January is national detox month. But not everyone is in a position to nurse the past year’s cumulative hangovers and other binges. If you’re a bartender, for example, chances are that abstaining from alcohol is not really an option. (Same goes for us hapless souls who make a living writing about wine and spirits.) But, take heart, professional boozehounds: you and your liver need not be doomed. Meet Kendra Strasburg, a holistic health and nutrition coach who specializes in helping people in the spirits industry manage the oftentimes abusive relationships they have with their bodies. It turns out, you don’t have to be a pro to benefit from her advice.
Is it possible to drink everyday and be healthy?
My focus is bartenders, brand ambassadors and people who are making a career in the spirits industry, but struggle with the challenge of having to drink almost every night. A lot of health professionals take the approach that you can’t live like that and be healthy. My approach is that we’re all challenged, regardless of what our job is, so we have to be able to support our bodies and try to find as much health as we can no matter what we do.
What are some tips for undoing some of the damage from heavy drinking?
I believe in maintenance and pacing yourself, so I like quarterly detoxes or cleanses every month, even if it’s just for one day, just to give your body a break. Dark, leafy greens are some of the best things to eat to clean out your body – and this is for anyone, whether they drink a lot or not. I’m not sure how graphic you want to get here, but they can pull a lot of “stuff” out of your intestines. And they can give you more energy.
Juice cleanses are all the rage right now. Do they work?
With juice cleansing, nobody ever bothers to tell people to slow down while they’re doing it. Detoxing without a lot of rest can do more harm than good. Also, I recommend vegetable juices because fruit alone has too much sugar in it. In the winter, there’s a danger in juice cleansing without some kind of spice in the juice. Juicing is cooling – not just juice’s temperature, but as a raw food, its nature is cooling – so I recommend cutting in ginger or daikon radish. Or a combination juice-and-brown rice cleanse. Brown rice is the easiest food to digest. Plus, it can keep you warm and satisfied when it’s cold out.
Are there any ways to avoid hangovers to begin with?
You lose a lot of B vitamins when you’re drinking. You’re also taking in a lot of sugar and, often, that’s what causes a hangover. Our bodies know to digest whole cane sugar. But with refined sugar, because it’s not a whole food, the body pulls vitamins and minerals that are being stored in various places to be able to process it. So, replenishing those vitamins is a good idea. You can also use honey instead of simple syrup in cocktails. That’s why I love the Bee’s Knees cocktail (gin, honey, lemon; more info on it in our 10 favorite Prohibition cocktails story).
You know how, when you have a lot to drink, you start to crave fatty foods? The reason for that is that your body wants to line your stomach wall to slow down the process of alcohol being absorbed into the blood stream. So, before going out, if you can stomach a tablespoon of olive oil, that will line your stomach and slow down that process.
What about water?
Drinking water is no-brainer. You can try to have a glass between each drink, but that’s not always realistic. After a few drinks, you start to forget. But what you can do is hydrate the day of a big night out — if you know what’s in store for you, that is.
Any more tricks?
I like using digestive bitters. Bitters actually started off in doctors’ medical kits and was used for health before it was used for cocktails. They have properties that help your liver detoxify by coating toxins in the body to minimize their effects. I love Urban Moonshine – they make these little bitters spray bottles and you can just have a couple squirts before each drink. You can also spray them right into your cocktail, of course. And, if you’re having a beer, a few squirts on top is so good. It can make a huge difference.
More drinking advice from Food Republic: