Over the Christmas period, we tend to drink more than usual. Research shows that almost two-thirds (61%) of people who drink alcohol in the UK over-indulge over the Christmas season more than they usually do.1
One in five (18%) people say they typically suffer more hangovers due to drinking more alcohol during this period.1
What is a hangover?
A hangover refers to a set of symptoms that comes as a consequence of drinking too much alcohol. The main symptoms include:2
- Feeling weak
- Dry mouth
- Head pain
- Aching muscles
- Stomach pain
- Light sensitivity
- Sound sensitivity
- Increased heart rate
- Increased blood pressure
Hangovers can differ from person to person and from time to time. The type of alcohol you consume, how much of it you consume and the health of your body at the time can all contribute to which symptoms you experience.
Hangovers and Gut Health
Alcohol can cause inflammation of the gut due to irritation of the gut lining.
This can lead to leaky gut syndrome, a condition in which the gut lining wears away, and bacteria, pathogens and even food particles can enter the bloodstream. This can cause unpleasant symptoms across the body, including loss of energy and brain fog.3
Alcohol can also cause disruption to circadian rhythms, which is heavily linked to gut health. This disruption can cause hangovers to feel far more intense. Circadian rhythms influence the microbes within the gut, and in turn, those gut microbes are essential to regulate circadian pathways.4
Changes in the gut when you consume alcohol are responsible for some of the illness you feel when you're hungover. Changes in the gut microbe during a night of drinking can cause the gut microbes to leak toxins known as LPS.
A study into the impact of alcohol found that those with high levels of LPS suffered the worst hangovers and had a spike in microbes that specifically attacked invading cells. This attack sets off an immune response, which can contribute to nausea, typical in a hangover.5
Which foods/drinks can help your gut when you're hungover?
If your hangovers are something you want to avoid this festive season, then fear not; there are lots of food and drinks that can help your gut cure a hangover.
Vitamin C can play an essential role in preventing your body from losing glutathione, a crucial antioxidant that helps your body remove alcohol from your system.
Glutathione levels decrease when you drink alcohol, so upping vitamin C intake can help to stabilise these glutathione levels and prevent a terrible hangover. Citrus fruits, in particular, oranges, are a great choice to boost your vitamin C intake.6
There’s a lot of truth in the health movement surrounding ginger shots; research has repeatedly indicated that ginger has anti-nausea effects, helping to stop you from feeling sick on a hangover.6
Most importantly, staying hydrated can have a positive effect on stopping a killer hangover. Alcohol is a diuretic, meaning you pee more frequently the more you drink and lose more water than usual.6
Replenishing those lost fluids with hydrating food and drinks can ensure you have enough fluid to keep your body functioning correctly. Water, low-fat milk, 100% fruit juice, caffeine-free teas and raw fruit and veg are all great sources of hydration.
Probiotics can help to ensure your intestinal lining is protected against wearing away by adding more good bacteria into the gut microbiome, stopping the toxins from leaking out into your bloodstream.
Probiotics can also benefit alcohol metabolism by altering the balance of the gut microbes and decreasing ethanol toxicity through regulating oxidative stress modulation, which helps hangover symptoms.7
If you are looking to reduce your hangovers, looking after your body and gut this Christmas and making sure you are putting the right things in your body can ensure your festive hangovers are more bearable.
If you’d like to cut down on drinking, here are some handy resources: