The Night before the Storm:
So the dizzy party lights, the loud music, and the fun group made it an enthralling party last night? Makes you wonder why your body makes you pay with a nightmare the next morning for some unadulterated fun? Jump aboard the super roller coaster, we all know too well as a “hangover”.
A pounding headache, the queasiness, the dizziness, the sensitivity to light and sound, utter confusion, thirst like a camel in a parched desert…….symptoms that literally bring you down to earth (oh, you wish the earth could just suck you in), elevating levels of anxiety, regret, shame, embarrassment, as well as depression.
What actually leads to a Hangover?
Why does it make the body react so strongly? Though we don’t want to look at it that way but Alcohol is a drug, a depressant that will naturally trigger the body to treat it as an intruder and try expelling it.
Alcohol is absorbed quickly in the bloodstream and blocks the pituitary gland from producing vasopressin, the hormone that maintains your body’s water absorption and hydration levels. In the absence of vasopressin, liquids travel quickly to your bladder resulting in excessive peeing experienced during a boozy evening. If you think that the liquid in the alcohol will fill in the void, it sadly doesn’t work that way…in fact you lose about 4x more liquid than you gain leading to dehydration.
Makes you think.. what does dehydration and headaches have in common? Dehydration leaves the battlefield open for organs to start the war for limited water sources and your poor brain loses the battle, leading to brain shrinkage (try solving the crossword during a hangover ;)). The membranes that connect the brain to the skull get pulled in the process leading to literally “tearing” pain.
Weakness is a bygone symptom considering salt, potassium, and magnesium depletion through all those restroom visits and since alcohol also breaks down glycogen (a natural energy source in your liver) and expels it through your pee, it’s a double whammy!
Alcohol metabolism in the liver creates an extremely toxic substance called acetaldehyde, which only a couple of enzymes (acetaldehyde dehydrogenase and glutathione) can break down. But these enzymes are quickly overpowered when inundated with excessive alcohol, leading to toxin build up, further increasing the severity of headaches and nausea.
Tips to Prevent a Hangover:
The best way to prevent a hangover is to avoid alcohol but in case you can’t to drink in moderation. There is no direct cure for a hangover and you can only suppress the various symptoms individually and bide the “time” needed for the body to recover naturally.
Drink responsibly: Don’t have more than 2 drinks in 1-2 hrs and no more than 5 drinks in one night.
Drink water: Before heading to a party, drink plenty of water to hydrate and help diluting alcohol.
Eat “fat” rich food: Fat is known to slow down your body’s absorption of alcohol by lining your digestive tract.
Intersperse with water: Have a glass of water between each drink to dilute the alcohol in your body. A glass of water with every beer is a good metric.
Avoid dark drinks: Choose beer and clear liquors (vodka or gin) and avoid malt/dark liquors (whiskey or rum) and red wine that contains tannins which increase the hangover severity.
Stick with non-carbonated mixers: Carbonated drink mixers accelerate alcohol absorption. So stay away from them.
Go slow: Sip and never gulp your drinks, to slow down alcohol absorption.
Myths and Legends to cure a Hangover:
Some of the widely used, traditional hangover “cures” (calling them myths or legends would be better) really do little to relieve symptoms and some of them can actually make the situation worse.
Replenishing lost salts through Sports Drinks: Yes you do lose water and salts (electrolytes) with the excessive urination but it isn’t so much to binge on sports drinks. Drink water instead.
The Morning Drink: Hangover is the worst when blood alcohol levels come back to normal levels, ideally in the early morning. Pouring yourself another drink is just postponing the ticking bomb and actually making it more lethal as your liver has more alcohol to work with now. It’s only going to make the impending headache worse and make you an addict.
Black Coffee: The caffeine will provide short term relief from symptoms of fatigue and headache (by constricting blood vessels) but its diuretic effect causes more dehydration. Drink water to fill the gaping hydration hole or try tea with/without lemon.
Pain Medication: Taking acetaminophen (Tylenol) at bedtime normally fades its effect in the morning, when the hangover is the worst. Also its impact on an overworked liver can be devastating and can cause permanent liver damage.
Eating Burnt Toast: Mistaking burnt toast as a form of “activated” carbon is plain foolish. So if you expect that the carbon will filter the toxins from the alcohol, it ain’t gonna work.
Natural Cures to beat a hangover:
The only real cure for a hangover is time. If no more alcohol is consumed, hangover symptoms should subside between eight and 24 hours. There are some things that can be done to relieve some of the most severe symptoms.
Water – Dehydration causes irritating headache, dizziness, and light headedness. So drink water with alcohol and in the morning.
Eggs – Eggs contain cysteine that breaks down acetaldehyde in the body, and provides relief from hangover-causing symptoms.
Bananas – Eating bananas, or other fruits high in potassium, restores depleted potassium levels. [
Fruit or Fruit Juice – Helps replenish vitamins and nutrients and helps detox the body of toxins.
Eat a protein rich sandwich: Bread will spike up your blood sugar levels and the protein breaks down to amino acids to help replenish brain neurotransmitters that were depleted by the alcohol.
Chew ginger: Boil 10-12 pieces of fresh ginger root in about four cups of water and add the juice of one orange, half lemon and half cup of honey. Ancient but works even today.
Sleep: Restorative sleep is known to provide the body with best support from a hangover.
Avoid the Addiction and Seek Advice:
If you can’t remember what happened while you were drinking, or if you get hangovers on a regular basis, you may have a drinking problem. Talk to someone about getting help.
Even without treatment, a hangover should last no more than 24 hours. If you’re still feeling bad after that, call a doctor.