Most of us have been there. A ill-advised volume of lasagne, chips, cake or roast dinner have been consumed, and you’re consigned to the sofa for an evening of bloated lethargy, probably a few Rennie tablets and a smattering of regret.
And now there’s a term for that feeling: the ‘food hangover’. The 2018 Waitrose Food Trend Report recently revealed that a third of us are changing our eating habits to avoid the aftermath of indulgence. But we’re about to enter into the Christmas period – the season where the nation turns into an army of Bruce Bogtrotters, scoffing our way through pigs in blankets and mince pies with glee.
So if avoidance seems like an impossible task – at least in the immediate future – we might as well find out the best way to deal with it. Though I’m a strong advocate of whacking on a mindless film, sipping a tall glass of fizzy water and making occasional ‘uuuuh’ noises before reaching for the Maltesers, it’s doubtful that this has any alleviating effects.
“When we eat a sudden large influx of food, something the body is never prepared for, we can often feel sluggish and lethargic as a result of the excess of salt, sugar, fat or caffeine” explains Harley Street Nutritionist and Author Rhiannon Lambert.
“I think all things should be enjoyed in moderation, but if you do find yourself in the midst of a food hangover, the general rules are that you should avoid lying down if you’re prone to reflux, go for a gentle walk, drink lots of water and return to a healthy diet the next day.”
But not all food hangovers are built entirely equally. Different foods can contribute to various different hangover-like symptoms, and each have their own remedies to help beat the bloat.
An excess of salt, for example – normally the case when you’ve been indulging in ready meals and takeaways – may contribute to acid reflux or heartburn. When this hits, Lambert advises to drink as much water as possible to help dilute the stomach acid and flush out the excess sodium.
Similarly, that Friday night vindaloo will undoubtedly be the source of your gurgling, unsettled stomach and acid reflux. “Spices can be very active in our GI tract and those who are particularly sensitive can experience a lot of bloating” says Lambert. For this, she advocates a high-fibre meal the next day to aid digestion and again, a tall glass of water.
You could, of course, perform a little damage control before the hangover hits and make use of the cooling side dishes like raita – a minty yogurt-based condiment – on the side of your curry. There’s no shame in admitting defeat to the spice, especially when done in consideration of your stomach (and bowels) the next day.
For a fat hangover, time is the ultimate healer. “It’s going to take a little while for your digestive tract to get up to speed and build up the necessary enzymes to process the fat, causing you that leaden, bloated feeling, possibly along with indigestion or heartburn.”
And what about the age-old theory that peppermint tea will set your stomach straight? “From a nutritional perspective, peppermint has been shown to be beneficial for some but not others. It’s all down to the individual for this remedy.”
So, disappointingly, it seems there’s no quick fix for undoing last night’s blowout. A combination of water, movement, time and perhaps a salad the next day are the ultimate healers for your poor, abused gut. Or, of course, avoiding the hangover altogether.
Rhiannon’s book Re-Nourish: A Simple Way To Eat Well advocates a “hand portioned balanced plate” consisting of a handful of carbs, two hands of vegetables, a palm-sized portion of protein, and a thumb of fat with salt and sugar in moderation. Abide by this rule and say goodbye to nights on the sofa in your loosest-fitting trousers, vowing to never over-indulge again.
Having said that, I’m still not sure I’m willing to say no to a fat slice of chicken pie. Some things in life are worth suffering for.