We've all been there - that slightly on-edge, 'did I do something wrong' feeling you get after a big night out. 'The Fear' as we like to refer to it, can be at peak levels after the office Christmas party.. not fun when you have to show your face the next day..
More often than not (hopefully) you actually haven't done anything to warrant such a feeling, it's just the 'hanxiety' messing with your head.
So just in time for party season, our nutritionists have outlined what hanxiety is and what you can do to prevent it ruining your Christmas. Sadly it doesn't involve hair of the dog, but read on for some solutions.
What is hangxiety and why do we get it?
Though not medically defined, the feeling of anxiousness or being on edge the day after a night on the sauce is something many are familiar with. A typical hangover can present with all sorts of symptoms such as headaches, feeling sick, low energy, poor concentration and also mental symptoms such as anxiety, irrational worry or even anger. Many use alcohol to numb anxiety, and this might happen when you're actually drinking, but the anxiety can then be worse as the alcohol wears off.
We can experience this for a number of reasons:
- Serotonin - Alcohol has the ability to disrupt our neurotransmitters. These are the chemical hormones in the brain that control our emotions. Serotonin and dopamine are two that really impact our mood, and alcohol can disrupt the levels of these, leaving us feeling blue, anxious and moody.
- Blood sugar - alcohol itself contains sugars, and when we go for drinks like wine, bubbles, cocktails or beer, the sugar levels usually increase. This wreaks havoc with our own blood sugar levels and can disturb our sleep, making us wake up early the next day. Another side effect of low blood sugar is that our bodies can release more cortisol, and for many this can lead to anxiety
- Lack of sleep - As explained above, alcohol itself impacts sleep, and obviously boozy nights often end up with less sleep. This directly impacts the levels of our important neurotransmitters in our brain that control our mood and emotions, and can lead to anxiety and stress the next day.
- B vitamins - Alcohol is an anti-nutrient, meaning our bodies use up important nutrients when we break it down and remove it. Lower levels of B vitamins and magnesium in particular can lead to increase anxiety for some people.
Is there anything we can do before drinking to reduce hangxiety symptoms?
Make sure you dont drink on an empty stomach as this means the alcohol goes straight to your head. This is not ideal for anxiety the next day and you're more likely to gorge on unhealthy foods later on too.
We like the term pretox - which is slang for supporting your liver before drinking. B vitamins rich foods (eggs, beans, lentils, nuts such as almonds, cashews, pumpkin seeds, beetroot, avocado, green leafy veg), folate (kale, spinach, sprouts, courgette), sulphur (eggs, broccoli), protein (meat, fish, eggs, beans, lentils, nuts), fibre (veggies, fruit, pulses, wholegrains) and antioxidants (veggies and fruit) are all good things to be eating, and supplements might help here too (more on this below).
Is there anything we can do after drinking to reduce hangxiety symptoms?
- Drink plenty of water or better yet, have rehydration salts before bed and when you wake up. Dehydration can also impact the brain, so staying hydrated is key. We love Seeking Health's rehydration salts because they are well balanced and don't contain any unwanted added ingredients such as sugar, artificial flavours/sweeteners.
- Eat something before you go to bed - this helps to stabilise blood sugar, absorb some of the alcohol in the gut. Ideally it would not be a kebab! Obviously the healthier the better but this isn't normally on the menu, so just aim for some protein and fibre, as this is critical for gut health. If you’re home and need something quick, go for wholegrain toast with peanut butter and banana.
- Eggs make the perfect hangover breakfast - rich in amino acids to aid liver function, protein, b vitamins, choline and healthy fats, they help get you back on your feet. have with some avocado and some mushrooms (both are rich in detoxifying b-vitamins, folate and anti-oxidants) fried in butter and some toast. If you're vegan, go for baked beans instead of eggs, because these provide all-important protein and fibre.
- Don’t be tempted to do a rigorous workout the next day to sweat out the toxins.. though this might seem counterintuitive, strong workouts the day after you’ve drunk alcohol can be quite stressful to the body and put strain on the cardiovascular system. Sweating is useful (especially you stay hydrated with plenty of fluids) but cardio or HIIT isn’t so great. Getting fresh air or taking a walk is all fine, but strong workouts should be saved for the day after when you're hopefully more rested.
- Don't go mad on caffeine the next day - this will only worsen the anxiety levels. One coffee or tea per day is Ok, but try to eat something if possible.
People mention milk thistle as a supplement to help alleviate hangxiety symptoms — do supplements work for hangovers and hanxiety? If so, which ones and why?
High quality, well formulated supplements can help to replace some of the key nutrients lost to the body when drinking, which might help us to recover more quickly. B vitamins, magnesium and vitamin C are all great after a a big night out. There are also some highly nutritious and balancing ingredients that can help to aid liver function and detoxification - antioxidants such as glutathione, NAC, milk thistle, B12 and folate being at the top of the list.
Equi’s comprehensive and award-winning Original Formula supplement is a known to be a lifesaver on a hangover and contains many of the key nutrients needed by the body (and liver) to help it bounce back more quickly. It also contain probiotics for the gut, which might not seem relevant but these can be strongly impacted by alcohol intake. Supporting the microbiome can really help with proper detoxification, elimination of toxins (via the bowel - pooping daily is essential here!) and even mood and energy, to help you recover faster.
Taking something comprehensive such as Original Formula (although any of our Formula's will also stand in brilliantly for this if you're already on them) is a great way best way to keep the body well supported, especially during silly season, but if you don't manage to do this, have a dose on the day you know you'll be having a little extra, and two days after to give the body a boost. We have a ready supply in our office for this time of year!
We also love an Epsom salt bath the following evening - it helps with detox, and the magnesium found in the salts help with anxiety & sleep. Use a good 200-400g of salt and soak for 20 minutes at least, scrubbing skin to promote circulation.
Disclaimer: As with all information on Equi London, this information is not a substitute for medical advice. No one diet or supplement regime works for everyone and you should always seek help from a GP and registered health expert before making changes to your diet, or before introducing any supplements.