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Halloween is over, the fireworks have fizzled out and with the adverts now playing during every commercial break, Christmas is well and truly on the way.

As well as presents and cards, stockings and turkeys, it’s also a time for parties to start and those dreaded hangovers to kick in.

What is a hangover?
Although the symptoms of hangovers such as headaches, nausea and tiredness are well known, the causes are not. In the past, dehydration was thought to be the main cause of alcohol hangover symptoms. Scientists now also believe that alcohol withdrawal and chemicals formed in the body when our liver breaks down alcohol contribute to those unpleasant symptoms.

Can a hangover be prevented?
As the saying goes prevention is better than the cure so here are a few simple changes you could make to try and reduce the hangover pain. Of course, it is important to bear in mind that there is no better way to avoid a hangover than not drinking alcohol…!

Professor Tom Sanders, Professor emeritus of Nutrition and Dietetics, King’s College London and advisor to the Natural Hydration Council:

“Excess alcohol intake causes dehydration, which can result in headaches the next day. Headaches are also caused by acute increases of blood pressure following the withdrawal of alcohol. Drinking plenty of water is the best remedy and it is sensible to have a glass of water by your bed when you go to sleep after drinking. Paracetamol can also help if you wake up with a headache.

“A glass of orange juice in the morning can pick up blood sugar levels, which are often low after excess alcohol. Despite what people think, you should avoid eating greasy foods such as fry ups in the morning as these can make you feel worse. Instead, opt for carbohydrate rich foods such as breakfast cereals or toast and marmalade and continue to drink water throughout the day.

“The darker the alcohol, the more likely it is to cause a hangover. This is because of the phenolic antioxidant compounds found in darker alcoholic liquids, which are thought to cause dilation of blood vessels in the brain. Swapping red wine for white and brandy for vodka can help reduce hangover symptoms.”

Top hydration tips from the Natural Hydration Council for the festive season:

  • Don’t drink alcohol when you feel thirsty! Quench your thirst with a refreshing glass of water.
  • If you’re hosting a party provide plenty of healthy and interesting soft drink options for guests including bottles of sparkling mineral or spring water and jugs of still water.
  • To encourage your guests to drink water include ice cubes with festive berries frozen inside.
  • Avoid drinking from large wine glasses, as this may lead you to underestimate how much alcohol you have consumed.
  • Our hydration status is constantly fluctuating. Drinking alcohol can lead to dehydration, so you should try to alternate any alcoholic drinks with a glass of water.
  • Following a night of indulgence, keep a bottle or glass of water by your bedside to drink whenever you feel thirsty.

So, we aren’t saying don’t have fun when you party this Christmas, but if do drink try to stay safe and healthy and avoid that dreaded hangover the next day.