10 SEP 2019: Rumour has it that humans are allergic to alcohol and that’s why we get drunk. That’s actually not true. Sure, the odd person may actually have a true allergy to alcohol but that’s totally different from the headache and room-spinning nausea that we’re talking about here.

Maybe you remember the Montreal Bachelorette experience I wrote about back in July… I was celebrating their wedding last weekend. I woke up on Sunday morning feeling worse than I have in a very, very long time.

After researching what happens in your body to result in a hangover, I read a recent study that concluded you just had way too much to drink. In all seriousness, here is a little backstory on what happens when we consume alcohol.

We have a built-in system to process alcohol, but the rule of thumb is that it takes about an hour for us to process the amount of alcohol in a standard drink. So, if the tequila shots are flowing at the taco bar on the beach in Mexico, you run the risk of hitting the floor before you can ask for another, por favor. Once in your blood stream, alcohol passes through the liver where an enzyme (ADH, alcohol dehydrogenase) is produced to break it down to eliminate it - primarily through your urine.

Fun fact though, there is a secondary enzyme that comes in as back up, but typically only when alcohol levels are creeping a little too high. Having said that, with consistent alcohol consumption, the activity of this support pathway increases. So, when someone talks about building up a tolerance for alcohol, this is what that refers to. The body is really so amazing!

A few too many tequila shots or cervezas overwhelm your liver’s ability to process and eliminate them and you wake up in the morning and your head feels like a swollen maraca. What the heck happened?

While I can’t explain the embarrassing photos on your phone, I can help you understand why you’re feeling like you’ve been hit by a bus.

Firstly, water is used in the enzymatic breakdown of alcohol. Mom was right, if you don’t drink enough water while you’re out living la vida loca, your body has to scrounge the necessary water molecules from somewhere else. One of the most uncomfortable places it comes from is the membrane that encases our brain which actually shrinks as a result of this water donation. This added pressure is what plays a large role in the pounding headache.

Secondly, alcohol is very inflammatory. Where there is inflammation, there is usually pain or discomfort. This is where the Advil comes in handy as it literally cools the inflammation in the body to help make you feel like a human being again. Unfortunately, most over the counter pain meds are very hard on your liver and are not something you want to be taking on a regular basis.

But if it’s too late, and the good times have rolled a little too hard, all hope is not lost. Of course, nothing beats a good rest and lots of hydration to allow your brain to return to its regular size, but if you need to expedite this process here’s my go to (and it’s not more alcohol!).

Make a drink with coconut water, a squeeze of lemon juice, ½ tsp ground turmeric, 1 tbsp unrefined oil (olive or coconut work well) and black pepper.

It may sound like a strange combination but hear me out. The hydration power of coconut water is magnified by the electrolytes naturally present inside, so using this over regular water is key. The turmeric is anti-inflammatory which can provide you with the headache relief you desperately seek. The fat from the oil and the black pepper skyrocket your body’s ability to absorb and use curcumin within the turmeric, so they’re essential to the efficacy of this remedy. Lastly, a squeeze of lemon will help with taste and also supporting liver function while adding to the electrolyte content.

Peppermint essential oil is anti-inflammatory and cooling which makes for a soothing topical application. I dilute a few drops into a spot of coconut oil before applying to my temples and the base of my neck to help alleviate headaches (alcohol induced or otherwise!).

Someone once told me that the hangover lasts 24 hours, but the memories last a lifetime. Life is meant to be lived and it is up to each of us to decide what that looks like. If your good times result in a hangover, look no further than to this drink to support your body in recovery. Cheers to that!

author

Sabrina Santer

Sabrina Santer uses her academic and holistic nutrition background to share insight and inform readers on travel wellness tips and healthy eating around the world. A witty sense of humour sprinkles her work as proof that healthy need not be boring. 

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