is slow and prolonged though, and the resultant buildup of acetaldehyde is one aspect of what brings about the dreaded hangover feeling. Other than ethanol, drinks include other alcohols such as methanol which breaks down into toxic formaldehyde and formic acid, further contributing to hangover severity, all couples with the very dehydrating effects of of alcohol as a diuretic (increases urine production)
With Canada Day, The 4th of July, and a beautiful summer coming up, it is incredibly important to be prepared to counteract these mechanisms and beat the dreaded morning after. So how do we go about doing this?
Step 1: Pre-Tox
Alcohol depletes a wide array of nutrients from your body - Vitamin B1, B6, B12, folic acid, zinc, magnesium, etc - all leading to discomfort, exhaustion, and anxiety and other symptoms the next day. Having foods rich in these vitamins ahead of the time is a great strategy to help lessen the effects of depletion.
Spirulina and chlorella are my 2 favourite ingredients for this purpose and in general. These two super greens are often mentioned with one another & used interchangeably but in fact, come with unique benefit profiles
𝐒𝐩𝐢𝐫𝐮𝐥𝐢𝐧𝐚 is a Cyanobacteria & part of the Kingdom Protista. It has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity and in doing so prevent overeating & curb cravings. Good quality Spirulina contains 70% complete protein - making It the most protein-rich food on the planet! It also has a high protein efficiency ratio (PER) meaning its protein is more absorbable than say animal protein for example. 4x more absorbable in fact. A study in the International Journal of Food Sciences & Nutrition found that even 1 tsp of Spirulina led to “improved mental & physical performance” & beat brain fog in regular consumers.
𝐂𝐡𝐥𝐨𝐫𝐞𝐥𝐥𝐚, on the other hand, is a green algae and rich in chlorophyll, beta carotene, B12, iron, calcium, & more. Chlorella is a go-to for detoxification of the GIT, liver & kidneys. It prevents the absorption of toxins from food into the bloodstream, & cleanses the toxins already present in the body. It even helps restore the microbiome.
And BOTH are incredible for your hair, skin & nails! Even during pregnancy! Studies found Chlorella, in particular, to help with oedema in pregnancy, but if you have any concerns, consult your physician before taking it!
My favourite sources of of these are:
Teami Greens Superfood Powder, available here: Global link
(You can also use code MASHAL25 or MASHAL20 at checkout for a 25% or 20% discount respectively)
Since you may not have these ingredients on hand, another good option is curcumin, the active compound in turmeric. Curcumin is nearly identical in structure to aspirin making it so effective in treating both the cause and the symptoms of a hangover. However, curcumin has poor bioavailability, meaning it is difficult for the body to use it after ingesting turmeric. You can increase its bioavailability by taking it with healthy fat and black pepper. I know this sounds like a peculiar concoction but try it - mix one teaspoon of turmeric with some ghee or coconut oil and black pepper and take it at the end of your night before bed. If you wake up in the morning feeling under the weather despite this, repeat the process in the morning and you’ll find your lingering hangover symptoms quickly resolved.
Step 2: Prepare your stomach
You’ve all heard this before, ‘never drink on an empty stomach’. Why? Because alcohol gets so easily absorbed through your stomach into your bloodstream and a full stomach slows this process so the effects of alcohol aren’t experienced so quickly.
The best things to eat in preparation though are not bread or convenience snacks that usually line tables, but rather, good protein. This could mean a nice grilled chicken salad, some shrimp skewers, a loaded Buddha bowl with baked chickpeas, a chia pudding, yogurt, protein shake (casein preferentially), etc. Gorging on fatty, carby snacks will help soak up the alcohol, but you’ll feel 10 times worse with this combination than the former.
Step 3: Skip Caffeine Day Of
Caffeine is so dehydrating that it takes x cups of water to restore the hydration depleted by one cup of coffee. On top of that, it puts extra strain on your liver so skip your morning cup if you’re planning on drinking later on in the day so your liver can at be at optimal capacity to filter.
Step 4: Morning After
Sleep as much as possible so that your body has time to rest and recover, but once you’re up, starting the replenishment process carefully - in other words, don’t dive towards the big, greasy breakfast you think you want.
Hydrate with water first and foremost, then replenish your gut microbiome with kombucha, kimchi, sauerkraut, or another probiotic of your choice and drink a giant green juice of...you guessed it, spirulina and chlorella. Alcohol throws off your gut flora and leaves you with uneasy, queasy sensations, so the sooner you can replenish this, along with your depleted minerals and vitamins, the better you will feel. In fact, this is why Caesars are touted as hangover cures! The tomato juice is packed with antioxidants, phytonutrients (beta carotene, zeaxanthin, lutein), lycopene, and more to aid digestion, heal toxicity in your body, and keep you in good health. If your caesar contains clam juice this doubles the benefits of the drink with its content of selenium, manganese, riboflavin, copper, phosphorus, and a rich amino acid profile to help rebuild your body after a long night. And finally, take a walk. Doing some light movement or exercise after a bug night will help your lymphatic drainage, stretch out your achy body, and get you some vitamin D ideally.
However you choose to celebrate, be kind to your body and don't ask it to stretch its healing mechanisms too far. It is resilient but the compounded effects of many indulgences are bound to catch up to you. Replenish it before and after, go easy on the pace of things, and make sure you're listening to its needs especially if that means keeping celebrations lighter. Always, drink responsibly.