words by Sadie MacLeod

Mulled wine, Champagne, party punch, even the puddings come fuelled with your favourite tipple; booze can be unavoidable at Christmas time. So unavoidable that alcohol consumption goes up by 40% in the UK in December, ‘tis the season to be jolly and all that, but this seems like a lot, especially when most of us are completely aware of the negative effects it can have on both our bodies and minds. Leading Nutritionist at the Food Doctor, Alice Mackintosh (www.alicemackintosh.com), says that “alcohol affects many body systems, which is why the impacts of it can be so varied” she goes on to explain the many harmful ways it impacts us; “Alcohol interferes with the brain’s communication pathways and can affect the chemical balance that we rely on for memory, cognition and inhibition” (we’ve all been there!). Alice goes on to explain that it also makes us drowsy, slow, and clumsy. As well as these slightly more noticeable effects, it can also make us crave sugar (due to the disruption of the hypoglycemic balance). Plus, it reduces the production of an important hormone that tells your kidneys to reabsorb water rather than flush it out through the bladder, “in fact” says Alice “urine excretion increases by 10ml which can lead to dehydration and the main reason we get nausea”.

As well as all this, alcohol is acid forming, it reduces our ability to absorb vitamins and it is totally toxic. Yet, despite all of these VERY good reasons to ditch the Jack Daniels this Christmas, we have established that it is unlikely that any of us have the willpower to completely give up drinking  this season, but surely there are ways we can limit the effects it has on our bodies… there sure are.

We have rounded up our top drinking tips that will help you to limit the hangovers, as well as the damage caused by excessive drinking… 

Stay Hydrated with Coconut Water
Ok, so it’s not rocket science. Staying hydrated is really going to help with the headache the next day. Alice suggests keeping a bottle of coconut water by your bed to go that extra mile in rehydration as it contains natural electrolytes similar to those found in sports drinks, but better as they’re natural. We like Jax Coco… just sayin’.

Choose your drinks wisely
Go for a vodka, lime and sparkling water. Vodka has the least amount of toxins and the lime is actually quite alkalizing for the body offsetting the acid forming alcohol (make sure it is fresh lime though as the cordial is made from sugar!). Try to go for sparkling water rather than soda as sometimes soda water has sugar in it. No vodka? Go for red wine as it is less acid forming than white wine and it actually contains some beneficial nutrients too.

Take Your Vitamins
The clever men at Together Health suggest counteracting oxidative stress caused by drinking alcohol by taking a vitamin C capsule as well as a multivitamin and B complex tablet (alcohol burns up B Vitamins especially B1, Thiamin). They also suggest doing a wheatgrass shot before you head out, or even better adding wheatgrass to your Vodka, Lime and Water, a little something they like to call the Lawnmower. Known to most as “you-must-be-joking” but we are totally going to give it a try! We especially love their vitamins as they are food based, which means they can be taken on an empty stomach – perfect for pre-party planing.

The Skinny on Champagne (and wine)
All hail Thomson and Scott, the go to Champagne brand for healthista hipsters in the UK. With no added sugar (Zero Dossage) it’s lower in calories and kinder on your body and blood sugar levels. We’re sure their high-quality fizz is going to be a hit this Christmas (visit www.thomsonandscott.com for more details). Also worth mentioning is a new wine from the Brancott Estate in New Zealand called Flight, where the Brancott Estate have cleverly created a wine that maintains the same authentic characteristics of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc yet with a much lower alcohol content of just 9% (£10.99 from Ocado).

Eat before You Sleep
It’s also good to eat something before going to sleep as low blood sugar during the night can wake you up. Complex carbohydrates (wholemeal bread, oats) are more beneficial than the conventional fry up which contains fat, giving the liver more work to do. However, eggs are still a good option as they contain cysteine, which is beneficial to the liver and contains a good source of quality protein helping to control blood sugar.

Image: Unknown source.