Reduce your need for NSAIDs this party season

It is that time of the year where there seems to be a Christmas party or end of year event every other night and of course, the big one, New Years Eve!   Where we would normally have some alcohol-free nights in the week, suddenly there is no end to the wine, beer, cocktails and champagne which go hand in hand with the silly season.  This leads to what some rightly call an ‘accumulated hangover’, the feeling of being hit harder than usual by the after effects of alcohol, due in part to the overload on your liver.  This is the time that many people reach for the panadol, naprogesic, nurofen, ponstan or any other pain-relieving drug.

NSAIDs for pain relief

These drugs are classed as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and work by inhibiting the production of certain chemicals in our body which contribute to pain and inflammation.  These chemicals do not work in isolation, but  are part of a larger system which governs many physiological processes in the body.  Thus when we take NSAIDs we are not only affecting the inflammatory process, but also our kidney function, blood vessel constriction, immune function and many other house-keeping and maintenance processes.

It is important to be aware of the risks associated with NSAID use, especially when your use is long term and frequent.  One of the most significant risks stems from unwanted effects on the gastrointestinal system, such as gastritis (inflammation of the stomach) due to the reduction of the  protective role usually played by the chemical inhibited by NSAIDs.  Gastritis can develop into ulceration and cause bleeding which is serious and potentially life threatening.  Another downside to NSAID use is an increased risk of stroke. This is dependent on many factors, including age, duration and frequency of use, concurrent use of other medications, and is the subject of further research.  If you have concerns around your NSAID use, speak to your Doctor, Naturopath or health professional before you stop taking any medications.

5 ways to help reduce your post-party hangover without using NSAIDs

1. Drink water - This is obvious but this is why it is number one:  if you drink water whilst you drink alcohol you will be less dehydrated and this has a huge impact on how you feel the next day.  Keep drinking water throughout your hangover to aid your liver in the elimination of toxins.

2. Eat food – Food in your stomach slows the absorption of alcohol and while some might prefer the cheap drunk route it is bound to lead to excess consumption and a big hangover.  Include vegetables to boost your vitamin and mineral status and support your detox processes.  Bitter greens, broccoli, brussel sprouts, kale, garlic, parsley, citrus fruits, rosemary and sage are all liver helpers.

3. Check the Omega 3 fatty acid sources in your diet - It is essential to get good amounts of these fatty acids either in your diet or from supplements as they help to reduce your overall tendency to inflammation.  Omega 3 fatty acids reduce the production of pro-inflammatory chemicals without inhibiting the other processes that these chemicals are involved in (see above).

4. Make sure you are getting plenty of Magnesium, Zinc and B Vitamins, either from your diet or supplements, as these help your body detoxify alcohol.

5. Support your liver -  it is doing a hard slog to support you.  Herbal medicine is a great way to support liver function.  Talk to your Naturopath or Herbalist about which liver herbs are best for you.

Love your liver

Your liver works hard not just dealing with the alcohol we consume, but detoxifying all the chemicals our bodies are exposed to from food, pollution, drugs, beauty products and many other sources.  One of the best things you can do for your liver is to give it regular breaks, such as alcohol-free days, to improve recovery and help prepare you for the next night out.

Have a happy and healthy new year!

No Meat November

In early November my partner had an interesting idea:  why don’t we have a meat-free month in preparation for Christmas?  This was his version of a spring detox and a great idea as reducing animal proteins and tending your diet more towards plant proteins, fruits and vegetables is one of the best ways to improve digestion, reduce inflammation and boost protective antioxidants (and maybe even lose weight!)

I was thrilled at the suggestion, thinking to myself that this would be a great break for him and not really that hard for me.  I had it in mind that I only eat meat a few times a week anyway.  So we set some rules: fish and seafood were allowed but all other meats excluded with the exception of one meat meal per week (a safety measure that I find handy in any restrictive diet to avoid binges that result in throwing the whole idea out).

Broad Bean, Leek & Rocket Pizza

Broad Bean, Leek & Rocket Pizza

No Meat November was a great opportunity to explore delicious vegetarian meals like this green pizza.

We got through it, or I should say, he got through it.  I faltered at the last weekend, spent with family in country Queensland, where meat was very much on the menu.  To be honest though, by that point I had realised that I do eat meat more than once or twice a week, and I like having that option.  This is not a comment on the ethics of vegetarianism, I have huge respect for those who make the effort required to follow their own nutritional path, ensuring they still gain the nutrients usually provided by the foods they avoid.  During my (largely) pescetarian month I felt real opposition to my diet plan from a variety of sources and was reminded how little choice there is on the average menu for those that choose not to eat meat.

What we both gained from this month was awareness.  Eating can often be quite unconscious: I thought it would be a breeze to cut out meat to once a week but was surprised at the number of opportunities that arose throughout the weeks where I would have normally chosen meat.  We tell ourselves certain things about the way we eat, but sometimes it can take a process that encourages greater awareness, like keeping a diet diary or reducing sugar, to bring the reality of our food choices into focus.

My goal is conscious eating, enjoying the choices I make and being aware of the impact of what I eat on my health and wellbeing.  This requires self-awareness, honesty and a bit of education to make sure you are well equipped to give your body what it needs every day.  In the lead up to Christmas, I will ask myself: have I eaten any vegetables today?