We're hurtling towards the end of 2016. Some of us will drink to forget that we lost a painful number of music icons this year (sob). Some others will drink to the relief of a crappy year finally ending. A lucky few will bid 2016 a loving farewell. Whatever our reasons, a whole lot of us are likely to get shitfaced (despite our best intentions) and wake up looking like something the cat dragged in. Or maybe not. Here are seven ways to start 2017 feeling (somewhat) like a human being.
Know your alcohol
Why is it that some types of alcohol let you function like a normal human being the next day and others make you feel like your head's being bludgeoned from the inside. By and large, alcohol is made up of one chemical — ethanol — which is guaranteed to get you drunk. It is the other ingredients responsible for the taste and colour of particular alcohol types that affect the quality of hangovers. If you intend to pop the bubbly to ring in the new year, be warned: studies suggest champagne will catch you unawares and get you drunk before you realise it because the carbon-dioxide in the bubbles cause the pylorus valve in the stomach to open up, making the intestines absorb the alcohol quickly. Vodka, gin and other spirits are your best bet, hangover-wise. Vodka has the same alcohol content as whiskey — almost 40 per cent — but is half as likely to give you a hangover. A simple rule of thumb is that the darker the alcohol, the worse the hangover. Darker alcohols contain congeners, or chemicals produced during the fermentation process that give the drink its flavour, and are difficult for the body to metabolise. Now you know why hangovers from red wine, brandy, whiskey and rum will leave you feeling like death warmed over. Oh, and no matter what kind of alcohol you're drinking, do yourself a favour and stick to just one kind.
Pop a pill
The only pill you should be popping in preparation of and after your night of drunken debauchery is a multivitamin. Alcohol is a diuretic, which means that after a night of heavy drinking, you've flushed out many important nutrients, particularly water-soluble vitamins B and C. Vitamin B-complex is important for the normal functioning of the brain and the nervous system and is also necessary for metabolising alcohol in the liver. So a big part of getting over the effects of alcohol is replenishing the lost vitamin B. Vitamin C is essential to ease the stress on the liver due to drinking. Take one pill before drinking and one the morning after.
Bring on the bananas
Alcohol directly affects your body's potassium levels, by causing an imbalance in the electrolytes in the body fluid. One of the most important functions of potassium in the body is to regulate the balance of water on a cellular level, which is why dehydration, muscle fatigue and dizziness are some of the most common symptoms of a hangover. Shore up your potassium levels with the help of bananas, kiwis, avocados, dates and coconut water
Alcohol wreaks havoc on the body's blood glucose level. The body's insulin secretion increases rapidly after alcohol consumption, which can lead to low blood pressure or hypoglycaemia. Fresh fruit juice in the morning will give your body instant energy in the form of fructose, natural sugar. Add honey to the juice instead of sugar. Fruit juices will hydrate you plus help replenish lost vitamins.
Do a shot...
...But one of olive oil. You've probably already been told a gazillion times that eating fat-rich foods before drinking will line the stomach and slow down the absorption of alcohol. Doing an olive oil shot works pretty much on the same principle and is a very popular hangover staving trick in Italy, Greece and Spain. The idea is that instead of eating food rich in trans and saturated fats, you fortify the stomach lining with heart-healthy fat like olive oil, which is rich in monounsaturated fatty acids. Even if you can't get yourself to swallow teaspoons of olive oil, cooking your chicken or veggies in olive oil is a much better option than biting into a piece of bread slathered with butter.
Pause before a painkiller
It's tempting to reach for the first painkiller within reach when foghorns are going off in your head and your limbs feel like dead wood. But it is important to take the right one, so that you don't end up harming your already sensitive liver. Ibuprofen, aspirin and paracetamol are the three most popular over-the-counter painkillers. While each of them relieves muscle pain, they react differently with other medicines. After drinking, it is advisable to avoid paracetamols since they contain an ingredient called acetaminophen, which can cause serious damage to the liver when mixed with alcohol. Ibuprofen might be avoidable for people with peptic ulcers and people with high blood pressure and liver and kidney issues are sometimes advised against taking aspirin. Check with your GP and use a painkiller compatible with your pre-existing health conditions.
Resist the urge to light up
Drinking and smoking often go hand-in-hand. Even the non-smokers among us don't mind lighting up while drinking. Being able to kick the urge could substantially reduce the severity of your hangover. Studies show that smoking while drinking boosts the release of dopamine, a feel-good, happy hormone, which shows that nicotine receptors of the brain affect the body's response to alcohol. Another study shows that tobacco smoke contains the same chemical that forms in one's tissues while drinking and is responsible for many of the symptoms experienced during a hangover. Yet another theory is that nicotine leads to the release of a chemical that the brain releases during an injury, which explains the inflammation and the resultant headaches and nausea.