Pretox, retox, detox: Your 360 guide to the festive season
We’ve all been there – there’s another festive night out coming up and Ibuprofen can only undo so much. You don’t want to overdo it, but you don’t want to miss out either – especially after ‘lockdown Christmas’ last year! On the other hand, Santa’s coat’s not the only thing that’s red – your bank balance is, too. In short, you’re drowning in festivities.
Help is at hand. This guide will save you from the inexorable tide of the party season – it’s a lifeline for your mind, body and savings (we can’t do anything for your soul, though. Sorry).
Here’s how to keep your head above water while enjoying the cocktails and canapés relatively guilt-free. Let’s get merry.
1. PRETOX: PREP YOURSELF BEFORE YOU WRECK YOURSELF
Stay in the black: Be quintessentially British and put the kettle on. The national obsession can also be a shortcut to a much needed antioxidant boost, as well as myriad heart-helping, life extending benefits.
If you know your liver is about to undertake a crucible the likes of which Dante couldn’t dream up, as is likely to be the case in the coming months, it may be worth adding bean to leaf with a regular pot of coffee to help you navigate the boozy inferno.
That’s according to researchers from the University of Southampton, who, after a meta-analysis of coffee studies, found drinking one cup a day reduces your risk of liver cirrhosis by 22%. The effects are cumulative: two cups cuts your risk by 43%; four cups by 65%. Espresso martinis don’t count.
We couldn’t get away without mentioning the liver-prep of proper hydration. BALANCE recommends stealing the old ‘classic with a twist’ motif and imbibing a decent amount of coconut water to make your H2O just that bit sexier.
Get into pre-drinking: Buy more booze. Go on, this isn’t a trick; run to Sainsbury’s and stock up right now. But do it right.
Firstly, cleaner alcohol equals a clearer conscience. Organic wine is more than a passing fad, particularly when you consider this year’s sobering research fingering pesticides as one of the main causes of cancer in the Western world.
Bulk buy boxes and you’ll reduce the financial hit, if not actually end up spending less than you usually do per bottle.
Clean beer is a thing, too. Some brands have mind-boggling ingredients lists, which means they’re full of more chemical enhancements than a Tour de France cyclist. Opt for a German pilsner or even a hipster craft brew.
Finally, believe it or not, the odd glass of wine can reduce the risk of certain liver diseases by 49%, according to a study by the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Consider this pre-toxing tenet number one: Your liver hates a binge, but likes a tipple.
Mind your head: If, more often than not, one turns into two turns into way too many, you might have some willpower issues.
Sure, being perpetually off the wagon is what this season is all about. But if it’s so far out of sight you’re struggling to function (unfortunately most of us still have to work before and after Christmas and New Year) then it’s time to exert some self-control.
That doesn’t have to involve rock-hard abstinence, mind you. There are plenty of studies which have likened regular meditation practise to exercising your willpower like a muscle.
Do it every now and again and it’s the equivalent of the odd jog for your brain. Do it every day and you’ve just signed your psyche up for Barry’s Bootcamp.
Mindfulness stops you reaching for things to fill a hole, or for stimulation or distraction. When your brain is at full fitness, you’re more likely to stop when you really want to.
2. RETOX: RAISING THE BAR
Try some drugs: The parties are in full swing, you’ve eaten more canapés than hot dinners this week and there might be some blood left in your alcohol system. You’re probably immunosuppressed.
High dose vitamin C is your first defence. This helps your body deal with the toxin overload. Then try beetroot supplements (which improve bloodflow and help your liver process the onslaught) and turmeric pills. One trial found curcumin, the compound in turmeric, can actually help reverse the onset of fatty liver disease. One a day of each should do it.
Be a high-functioning drinker: Sweating at your desk praying no one notices on your Zoom calls?
First, your face – pallid thanks to dehydration, exhaustion and a lack of nutrients. Combat each with electrolyte drinks, cherry supplements for sleep-inducing melatonin and daily orange fruit and veg for carotenoids, which brings a healthy colour back to your skin.
The shakes are from erratic blood sugars and the hit to your nervous system. Ensure there’s glucose with your electrolyte drink to fix the former, then for the latter, try an L-theanine supplement – this is the amino acid in green tea that relaxes your nerves. Oh, and take some mouthwash and scrub your tongue – this is where booze-breath bacteria builds up.
