Well, the festive season is in full swing and as social gatherings, Christmas parties and end of year catch ups start filling our diaries, along comes the temptation to over-indulge a little more than we usually would.As you would know, I love to talk about food and nutrition and one of the more frequent conversations I’ve been having of late has revolved around being strategic when it comes to alcohol consumption over the Christmas/New Year period. One of my patients asked me the other day if I think you have to avoid alcohol ‘all together’ in order to be healthy. I don’t actually. If your body is in balance, a couple of drinks here or there shouldn’t be the end of the world. That being said, alcohol is a drug that alters the way our body functions and with that, comes a number of risks for our health and our body.

Risky business!

When I think about ‘risk’, I tend to visualise it a bit like a see-saw. It is a super dynamic and changeable thing, which is great news because it means that we can influence and/or modify it. If I pop my Public Health hat on, the fancy way we talk about modifying risk is called ‘Harm Minimisation’ and yes, this concept is as simple as it sounds: If you are going to participate in an activity that could potentially cause ‘harm’, then we should have a look at the steps we could implement to ‘minimise’ this harm.

Harm minimisation, naturopathic style

I’m enough of a realist to know and understand that most people (myself included) enjoy a drink or two over the Christmas period. As I said, it’s not that alcohol is necessarily ‘bad’; we just need to be mindful of the dose, the environment in which it is consumed and what else is going on in your body on either side of consumption. Here are some simple things that you can do to ‘minimise harm’ while still enjoying a glass of your favourite drink to celebrate the festivities.


I know, I know…you’ve heard this one a million times, but there is a reason it keeps coming up! Alcohol will do far more damage to your cells if they are already shrivelled up and dehydrated. Never turn up to an event you are planning to drink at, thirsty. Before you order your first drink, go and grab a big glass of water and be sure to consciously hydrate in the lead up to the event. For example, if you know you’re likely to have a couple of glasses of wine over a Christmas lunch, get yourself a water bottle so you can actually track how much water you are drinking before you go. Keep a water bottle or a big glass of water on your bedside table when coming home after drinking alcohol. That way if you wake up thirsty, you have water within reach or you will be reminded to drink as soon as you wake up.

St. Mary’s Thistle

Also called Milk Thistle, this wonderful herb is a brilliant liver protecting herb. You will find this in supplement form at most health food stores and chemists. Follow the directions on the label, but I generally recommend 1 – 2 tablets on either side of the drinking days. I.e. if you have a Christmas party on the Friday night, take your St. Mary’s thistle from Thursday through to Saturday.

B vitamins

Essential nutrients for the detoxification and processing of alcohol. There is some evidence to suggest that people who have lower levels of B vitamin when they start drinking tend to get worse hang overs than those who are adequately nourished. B vitamins are water soluble nutrients so we don’t store them in large amounts. When you are drinking, your body is using B vitamins up very quickly. Taking a B-complex daily over the holiday season can help make sure you don’t slip into any little (or big!) deficiencies.


Drinking on an empty stomach is never a good idea. Not only does it irritate the lining of the stomach, it also wreaks havoc with your blood sugar levels, upsets your adrenals and can reach your brain cells within a minute of consumption! Make sure you eat something that has some protein and good fat in it. This will help line your stomach, anchor your blood sugars and allow your liver to process the alcohol in a steady, organised fashion rather than causing it to be completely overwhelmed.

Good snacks/options: Ryevita with avocado or nut butter, handful of nuts, bliss balls, apple slices with nut butter, hard-boiled egg, yoghurt with some berries and LSA or a chia pudding.

Breakfast time the next day

If you’ve overdone it a bit, make sure that you get straight back on track the next morning. A fatty, fried breakfast is only going to make your body and your liver work harder! Skip the coffee and go for a dandelion chai or a green juice/smoothie. Dandelion supports and optimises liver function and let’s be honest, if you’ve woken up a bit hazy, this is your liver’s way of letting you know it’s a bit cross with you. Greens are a great source of folic acid, a nutrient that gets used up quickly if you are drinking alcohol. Wholegrain carbs like rye toast or untoasted muesli help get your digestive system back on track and pull out any toxins that are lingering. The fibre also helps to support the bacteria in your gut as they too, get heavily influenced by alcohol.

You’ve woken up with a headache

If you’ve woken up the next day and your head is pounding, this is your body letting you know it’s cranky. Before you think of reaching for the Panadol, try some turmeric tablets/capsules instead. Panadol (and most other headache/pain medication) has to go through your liver in order to be activated and processed. You’ve already put your liver under stress; don’t make it keep working harder than it needs to (after all, the reason you have a headache is self-inflicted). Turmeric is a brilliant anti-inflammatory so will help relieve the pain and as a bonus, it loves your liver!

As with most things in life, it’s all about balance. Being kind to your body (especially your liver) over the festive season is important as it is usually pushed a bit harder than usual. Implementing a few little tricks can help you have the best of both worlds!