Many of us have a similar resolution each year. Eat healthier, lose weight, exercise, and so on. If you are like me, shorter days, colder weather and the holidays may temporarily derail your best intentions of sticking with an overall healthy diet. For some of us, this may mean drinking a few too many or eating holiday foods that trigger headaches, gas, bloating (or all three).
I get it!
It’s hard to be socially and emotionally complex human and still make ideal dietary choices 100 percent of the time. Perhaps we shouldn’t even make this the goal. and while, I’m a firm believer in sticking to a nutritious diet to support my health, I’m also realistic enough to know that eating “perfectly” is not practical or fulfilling. However, I do like to minimize the negative effects of overindulging.
So what do you do when your mood is depressed, your digestion is impaired and your overall energy is sapped? Is there a way to ease the misery? I think there are a few options that might help for you.
Let’s consider our gut bacteria or microbiome (one of my favorite subjects)
Did you know that the bacteria that live in our gut might impact how quickly a person recovers from a hangover whether it’s from alcohol or food?
There are a number of reasons people feel bad after over-imbibing alcohol or some foods. For one, alcohol is a diuretic, which can lead to dehydration. Food intolerances or allergies can also produce this same effect. Overindulging can lead to fluctuations in electrolytes like sodium, potassium, chloride and blood sugar levels that contribute to fatigue, nausea and headache. In addition, most people don’t sleep well after an evening of drinking or overeating which can affect our circadian rhythms by disrupting neurotransmitters such as serotonin and melatonin.
Inside the body, alcohol is metabolized into various products that may play a role in the unpleasant symptoms of a hangover. Initially, it’s broken down into acetaldehyde and then to acetate. Acetate is completely non-toxic. It’s the intermediate product acetaldehyde that triggers many of the symptoms associated with a hangover. Plus, not everyone breaks down alcohol to acetate quickly. If they’re a “slow metabolizer,” acetaldehyde can hang around longer leading to a more severe hangover.
Another factor to consider is that alcohol consumption can hinder digestion through decreasing the secretion of digestive enzymes from your pancreas. Enzymes break down the food we eat and turn them into the building blocks our body can use to repair itself and be healthy. Alcohol as well as food allergies/sensitivities irritate the lining of the stomach, increasing acid production. This can lead to inflammation of the stomach lining, a condition known as gastritis. Alcohol also appears to alter gut bacteria in a way that could increase the risk for alcohol-related problems such as liver disease.
But the good news is that a recent study shows it only takes a few days to effect substantial change in our gut bacteria population. While our gut bacteria are amazingly adaptable, that holiday binge might not be doing it any favors. Help replenish your healthy gut environment with a good probiotic supplement (You can order from me direct) or consuming probiotic-rich foods. People with a healthy, balanced gut, and good levels of friendly bacteria may be able to better handle overindulgences, than those people with depleted probiotic colonies.
Here’s are some specific tips/tricks for an easier or less painful recovery:
Consume probiotic-rich foods and/or beverages. Personally I find beverages more appealing the day after when my body is recovering, but eating fermented veggies or sauerkraut are also good choices.
- Water kefir or dairy kefir to ease digestive symptoms and help “move things along.” Both of these beverages are rich in beneficial enzymes and microbes to restore and encourage healthy digestion. Choose plain or low sugar options.
- A Farmhouse Culture Gut Shot: Sauerkraut juice can help with inflammation, rebalancing minerals, ease digestive discomfort and support beneficial microbes for your immune system. This tonic is brimming with the Lactobacillus family.
- Ginger kombucha: I find the added ginger especially soothing and just what my body seems to crave after overdoing it.
- Beet Kvass: Another great tonic to support your liver and help with digestion.
Take a magnesium foot bath. This is a great way to boost detox and restore your body’s tissue magnesium levels that often take a big hit after overdoing. Magnesium chloride flakes are a better option than Epsom salts (magnesium sulfate) for rebuilding of tissue stores of magnesium in the body. But Epsom salts are fine in a pinch. Dr. Marcus Sircus says, “For purposes of cellular detoxification and tissue purification, the most effective form of magnesium is magnesium chloride, which has a strong excretory effect on toxins and stagnant energies stuck in the tissues of the body, drawing them out through the pores of the skin. Chloride is required to produce a large quantity of gastric acid each day and is also needed to stimulate starch-digesting enzymes.” This sounds like the perfect fit since so many holiday foods and alcohol are high in sugar and starch. Magnesium chloride is easily assimilated and metabolized by the human body.
Magnesium baths can be very relaxing and rejuvenating. It’s really best to round out the baths with a broad spectrum of minerals and not just magnesium alone. I use magnesium chloride flakes, baking soda and either sea salt or Himalayan pink salt.
Try this recipe: Add 1/3 cup magnesium chloride flakes, 1/3 cup baking soda and and 1/3 cup sea salt (or Himalayan salt) to a small basin large enough to get both of your feet into. Add water hot enough to dissolve the salts. Stir. Add enough water at a temperature you tolerate to just to cover the top of your feet. Soak for about 20 minutes.
Sip herbal tea. Chamomile can relax your nerves and your digestive tract, while peppermint or ginger can soothe an upset stomach. Try infusing some hot water with fresh grated ginger or fresh peppermint leaves. Tea bags are fine too but I find that using fresh ingredients is more soothing and tastes better.
Use activated charcoal if you are feeling bloated, gassy, nauseous or experiencing diarrhea. Activated charcoal will bind up toxins irritating your system. This is readily available at most health-food stores and pharmacies. By soaking up toxins in your digestive tract, activated charcoal can help keep your gut bacteria happy and give you a more restful night’s sleep. Note: Do not take it with any medications or supplements, as they will also bind with them and eliminate them through your digestive tract.
Activated charcoal doesn’t bind very well to alcohol, and studies have shown a minimal impact on blood alcohol content. However, charcoal can help your body get rid of the mold toxins and other hangover-causing additives found in beer and other alcoholic drinks. Chasing a suspect meal with a capsule or two of activated charcoal is a great way to head off an unpleasant “food coma” and stay alert, even when you can’t find any diet-friendly dishes being offered.
Take a walk. A slow, low-impact exercise like walking aids gastric emptying and can stimulate lymph glands to help your body detox and restore.
After overdoing it, give your body a break and avoid sugar, caffeine and processed foods. It might be a good time to take a bit of a food break and keep it simple with bone broth, tea, cooked veggies and a bit of healthy protein.
And finally: Take a nap or go to bed early. Sleep is a great way to give your body a chance to do some clean up and restore you to your natural vibrant self.
 The Gastrointestinal Microbiome: Alcohol Effects on the Composition of Intestinal Microbiota.
 DNA Fingerprinting of Lactic Acid Bacteria in Sauerkraut Fermentations