Dee's Blog


Eat, Drink and Stay Merry

by Dee Atkinson MNIMH

This being the season to be merry, it’s a good time to remind ourselves how to get the best out of Christmas and Hogmanay without suffering too many ill effects. We’re not just talking about too much alcohol here, but also overeating because, let’s face it, the dreaded combination of hangover and bloated tummy/indigestion is just plain miserable.

The obvious solution is to practice moderation on all fronts, drink lots of water and pack yourself off home before the witching hour for a good solid seven hours of sleep. This all sounds perfectly manageable until you have that first festive drink with friends, the party atmosphere kicks in and before you know it it’s 3 in the morning!

What happens when we drink too much?

So, why exactly does too much alcohol make us feel quite so unwell. Put simply, it overtaxes the liver, depletes vitamins B and C, dehydrates, upsets the gut microbiome and has a depressant action. On top of this, when we’re under the influence we all too often injure ourselves by falling over on dance floors, twisting ankles bumping into objects and generally staggering into all kinds of mischief, sustaining injuries that are often painless when under the influence but very uncomfortable the next day.

The headache we get from alcohol is caused by dehydration and by the chemical compound ‘acetaldehyde’ which is produced by the liver as it tries to process the alcohol. The liver can deal with small amounts of acetaldehyde, but too much gives us that classic ‘toxic’ headache.

How to lessen the effects of overindulgence

We can reduce stress on the liver and the gut by slowing down the speed with which we absorb alcohol. The old adage of lining your stomach before a night out is a good piece of advice. A meal that is rich in dark green vegetables like broccoli, leafy greens or Brussels sprouts with a good combination of complex carbohydrates and protein is a good complement to a night out. Drinking lots of water alongside the alcoholic drinks will help to dilute the alcohol and can gently help keep you aware of how much you are drinking.

After effects of alcohol tend to be worse if you have also drunk sugar loaded mixers and flavoured syrups. These can easily upset the tummy and even cause allergic reactions. If this is coupled with overeating rich foods that trigger indigestion and bloating, you can end up with a headache and a tummy ache.

Top tips to navigate the party season

Be Bitter

Start the evening with 5mls (a teaspoon) of Best British Bitters formula. This is a blend I developed specifically for the festive season and which includes the bitter herbs Gentian and Dandelion which trigger the release of digestive enzymes. It also contains Peppermint and Ginger to ease indigestion as well as Milk thistle to support the liver. Bitters work best taken before a night out and again before bed after the night out. It’s a great ‘first aid’ box staple and can be used whenever there is indigestion or tummy bloating from food.

Protect your Stomach

It’s important to protect the gut mucosal cells and you can do this with Slippery Elm capsules and Glutamine powder. Slippery Elm is a one of my favourite herbs because it almost gives the stomach a protective coat, reducing acid production as well as acting as a prebiotic. In addition, Glutamine supports the guts mucosal cells.

Take your Vitamins

Top up on Vitamin C 1000mg, a vitamin B complex and some zinc. This will help to reduce stress on the liver and help with detoxification of the alcohol. Before you go out, get your vitamin supply ready by the side of your bed and try and remember to take them with a big glass of water before you go to sleep.


Curcumin, found in Turmeric, has been shown to protect the liver as well as reducing the risk of fatty liver disease. It has also been shown to reduce the amount of acetaldehyde the body produces as a result of consuming alcohol. Thus, Curcumin can possibly reduce the headache one can get from drinking. As we get older, drinking too much alcohol causes stiffness and joint pain as the toxins in the alcohol trigger inflammation. Curcumin can reduce this inflammation and stiffness. My own brand of Curcumin and Boswelia capsules contain a curcumin phospholipd that is highly absorbable, some piperine from black pepper, and Frankincense.

Now you’re all ready to go out and have a good time – just remember, first and foremost, the key to a good night out really is moderation.



Dee Atkinson MNIMH

Dee is one of the UK's top herbalists and owns and runs D. Atkinson Herbalist in Edinburgh - a herbal dispensary and shop which provide a wide range of herbal medicines, vitamins, supplements, herbal skincare as well as a herbal dispensary. Next door is Napiers Clinic.

Dee qualified as a Medical Herbalist in 1988 and took over Napiers the Herbalists in 1990, building it up into one of the UKs most respected and trusted Complementary Medicine Clinics.

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