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It might be the result of a birthday party, a holiday party, a concert, or an unexpected night out ~ but every once in a while, the hangover monster comes out to play! The looming question is “how do I prevent a hangover so don't waste a day on recovery?"
The Winner for Best Hangover Cure Is...
Very simple! Before you start drinking, eat some French bread that has been dipped in a mixture of olive oil & balsamic vinegar. Yes, it's really that simple!
Start by pouring 1/4 cup of olive oil into a dish, then add a few tablespoons of balsamic vinegar. Slice some french bread, and dunk into the mixture. The vinegar suspends in the oil, forming a polka-dot pattern which will allow for even distribution during bread dunking.
You can use any type of bread you have on hand, but typically a sour dough baguette or a loaf of regular white French bread works best for forming a protective layer to absorb alcohol.
Read on to find out exactly how this hangover cure helps prevent the detrimental effects of booze.
The Facts: How Bread + Balsamic + Oil Prevent a Hangover
What is the science behind this hangover prevention secret? It's all about absorption.
Basically, any type of fat intake (such as Olive Oil) will slow the absorption of alcohol into your blood stream. It also slows the emptying of your stomach into the gastrointestinal system.
Think of your stomach and intestinal lining as a thin sponge. Ever notice that when you swig alcohol on an empty stomach, it only takes a few drinks before you feel intoxicated? That’s because there is no protective barrier to slow absorption. Instead, alcohol soaks right into the “sponge” lining of your stomach and goes directly into your blood stream.
The main secret? Olive oil.
Oil coats the lining of your stomach, helping to prevent hangover-causing toxins from seeping into your blood stream. Now don't worry, this doesn’t mean you won’t get drunk (you will still feel plenty intoxicated) - but, it does mean that you won’t need to spend the entire next day recovering from the party.
Some old fashioned hangover prevention tips suggest drinking 2 tablespoons of olive oil plain, before having your first drink. While it may not taste very pleasant, this can work in a pinch - especially if you don't have the other ingredients on hand.
Q. Why does this hangover prevention tip work?
A. For one thing, when carbohydrates (breads) enter your stomach, they help absorb the alcohol - which in turn slows absorption into the blood stream.
Above, we mentioned above that stomach lining can be compared to a sponge. The intake of olive oil adds a protective coating to your stomach lining. So while bread gets to work absorbing some of the alcohol, the olive oil prevents it from absorbing into your stomach too quickly.
This means you will get drunk on a more consistent level. Rather than going from 0 to drunk in 60 seconds, your body will creep from 0 to drunk over the length of several hours.
Nobody wants to be the first one wasted at a party! Use the bread, balsamic & oil snack to lengthen the amount of fun you get to have drinking, and also to prevent that monster hangover.
How Does Balsamic Vinegar Assist in Preventing a Hangover?
It’s not only the greasiness of olive oil + carbohydrates in bread that stop hangover symptoms. Balsamic vinegar is an important component as well. Although balsamic might taste tangy and acidic, it actually helps balance & lower PH levels in your stomach. This reduces the urge for your stomach to produce excess acid, thereby reducing the chance for bloating & painful acid reflux the day after drinking.
Balsamic vinegar also contains polyphenols to destroy free radicals and boost the immune system, plus quercetin, which is an antioxidant that acts as an anti-inflammatory. You probably know that most people take anti-inflammatory drugs, such as IB Profin, to help a hangover. That's because the more you can reduce body-wide inflammation the day after drinking, the better you will feel. Intake of Balsamic vinegar before or during drinking accomplishes this naturally.
Does This Food Combo Really Work to Prevent a Hangover?
YES! I discovered said hangover cure by accident - here's how.
My boyfriend and I were on vacation and had been dining at an Italian restaurant where they served this bread concoction as an appetizer, then we went out for a night of partying. We actually drank so much that we could barely remember the end of the evening. When we awoke on Saturday morning after around 7 hours of sleep, we felt fine and spent the rest of the day sight-seeing.
It's pretty well known that eating carbs before or during drinking can help lessen the evil after effects of alcohol. Curious as to whether it was the bread that did the trick, or the pasta we ate afterwards, I continued to test different theories. The next time we drank, I ate pasta alfredo beforehand. The next day, I wasn’t in super bad shape, but still felt quite queasy, achy and tired until almost 4pm.
Fast forward to a few weeks later when I bought a loaf of French bread, and dunked it in the balsamic / olive oil mix while sipping on wine. I ate 2 large slices of bread with the oil & continued drinking various types of alcohol for the next 5 hours. After neglecting to eat any dinner at all, going to sleep around 2am & waking at 10am - I felt amazing!
My Experiments with the Hangover Cure
Ever fascinated by blind experiments, I’ve personally tested this theory with different groups of friends. At various house parties throughout a period of 6 months, I would accommodate the host with a bottle of alcohol, along with a loaf of French bread, and a container of the balsamic / olive oil mixture. At most of these parties, all types of alcohol were being served. Guests started out by indulging in wine or beer (usually while eating appetizers) and alternating that with taking shots. Later in the evening most people were swigging mixed drinks and more shots. If you’re at all familiar with the party scene, mixing all types of alcohol is the perfect storm for the ultimate hangover. I never mentioned to the guests that the snack food I brought was intended to save them from hangover hell. I kept a close eye on who was eating the mixture, and who was not.
The first thing I noticed was that people who ate the bread & balsamic were actually able to drink more than those who did not. Throughout the night, people would begin falling asleep around the living room, and some were running to the bathroom – while the rest of us revelers (who ate the bread) kept going strong.
