...no, this blog post is not about the famous comedy, nor is it about its 2011 sequel. This post is about hangovers that are experienced after a night of drinking.
While I haven't learned directly about hangovers this past year at CCNM, I did learn a lot about detoxification and alcohol. Based on my teachings so far, I believe that the feelings with a hangover are the mostly the result of dehydration and toxicity. Here's my hypothesis: alcohol dehydrates and introduces a lot of toxins to the body. Without enough water to solubilize the toxins and flush them out, the toxins linger and make the body feel "yucky".
Now why do all of the hangover symptoms occur the next day, after the body has slept a bit? My thought is that during sleep, detoxification occurs. The body tries to eliminate all of the new toxins; nevertheless without proper hydration, the body prepares the toxins for removal, but has no water to clear them out. Thus they linger, causing nausea, mental fog, tiredness, and headaches.
The interesting thing about detoxification is that is mostly happens during sleep and when the body is not eating. As a result, a detox can be broken by introducing some food (the digestive tract digests if there is food and detoxes if there isn't). On the topic of digestion, it is interesting to mention that of all the macromolecules (carbohydrates, protein, fat, and to a lesser extent, alcohol), fat takes the longest to digest (note: protein ranks second). Knowing this fact and the one that a detox (and its "yucky" symptoms) is broken with food, is probably why so many hangover suffers feel better after indulging in a greasy breakfast. The food stopped their detox and the fatty bacon provides lots of fat and protein to digest, keeping detoxification at bay.
Although it may do the trick, this "greasy breakfast" solution is not ideal because it merely covers up the symptoms and does not address the root cause of the hangover feelings, such as dehydration, lack of sleep, and toxic overload. A more naturopathic approach would be to sleep as long as possible (to encourage a deep detox), eat highly nutritious foods the next day, and drink tons of water (roughly one 250 mL glass for every alcoholic drink ingested), making sure to include some electrolytes too. Examples of healthy electrolyte rich drinks are listed here (no Gatorade!).
My substitution for the typical "hangover breakfast" is simple and provides the body with an instant boost of nutrition: a smoothie! Hangover smoothies are great because they tend to be easy to stomach when feeling otherwise queasy, the provide some hydration, they boost electrolyte levels and the immune system, and allow the body to easily absorb the contained nutrition because everything is liquified, and they don't interrupt detoxification very much as little digestion has to occur as the blender already broken everything down. Hooray for food as medicine!
The Flexible Hangover Smoothie
1 packed cup of greens (kale, spinach, arugula, romain lettuce, parsley) ...by blending the greens their cell walls get crushed and their nutrients are released, making it easier to absorb.
1 scoop protein powder or 3 tablespoons seeds (hemp, pumpkin, sunflower) ...for restoration and satiety.
1 tablespoon flax seeds or 1 teaspoon flax oil ...to absorb the fat-soluble vitamins found in the greens and to boost brain repair with some omega-3s.
1 banana ...for a boost of potassium, an important electrolyte.
1/2 cup frozen berries, mango, melon, or pineapple ...for a boost of immune building vitamin C and antioxidants.
1 cup (or more) water ...more hydration!
A wee pinch of salt ...just a teeny bit, to restore sodium and chloride electrolytes.
Blend all ingredients and drink up; the body will thank you for it! Remember to drink cold (this helps with absorption and will make the drink nice and refreshing).
In addition to the science behind hangovers, I found this article that breaks down the symptoms associated with hangovers and offers an explanation for each. I am not sure how accurate this article is, but it seems to be based on general knowledge about the body's physiology.