Four health experts give their prescription for how to prevent a hangover
After weeks of parties, you're facing into New Year's Eve - and the dreaded morning after. Katie Byrne asks the health experts for their prescription.
Opt out of ‘rounds’ culture if you want to avoid a hangover, says GP Jennifer Grant
“We have this awful rounds culture in Ireland, so on a night out you can suddenly realise that you’ve had 10 or 12 drinks. It’s common sense, then, to slow down and drink water in between, or sneak in a sparkling water or a soft drink when it’s your round and everyone else is getting vodkas.
“Alcohol takes a toll on the bladder. It’s a diuretic, so it has the same effect as caffeine in that it squeezes the bladder muscles and leaves it irritated. You might not have even had a great volume of alcohol, but you will find that you’ll pee a lot more.
“The hangover cure is to rehydrate, while a supplement of vitamin C and the B vitamins is really good to get you back on track. Most people will reach for a painkiller like paracetamol or a codeine product that gives them the caffeine hit. If you’re taking an anti-inflammatory painkiller like ibuprofen or aspirin, make sure to eat first.
“There is an idea out there that you shouldn’t drink while taking antibiotics and, of course, common sense, you shouldn’t drink as much. However, only a few antibiotics react with alcohol, the main one being metronidazole — brand name Flagyl — which is prescribed for UTIs or tummy infections like gastroenteritis. You can still have a few drinks with Augmentin, Moxicillin or Klacid.
“It’s all about tolerance too. If somebody is used to drinking 14 to 20 units a week and they start drinking 25 to 30 over the festive season, they’re probably not going to be as badly affected with a hangover. However, somebody who has been training for a marathon who then suddenly goes crazy on New Year’s Eve is going to notice that their tolerance is way down, and they’ll possibly have a black-out if they don’t watch it.
“I tell my patients to eat a main evening meal before they go out, and to try not to drink more than six units. Of course, most people guffaw when you tell them to try to keep it within those limits...”
Dr Jennifer Grant is a GP with the Beacon HealthCheck screening programme at the Beacon Hospital
Drink a pint of milk before you go to bed, says nutritionist Orla Walsh
“Eat slow-release foods like milk, yoghurt and cheese before you go out. These foods are high in a protein called casein. Casein reacts with stomach acids and forms a gel, which releases energy really slowly. If you add in soluble fibre like chia seeds, oats and linseeds, this effect is increased, plus you’ll feel fuller for even longer.
“Drink a coffee between the first drink and second drink: not only will that reduce your intake by one drink, but the caffeine will give you a false sense of energy so you’ll be less reliant on drinking alcohol for energy, which some people do on a night out. And then drink water between the second drink and third drink to stay hydrated.
“Limit fizzy alcoholic drinks, whether it’s champagne or tonic water with your vodka and lime. It’s true that these can go straight to the head because the bubbles increase the speed of absorption for some people. Darker drinks like brandy and whiskey contain a higher level of chemicals called congeners, which actually make hangovers worse. So if you’re going for a nightcap, make it a clear one.
“Drink a pint of milk when you get home. Milk is actually more hydrating than water, according to the Beverage Hydration Index. An oral rehydration solution, such as Dioralyte, is also more hydrating than water. However, you can make up your own by mixing a litre of water with six level teaspoons of sugar and a half level teaspoon of salt. Leave a glass of it by your bedside and drink it down to reduce the ill-effects of the hangover.
“The next day, drink milk or the oral rehydration solution upon waking and avoid caffeine if your tummy is acting a little funny. Avoid the rashers, sausage and pudding as they will dehydrate you further, but say yes to the beans, toast, eggs, mushrooms and tomatoes. These foods provide fibre and protein, which will slow down the release of the carbohydrate from the beans and toast, keeping your blood sugar levels a little more stable. And avoid the hair of the dog: alcohol the next day won’t help matters — it will just make it worse.”
THE RESPONSIBLE DRINKING EXPERT
Use a measuring cup if you’re drinking at home, says Dr Liam Twomey
“People are often not aware of how much they are drinking, particularly if alcohol is consumed at home. Drinkaware’s latest research found that only 2pc to 3pc of Irish adults correctly identified the low-risk weekly alcohol guidelines for men or women.
“The festive season can often involve more gatherings with family and friends with more opportunities to drink and celebrate at home. However, there are some simple steps you can take to reduce your alcohol consumption during the festive season, such as:
• Alternating each drink with a glass of water to reduce the dehydration associated with alcohol
• Never top up your wine glass — always finish one glass before refilling so you can keep track of exactly how much you are consuming
• Select a lower-alcohol beer and wine if you do drink
• Avoid rounds — you may end up drinking more than you intended
• Use a standard drink measure such as our Standard Drink Measuring Cup, and never free-pour spirits.
“Our Standard Drink Measuring Cup makes it easier for people to understand their drinking habits and provides an easy way to proactively manage their drinking. I would encourage everyone to order one of the free cups from drinkaware.ie to ensure that they stay within the recommended low-risk guidelines of 11 standard drinks per week for women, and 17 for men.”
Dr Liam Twomey is the chief medical officer with Drinkaware
Late-night eating can lead to dull, puffy skin, says consultant dermatologist Caitriona Ryan
“Alcohol is a diuretic, dehydrating the entire body, including the skin, which produces a dry, dull complexion with more noticeable fine lines, wrinkles and pores. The most important step to reverse these changes is hydration, both by drinking fluids and by external hydration of the skin with intensive moisturisers.
“Creams and serums containing hyaluronic acid can rapidly replenish dry skin. Dilation of the blood vessels by alcohol can also cause redness and puffiness of the skin, particularly in those who suffer from rosacea, the ‘curse of the Celts’. Moisturisers that contain niacinamide can be of particular help to reduce the redness and flares of rosacea after alcohol binges.
“Of course, prevention is key — taking off make-up and moisturising before going to bed can mitigate some of the effects of alcohol on the skin. Drinking water between alcoholic drinks can also help to rehydrate the skin.
“Choose your drink wisely! Avoiding drinks with high sugar content can help prevent flares of acne. Red wine in moderation can be a good choice as it contains anti-oxidants such as resveratrol which combat oxidative stress and ageing of the skin. And avoid late night or hangover food with high salt content which will dehydrate the skin further and cause more puffiness of the skin.”