Berlin. Abundant fine foods and drinks are part of the holidays. But stuffing oneself at Christmas and overindulging in alcohol on New Year’s Eve can have unpleasant consequences.
Fortunately there are various household remedies for hangovers, abdominal fullness and heartburn.
The most common symptoms of a hangover, which typically make themselves felt several hours after the person has stopped drinking, are thirst, a dry mouth, tiredness, a headache, nausea and vomiting.
“The body uses a lot of oxygen to break down alcohol, which is why headaches develop. So it helps to sleep with a window open after partying,” advised Maren Schmidt, a natural health professional at the Naturopathy Institute in Erfurt, Germany.
Another reason for discomfort the morning after drinking heavily is that alcohol and its decomposition products are toxic to the body’s cells, the Professional Association of German Internists (BDI) explains. Consuming hard liquor, in particular, puts more alcohol into the body than it can break down in a short time. To prevent headaches and nausea, the BDI recommends refraining from hard liquor and drinking slowly.
Partygoers can spare themselves morning–after complaints by drinking plenty of water between drinks. It is also a good idea for them to line their stomach beforehand with fatty, protein–rich foods.
“This slows downs the absorption of alcohol into the bloodstream,” Schmidt said.
Drinking a large glass of uncarbonated water before going to bed also has a preventative effect. “To compensate for lost minerals, it’s best to dissolve a magnesium tablet in it,” Schmidt said, referring to the electrolytes — also including potassium — that are eliminated through increased urination.
Partygoers who take precautions but wake up the next morning with a hangover anyway would do well to place a cold washcloth on their forehead. “This causes the blood vessels to contract” — counteracting alcohol’s effect on them — she pointed out. She also recommended rubbing peppermint oil or Tiger Balm on the bridge of the nose, which she said had a pleasant cooling effect.
“For headaches, an espresso with half of a squeezed lemon helps,” Schmidt said. Taking aspirin is inadvisable, however, because its acidity could cause nausea and irritate the hangover sufferer’s already over-acidified stomach.
A traditional antidote to a hangover is pickled herring, at least for those able to swallow it the morning after. It replenishes all of the important minerals that the body lost the previous evening.
People who find it hard to eat fish a day after over-partying can opt instead for vegetable soup, which serves the same purpose.
“The feeling of fullness after overeating can best be countered with a walk at a moderate to brisk pace,” remarked Manfred Vincent Singer, professor of medicine and founder of the Biomedical Alcohol Research Foundation in Mannheim, Germany.
In a study by the Mannheim Medical Faculty at Heidelberg University, a research team that included Singer concluded that despite popular belief, drinking a digestif such as brandy after a large meal did not diminish the feeling of abdominal fullness.
“Bitters even retard digestion,” Schmidt said. The body digests alcohol faster than fat, which means that while the holiday goose is lying like a brick in the stomach, alcohol makes it lie there longer still. Espresso does not help either, but “the caffeine in it stimulates the intestinal muscles,” Schmidt pointed out.
Digestive problems from eating fatty foods can be relieved by medicinal plants. “The essential oils in fennel can help prevent bloating and a feeling of fullness,” Schmidt said. Fennel seeds should be pounded to a powder and brewed in hot water. It is advisable to start drinking fennel tea daily beginning a week or two before Christmas.
Teas made from anise seeds and caraway seeds have a similar effect, and all of these teas can be drunk by turns. Ginger stimulates digestion and can help reduce nausea if one or two slices of it are used to brew a cup of tea. Ginger can also be used as an ingredient in a holiday meal, for example roast goose or roast duck.
There is nothing wrong with imbibing and feasting on occasion —”it’s typically a part of the holidays,” Singer noted. Regular alcohol consumption increases the risk of cancer, however.
“There’s no such thing as risk-free drinking or a lower threshold dose that’s safe for everyone,” Singer said. He recommends abstaining from beer and wine completely at least two or three days a week.
“And once the holidays are over, practice full abstinence for six or seven weeks. That helps the body to regenerate,” he said.