Have your Christmas cake and eat it: The post-booze munchies is legit. British scientists found that, no matter how calorific your tipple, you’re still likely to scoff more than usual after a night on the sauce.
We’re not about to tell you to give up the midnight snacks – in fact they can be good for dealing with hangovers – but eating the right things can go some way towards reducing the party paunch.
For starters, stock up at home, but be realistic: you won’t be craving a kale salad nor will you be adroit enough for anything gastronomical. Ensure there’s some fibrous carbs kicking around to act like an alcohol sponge. If you’re feeling really clever, boil some eggs before you go out – L-cysteine, an amino acid abundant in eggs, has been found to reduce the toxic effects of drink.
When you get in, throw the eggs into some good quality bread with some pre-prepared asparagus – another food with alcohol-protective amino acids.
3. DETOX: FORGIVE ME FATHER (CHRISTMAS) FOR I HAVE SINNED
Get moving, gradually: Exercise will help you get back onto the wagon come January, but don’t go all guns blazing and sign yourself up for an ironman triathlon out of guilt. This isn’t university and you’re not 18 anymore.
Studies show frequent inebriation and blood sugar spikes do your immune system no good. So while you can’t bounce back like a student these days, you will likely suffer something akin to freshers’ flu. Overdoing the exercise will do little more than send you straight to bed with a hot water bottle.
Instead, build yourself back up slowly. Some slow paced yoga – think hatha instead of vinyasa – is a good way to get your circulatory system going again. Then you can build up to something like Hotpod and eventually some heavier cardio. Also, don’t forget to hydrate.
New year, new mood: Don’t sing the Christmas blues. On a chemical level, boozing and high-GI foods both cause happiness spikes, but so does all the partying – the dinners, time with friends, relaxed working and so on. What goes up must come down, and you might find yourself in neurochemical debt come January. Suddenly the dark evenings feel darker and you miss having a cheese
course with breakfast.
So here’s how to detox your brain. Wake up smarter, for starters, by investing in smart bulbs which can mimic the sunrise and wake you up gently. When you’re up, start a gratitude journal, by writing down everything you’re grateful for in life. According to Tony Robbins, business strategist and life coach to presidents, you can’t feel sad or angry when you truly feel grateful.
Hit the shower: This final nugget of detoxing wisdom clears your mind and body both, but it takes a little bravery. Each morning – or at least every morning you can tolerate it – step into the shower as normal.
Then do your best to go into a meditative state before turning the temperature to cold for as long as you can bear.
While scientists are still researching the effects of cold showers on a person’s mood, there are some studies which suggest they can help treat symptoms of depression and anxiety. What’s more, your blood vessels contract and dilate as you change from hot to cold and back again, stimulating healthy blood flow – essential for both clearing alcohol from your system and energy production. A little shivering certainly beats the alcohol shakes at your desk, at least.
MICRO-DETOX: BECAUSE AT CHRISTMAS, TIME IS THE ENEMY
23 December: Prime yourself. When your body metabolises alcohol it uses up vitamin B1, 3 and 6, so focus on upping these. A smoothie with kale and spinach will give you the B vits you need.
24 December: Uncork yourself and the bubbly – and put out a platter of Asian pear slices and cheese to nibble on. Research from Australia found that Asian pear can reduce the side effects of drinking by up to 20%. And the cheese? That’s because, well, it’s cheese. Yum.
25 December: Just keep filling up those glasses… and your plate. Eating low-glycemic carbs such as sweet potato with your Christmas meal won’t stop you getting drunk but will slow the process down.
26 December: Get stuck into those turkey leftovers. Protein helps keep your blood sugar steady, essential at this point when you’re starting to flag.
27 December: Keep drinking… water. And grab a cucumber salad, too. Cukes help your body flush out the toxins you’ve been so eagerly amassing in your body.
28 December: With the joy of Christmas past, you don’t want to feel nauseous, so get a cup of hot ginger tea down you. It’ll reduce the symptoms of ‘I drank too much last night.’
29 December: Grab a sports drink, coconut water or any other drink with electrolytes to help rebalance your body’s fluid.