Festival season is great for our social lives, but not so great for our health. Here’s how to get back on track after a big weekend.
Festival season is upon us, so you might be one of the hundreds of thousands of people who are preparing their outfits, blow-up beds and glitter ready for the dance tents. But your post-festival routine needs just as much thought if you want to bounce back from your weekend of fun.
Festival flu, Coachella cough, rave virus - whatever you call it, it hits most party-goers. That’s unsurprising, given you’ll be camping out in grubby fields without easy access to hand wash (lab studies show that wristbands alone can carry around 9,000 micrococci and 2,000 staphylococci), while 81% of people drink or take drugs at festivals, according to the American Addiction Centres. Not exactly a weekend of self care.
For most attendees, a few days of feeling rough is a small price to pay for the buckets of fun though. But when we have jobs to get to, families to look after and workout goals to hit we can’t roll around feeling sorry for ourselves: we need to take recovery action. Here’s how.
“If you are reading something about a post-festival ‘detox’, please stop,” says Huel’s junior nutrition manager Jessica Stansfield. “If your kidneys are functioning effectively, your body will be detoxifying every day,” says Stansfield. Step away from the tonics and cleanses.
Your gut microbiome is likely struggling to survive the sterilizing alcohol and fast food it’s been served over your festival weekend. As our guts are responsible for everything from immune function to mental health and thrive on a diverse diet, it’s yet another reason to avoid restricting, says Stansfield.
“Instead of cutting out foods, think about the things you can add to your daily food intake post-festival. You might want to go for comfort food, but the best advice is to eat the colours of the rainbow, lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grains and add variety on to your plate,” she says.
As well as eating high-fibre, nutrient-dense plants, probiotics are a great way to support your gut. Research even shows they can help the gut–liver–brain axis to improve our physiological response to alcohol. Try taking some before, during and after your festival season.
“Replenishing your electrolytes if you’re struggling with a hangover may be a good idea. A rehydration solution that contains electrolytes, such as sodium and potassium can help to prevent or treat dehydration,” says Stansfield.
Studies show that alcohol depletes our minerals, with one 2016 paper showing 64% of people with alcohol dependence have low sodium, so topping up your nutrient levels is an important part of looking after your health post-drinking. But beware not to overdo it if you’re still eating salty ready meals and take out.
We all know that drinking alcohol dehydrates us – but whether this is down to the alcohol itself or the lack of water you drink alongside it is contested by science. Either way, drinking when you’re already dehydrated is shown to supercharge your symptoms, causing a greater deterioration of cognitive function, according to a study from the journal Alcohol.
If you’re at a multi-day festival, waking up hungover and following the hair of the dog rule of thumb, you’re going to be downing booze while dehydrated. It’s a basic rule but it’s so important to moderate alcohol intake with water and keep up your hydration after you’re home.
It’s tempting to climb straight back into bed after a bad night’s sleep, especially as short-term sleep deprivation is associated with a heightened stress response, pain, depression and anxiety. However, getting your circadian rhythm back on track with a proper sleep routine is what your body needs.
Penn University research has found that people who try to compensate for sleepless nights with early bedtimes are more likely to suffer from chronic insomnia instead of bouncing back to normal, healthy sleep. Catching up a little bit is fine, but try to avoid crawling into bed before your snooze time as it will only further disrupt your rhythm.
A mixture of hangxiety and the post-festival blues can leave even the most positive of us wanting to hide away. To support your mental health, it’s best trying to avoid going into hibernation mode though.
A chilled dinner with your housemates to catch them up on festival gossip or a walk with your colleague will do you the world of good. Get mindful with your nutrition, too: tryptophan is a compound shown to support serotonin production and is found in high-protein foods, so stock up on chicken, salmon and tofu.
Popular mood-boosting supplements, such as 5HTP, one of the building blocks of tryptophan, can support your mood too, but always check with a medical professional before taking any supplements that can affect your mental health.
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