March 2019

How To Outsmart A Hangover

Tips and tricks from a Manhattan-based Naturopath.

Nothing turns a perfectly good day to charred rubble like an accidental hangover. And aren’t they all? We never plan to make our bodies hate us the next day. But there we find ourselves, languishing in a puddle of regret and self-loathing, fantasizing about Gatorade in a way that would make us blush on a hangover-free day.

Now that I’m a mom to an up-at-the-crack-of-dawn baby, my hangovers are few and far between. (For those of you on the other side, babies and hangovers go together like orange juice and toothpaste.) Still, as someone who spent her “party” years in NYC, my life experience with them is, let’s just say, extensive. Novelist Matt Haig once wrote, "If getting drunk was how people forgot they were mortal, then hangovers were how they remembered." I’ve gone through enough hangovers to know that I’m a like a sloth with an anxiety disorder while in the throes of one. Don’t get me wrong: I still drink…I just do it smartly. Of course, moderation is key. But there are also specific tips and tricks to ensure your night-before imbibing doesn’t destroy your day-after activities. Enter Dr. Penelope McDonnell—a Manhattan-based Naturopath who taught me the true secrets to cocktailing sans hangover. 

 “Alcohol by definition is a toxin,” says Dr. McDonnell. “That being said, there are less toxic alcoholic drinks than others—those with the fewest pesticides and additives, which are usually added to lengthen shelf life or modify taste.” Before meeting Dr. McDonnell, worrying about additives in my alcohol wasn’t even on my radar. Now that I know, it’s been life-changing. So what’s the tip? “Organic, gluten-free vodka,” insists Dr. McDonnell. “Any cocktail with that as its base would be a start.” Staying away from any inflammatory sugary mixes is also important. If you can sip—I repeat, sip—a clean vodka on the rocks, your chances of waking up foggy diminish dramatically. 

I used to think wine was the most innocuous of cocktail choices. But don’t be fooled by this understated favorite. “I hear the loudest complaints from wine drinkers,” says Dr. McDonnell. “There are so many additives and preservatives, and the headaches can be fierce!” The one exception? If the wine is organic and sulfite-free. In these instances, “the complaints are much less.” 

Water, food, and supplements are your friends. Remember: It’s not just the bad stuff you put in your body, but the good stuff you neglect to put in it that can bring on a hangover. “Hydrate, don’t drink on an empty stomach, take digestive enzymes, and pop an aspirin before bed to reduce inflammation,” insists Dr. McDonnell. She recommends aspirin over other NSAIDS because “it appears to do less damage to the liver, kidney, and digestion than the others.” 

“I recommend weekend drinking (or less) to my patients,” says Dr. McDonnell. “Daily alcohol intake is a burden on the liver and digestion. I see this clinically through my patient's blood work and abdominal ultrasounds, and it can trigger all sorts of digestive and immune problems.” The interesting result of drinking less is that, over time, we genuinely want to drink less. That clean feeling is a better buzz than an alcohol-induced one. “My healthier patients who have worked hard to detox, exercise, and eat right notice that they really start to hate how they feel when they have a drink, says Dr. McDonnell. “So they gradually stop--or limit significantly--their intake.” 

While giving up drinking altogether may not be the ultimate goal for many of us, being armed with this knowledge will at least help you avoid the common pitfalls of careless cocktailing. Now go out there and have some good cleanish fun.

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