Eggnog Martini? Candy Cane Cocktail? Cran-tini? Along with food, alcohol also seems to make itself available at every event in December. Let’s be clear, in no way am I encouraging your cocktail consumption. However, ’tis the season to cheers…a lot.

So! This week we’ve brought back the lovely Marnie Luck, naturopathic doctor, to give us a comprehensive look at the affects of alcohol on your body, your health and your holistic well-being.

What is the best way to avoid a hangover?

(Truth bomb!) Not to drink. That being said, let’s explore alcohol’s effects on the body, and ways we can enjoy celebratory sips responsibly and mitigate holiday hangover symptoms.

What are hangover symptoms? (A friendly reminder of what we’ve all tried to forget…)

  • Fatigue, weakness and thirst
  • Headache and muscle aches
  • Nausea, vomiting and stomach pain
  • Decreased sleep
  • Vertigo and sensitivity to light and sound
  • Decreased attention and concentration
  • Depression, anxiety and irritability
  • Tremor, sweating and increased pulse and systolic pressure

What are the direct effects of alcohol? What can we do to help the body?

Dehydration and Electrolyte Imbalance

  • Alcohol causes the body to increase urinary output (diuretic) by inhibition of antidiuretic hormone. 4 drinks (50 gm of alcohol in 250 ml) causes the urinary output of 600-1000ml. Sweating, vomiting and diarrhea during a hangover exacerbate dehydration.
  • Help your body by drinking a glass of water between each drink.

Gastrointestinal Disturbances

  • Alcohol irritates the stomach lining leading to inflammation. Alcoholic drinks like beer and whiskey (often bitter in quality) increases the production of stomach acid and digestive enzymes- leading to heartburn and gut rot.
  • Help your body by consuming food when having alcoholic drinks.

Disruption of Sleep and Biological Rhythms

  • Alcohol induced sleep may be of shorter duration and poorer quality because of rebound excitation that occurs when blood alcohol levels drop.
  • The body is used to having a depressant- the alcohol in its system and when that depressant is taken away one experiences sweating, anxiety, palpitations and disturbed sleep.
  • Help your body by discontinuing alcohol intake about 3 hours before you intend to go to bed.

More comprehensive approaches to hangover alleviation exist- including nutrient IV therapy, targeted supplementation and hepatoprotective (liver supportive) herbal medicine. But you will have to talk to your ND about those options!

This holiday, we’ll be toasting to you (and you, and you!),

Dr. Marnie Luck, ND, is a licensed naturopathic doctor with a special interest in digestive issues, women’s health (menstrual concerns, fertility and perinatal care), men’s health, weight management and skin concerns.

She is currently accepting new patients at her Toronto-based practice at Bloor and Bathurst. Marnie’s services are covered by most health benefit plans. Visit Marnie’s website to learn more about her practice or book an appointment.

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