Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Halloween is coming and if you’re in South Carolina, for god’s sake, grease your shingles

I love Halloween. I can safely say that it is one of, if not the only holiday I celebrate with wild abandon. That said, there is no quicker way to end the party than to overdose on piles of mini candy bars and candy corn washed down with “seasonal drinks” often filled with "buttered" rum or “punch” and then fall asleep on a couch still dressed as a less than stealth ninja.

And then there is that hangover…worse than a typical hangover because you threw that extra dime store orange plastic pumpkin full of sugar down your throat. And yes, because it is Halloween, you rationalize that it is totally worth it, but that doesn’t make your head hurt any less the next morning. Well, why don’t you try gearing up for the nights of partying with the same strategy that scored you that costume that your friends can’t figure is a werewolf, the rat from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, or even you under a pile of makeup and hair. Make a plan and stick to it to the best of your ability.

Begin about a week ahead of festivities making sure you are properly hydrated. Take a genuine interest in becoming a water bottle junkie and avoid drinking alcohol in excess if at all. Water molecules are required in the metabolism of alcohol, so it is easy to become dehydrated quickly leading to dizziness and balance issues followed by that seriously fun headache then next morning. This is especially likely to happen if you were not well-hydrated prior to those tasty drinks, which you really may want to limit to one per hour to give your body a better chance to cope. Increased urination will magnify a loss of electrolytes, so drink mineral water in between rounds.

Going out on an empty stomach can only make the impending hangover worse. Your digestive system needs something to do to slow down that alcohol metabolism. Having a solid meal (Think meat and potatoes!) in your stomach will lessen gastric irritation and allow you to last longer through the night and be less likely to gobble all sorts of candy or munchies through the night. Warm drinks, sugary drinks and champagne metabolize the fastest and should be avoided. Vodka and gin have the least concentration of congeners, by-products of termination and distillation, and should be chosen before drinks with wine, rum, tequila, or scotch. Unfortunately for the body, the higher the concentration of congeners, the more intense the hangover.

So you may or may not have prepared your body for the haunted forest that is a hangover, here’s how to deal with it. Before you go to bed, drinking an electrolyte replacement drink is a good idea to replace electrolytes and attempt to correct the body’s fluid balance. Having this next to your bed is also advisable in case you wake up thirsty. Avoid taking ibuprofen or other painkillers as they will irritate your stomach. If you can eat, have a hearty breakfast with some bouillon if possible. Anecdotally, I recommend a chicken or beef ramen cup to sooth the stomach and regain electrolytes. Avoid coffee as it will make the stomach more acidic and prolong digestive discomfort due to tannic acid. If you must have a warm breakfast beverage, opt for green tea. If your stomach is feeling normal, the big breakfast is just right. Eggs, bacon, and toast will help to absorb excess acid in the stomach and fuel you for your hangover bounce back.

And don’t forget you should finish where you started: Hydrate!

Happy Halloween!!


Thursday, October 18, 2007

Oral surgery: The (not so) quick way to lose (but not really) 10 pounds

If getting your wisdom teeth pulled doesn't sound like your idea of an fun-filled Monday afternoon, I'm going to bet it's because you haven't considered the fantastic nutritional side effects of said procedure. Pureed diet? Bring it on. At least that was my attitude before the oral surgeon had at my mouth...

So you guessed it. I got my wisdom teeth extracted. All four of them. At once. All impacted. The oral surgeon gave me the typical spiel about "pudding, applesauce, mashed potatoes." I, in my ignorance, thought that as a nutritionist, I should be able to write the book on this kind of stuff. This is a mechanical soft diet. I prescribe them all the time. Might as well get a taste of my own medicine.

Suffice to say, I was not prepared for the pain. Let's not dwell on how it still felt like a jackhammer was pounding inside my jaw by post-op day 10. Eating was more than a challenge. I started my first night (with gauze still packed in the freshly gouged holes in the back of my mouth) with half-melted ice cream, the only thing I could get into my mouth without wanting to call Dr. Kevorkian. The next morning, my pain induced coma kept me in bed until the early afternoon, at which point I tried to have some oatmeal. Bad choice. While delicious under normal circumstances, all that soluble fiber stickiness attached itself to my stitches, and I wasn't about to go spelunking to get it off. For the next few days, pudding was my best friend. That chocolate deliciousness slipped right down the gullet, no problems. Not exactly nutritionally sound, but at that point I was looking for calories any way I could get them. Four days post-op was potroast night, and it smelt so delicious that I couldn't not eat it. I chopped it up as small as I could and swallowed it whole. The mashed potatoes were easier. The corn, not so much.

So here are my survival tips to get through any sort of oral surgery/extraction/other dental torture without swearing off food altogether:

-Stick to semi-liquid foods the first two days: Think milk shakes (even pudding is too thick for now), but pour them into your mouth off a spoon, since no straws are allowed! Puckering your mouth hurts like a mo fo and can tear your sutures out.
-You need protein to heal up your mouth. Stick to tender meats (flaky fish are great) and cut them up. When you think the pieces are small enough, cut them some more. Better than pureed chicken, that's for sure.
-Get some Vitamin C for wound healing from some OJ. Easy to pour down your throat, but try not to swirl it around your mouth. The acidity could sting your "holes," as the dental profession responsible for their existence so lovingly refer to them.
-Tender cooked veggies are easy to mash up and get down, and the vitamins and minerals will help you heal more quickly. Boiling may be your best option, but if you'd like to retain more vitamins, just steam them to death.

One way to prolong your suffering: Chew with your front teeth. I thought I was helping myself out by keeping any food I ate away from my holes, but my oral surgeon let me know that by chomping away with my incisors, I was straining my jaw and extending my torment longer than necessary. Just deal with the fact that once you can tolerate moving your jaw more than a fraction of an inch to chew, you are going to stash away half of every mouthful in those holes. Gargling gets most of it out and lets you enjoy every meal at least one and a half times.

I ended up losing 5 pounds over the course of the two weeks of intense pain and "functional capacity affecting intake," as we in the clinical field call circumstances like these. I would hardly classify myself as malnourished, and I gained all the weight back when I started eating again. So if you're looking for a (not so) quick way to lose (but not really) 10 pounds, I've got a great oral surgeon for you.