Despite our best intentions to keep our eating and drinking under control during the festive season, is these temptations are usually near impossible to resist.

Despite our best intentions to keep our eating and drinking under control during the festive season, these temptations are usually near impossible to resist

We know we should consume reasonable portions and pass on seconds or that third glass of wine, but inevitably we overindulge and end up feeling miserable

What is overindulgence?

Overindulgence is defined as excessive self-indulgent activity, particularly of eating or drinking.

The liver plays an important role in the digestive process, as it assists with the digestion of fatty foods as well as the breakdown of alcohol. Excessive intake of alcohol and fatty foods may overtax the liver, causing symptoms of overindulgence, such as:

  • Indigestion
  • Feeling bloated
  • Feeling tired
  • Abdominal tenderness and discomfort
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting in extreme cases

Alcohol

People differ in their tolerance level for alcohol. The dietary suggestion to the public is 1-2 small glasses of wine or 1-2 cans of beer per day, but even this is above the recommended dose for drivers these days.

Effects of alcohol

Alcohol is broken down by the liver, raising the liver enzymes and potentially leading to hepatitis. Most of the alcohol consumed must be metabolised in the liver; this process requires a lot of work and takes precedence over many other necessary functions. Therefore, fat metabolism is decreased and fatty build-up can occur in the liver. Alcohol does not convert to glucose or glycogen, but to fat, which may later lead to obesity with high alcohol use.

Vitamin and mineral interactions show that alcohol diminishes the stores of many of the B vitamins, including vitamin B2 and B6, vitamin A, vitamin E, beta-carotene, and magnesium. Alcohol consumption impairs the absorption of the enzymes in the liver that activates these vitamins, therefore, it is essential to supplement.

Hangovers

Hangovers represent the very unpleasant side-effects of drinking alcohol. Alcohol dehydrates the cells, removes fluid from the blood, swells the cranial arteries and irritates the gastrointestinal tract.

Many of the side-effects are caused from dehydration and can be remedied by consuming water while drinking alcohol and also large amounts before going to sleep. Raising blood sugar levels with a snack of fruit before bed will also help.

The common hangover includes some or all of the following:

  • Headache
  • Poor sense of overall well-being
  • Sensitivity to light and sound
  • Diarrhoea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Trembling
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure
  • Dehydration (dry mouth, extreme thirst, dry eyes)
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Anxiety
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Weakness

When alcohol is consumed, it enters the bloodstream and causes the pituitary gland in the brain to block the creation of vasopressin (the anti-diuretic hormone). Therefore, the kidneys send water directly to the bladder instead of reabsorbing it into the body. According to studies, drinking about 250ml of an alcoholic beverage causes the body to expel 800-1000ml of water – four times as much liquid lost as gained.

The morning after heavy drinking, the body sends a desperate message to replenish its water supply — usually manifested in the form of an extremely dry mouth. Headaches result from dehydration because the body’s organs try to make up for their own water loss by taking water from the brain.

The frequent urination also expels salts and potassium that are necessary for proper nerve and muscle function. When sodium and potassium levels get too low, headaches, fatigue and nausea can result.

Alcohol also breaks down the body’s store of glycogen in the liver, turning the chemical into glucose and sending it out of the body in the urine. Lack of this key energy source is partly responsible for the weakness, fatigue, and lack of coordination the next morning.

Because alcohol is absorbed directly through the stomach, the cells that line the organ become irritated. Alcohol also promotes secretion of hydrochloric acid in the stomach causing heartburn and eventually vomiting.

Natural treatments

Natural and holistic treatments such as herbal and homeopathic remedies have proven to be highly effective in providing relief for symptoms associated with overindulgence or an alcohol hangover.

Powerful herbs such as Silybum marianus (milk thistle), Althaea officinalis (marshmallow), and Ulmusfulva (slippery elm) support the liver and promote balance and equilibrium in the body during times of excess and overindulgence.

Homeopathic remedies help the body restore balance at a cellular level. Carefully selected ingredients such as Lupulus humulus, Lobelia inflate, and Nux vomica is the homeopathic hangover remedy to reduce the side-effects of a dry mouth, dry eyes, headache and nausea.

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