Many of these parties were overnighters – so the next morning, I was able to see first hand effects of the bread. Those who were whining, burping & reaching for IB Profin were the ones who did not eat the bread.
Eventually, I told all of the guests about the bread experiment. Most of them have now adopted this secret as their favorite way to prevent hangovers. I also told those who opted NOT to eat the bread, and they all admitted I should have force-fed them as soon as they walked in the door!
Why Do I Crave Greasy Food After Drinking?
Most people crave bad-for-you food after a night of drinking. That’s because your alcohol-saturated stomach will cause your body to desire these "barrier foods".
While eating a high fat meal can be somewhat helpful after drinking, it’s kind of like closing the barn door after the horse has escaped. Most of the alcohol will already have absorbed into your blood stream, and eating protective foods afterwards will have minimal effects. It’s best to prevent, rather than try to un-do damage after it has occurred.
It’s too late! How Do I Cure My Hangover?
So you downed the trio of blueberry mojitos, along with who knows how many other drinks – but neglected to opt for hangover prevention. You’re stuck with a pounding head, nausea, bloodshot eyes & vertigo – now what? Unfortunately, there is no magical cure for a hangover. But, there are some things you can do that will help your body start to mend.
1) Sip on an electrolyte beverage, such as Pedialyte, Coconut Water, or Powerade when you wake up. Pedialyte is one of the best options, because it has the perfect balance to replace fluids lost through dehydration and/or vomiting. It also tends to soothe the stomach lining and normally stays down after a harsh episode of vomiting.
A company called Nunn even sells sugar free electrolyte fizz-tablets that you can add to regular water. Alcohol severely dehydrates your body, which can impair the immune system, so it’s important to replace lost electrolytes ASAP.
2) Eat a good breakfast that contains some type of protein and NO sugar. Drinking will typically leave you feeling weak and malnourished the next day. Having a meal that contains a blend of protein plus carbs will help your muscles get back into balance after suffering the effects of dehydration. Some of my favorite morning hangover remedies include a home-made Egg McMuffin, Spam & rice, or an oven baked Totino’s Pizza. They all seem to be very good at soaking up any remaining alcohol while providing about 10 grams of protein to strengthen muscles. If at all possible, go back to sleep after eating breakfast to help your body heal completely.
3) After you eat, take a vitamin supplement. Drinking destroys levels of Vitamins B and C in your body. Help protect yourself by taking a whole foods multi-vitamin the day before drinking, and for a few days afterwards. Liquid supplements work best, as they absorb directly into the blood stream. You could also take additional B, C, D and anti-oxidant supplements, which will reduce free radicals, help prevent damage to the nervous system, and boost immune system function. If you drink regularly (3-4 times a week) take Milk Thistle supplements, which help the liver recover & regenerate.
Avoid caffeinated and high sugar drinks like coffee or soda, which contain no nutritional value and will only make you feel more dehydrated. In addition, these make your body even more acidic - which leads to indigestion and depressed immune function. While opting to drink water with meals is always best, it's especially important to avoid sugary foods & beverages for 24 hours after drinking large quantities of alcohol.
Alcohol Without the Hangover?
I’ve also tried other similar mixtures for hangover prevention. Normally, I stick to a low-carb meat and veggie diet, but I learned the hard way that skipping carbs does nothing to help prevent hangovers! Eating buttered bread helps slightly, as does eating other high fat and/or high carb foods (such as pasta, fries, onion rings, pizza, burgers) before or while drinking. However, nothing has worked as well as the Balsamic + Olive Oil + Bread.
Scientists are now working on alcohol alternatives & hangover antidotes to prevent the hideous after-effects of alcohol. Who knows how far into the future we must look before this becomes reality - but it’s fascinating nonetheless!
In the mean time, you can rely on the olive oil + balsamic + bread trick. Trust me on this one - you’ll thank yourself in the morning. Cheers!
When Should I Avoid Alcohol?
Avoid drinking alcohol if it feels like you are coming down with a cold or flu.
Dehydration and increased blood acidity will make your illness come on faster and stronger - plus, it will take longer to get better.
If you insist on imbibing, choose to drink only clear beverages, such as vodka, white wine, or white rum. These have far fewer toxins than their darker counterparts like red wine and whiskey. When your body is over-taxed with toxins, it becomes highly acidic. Drinking alcohol can create the perfect breeding ground for viruses and bacteria, since they feed off of acids in your blood and body.
Additional Tips for Looking & Feeling Healthy After Drinking Alcohol
Make sure you alternate drinking alcohol with plenty of water intake, to prevent dehydration. You can even add alkalizing drops to your bottle of water, to help prevent your body from becoming overly acidic. Get plenty of rest the next day & take vitamins, to help your body fully repair itself.
This should go without saying, but it’s also important to avoid alcohol if you will be having any type of surgery or dentist appointments within the coming days. Alcohol thins the blood, and makes us more prone to excessive bleeding and infection.
Since heavy drinking often results in lack of sleep, it can really take a toll on your personal appearance too! Because residual alcohol is released via sweat, taking a shower the next morning is imperative. Staying hydrated the day after helps plump skin and lessen the appearance of wrinkles on dehydrated skin. Those prone to breakouts will find it helpful to use Apple Cider Vinegar as a toner after cleansing, as it assists in destroying acne bacteria and clearing pores. Don't forget to moisturize afterwards, since alcohol also causes skin to look aged and dehydrated. If all else fails, apply a shimmery highlighter to key areas of the face, to impart a natural healthy glow.
Before you drink alcohol...
Do you have any tried-and-true hangover remedies? If so, please share in the comments below!
© 2014 Ashley Bergin