National Hangover Day is observed annually on January 1st. The day follows New Year’s Eve, a day that traditionally is spent celebrating to bring in the New Year.
Symptoms of a Hangover
- Feeling tired: Alcohol is a toxin. Our bodies are designed to metabolize toxins (alcohol) at a certain pace. When the pace of consumption exceeds the pace the liver can process it we become intoxicated and at a substantially higher risk for a hangover. As the liver breaks down alcohol, it produces the toxic chemical acetaldehyde. One of the substances the body produces to counter these toxins is glutathione. The body can only make so much at a time and can be quickly depleted during a night of drinking. Glutathione is a stimulant and when it’s depleted, we feel tired.
- Upset stomach: Alcohol promotes secretion of hydrochloric acid in the stomach. Excessive amounts of hydrochloric acid can lead to a queasy stomach, diarrhea or vomiting.
- Headache or muscle aches: Alcohol is a diuretic. Dehydration can lead to aches and pains as well as the upset stomach listed above
How to Prevent that Hangover
- Eat – A fat and protein loaded meal before or during the first round of drinks will slow the absorption of alcohol into the bloodstream. No, the food doesn’t act a sponge, soaking up the alcohol, but it does slow down the digestive process. Fats and especially proteins, take longer to digest and the alcohol will be released more slowly into the bloodstream.
- Drink water – Keep hydrated between beers or shots by drinking a glass of water in between. This will dilute the alcohol, give the liver time to keep up and replace the fluids lost.
- Avoid diet cocktails – According to WebMD studies show cocktails mixed with fruits, fruit juices or other sugar-containing beverages lessen the intensity of a hangover.
- Pace yourself – The saying, “Beer then liquor, never been sicker. Liquor then beer, have no fear” has more to do with the amount of alcohol consumed than the type. Beer tends to be consumed more quickly than hard liquor and as the night goes on, each successive drink tends to go down easier. Starting with liquor and then switching to beer half way through, one might drink more beer, but less total alcohol than if the process is reversed
The only sure fire cure for a hangover is time and lots of fluids. There are some common remedies that may help ease the symptoms, and there are others that only delay recovery.
- The most common ‘cure’ is called “a hair of the dog that bit you”. This suggests that having some of what caused the hangover will help cure it. This will only delay recovery as it will further tax the liver, increase the secretion of hydrochloric acid and will not replace any of the fluids already lost to last night’s revelry.
- Eat a banana. Bananas are high in potassium. This is nutrient that is lost while consuming alcohol. Potassium loss contributes to muscle aches and cramps. Eating a banana will help easethese symptoms.
- In the movies, a strong cup of coffee is often shoved into the hands of the hangover victim in hopes of bringing some life back into them. Coffee is a diuretic and while it may stimulate the body temporarily, the effect doesn’t last and will only delay recovery.
- Drinking plenty of water* during the party and replacing fluids after can help ease the symptoms of a hangover. Rehydrate with water or also try fruit juices and sports drinks. These will replace electrolytes which have been lost and also help recover from low blood sugar. Studies have shown that alcohol consumption has a direct correlation to an increase in insulin.
- Pain relievers may be the logical choice for that pounding headache which is a common symptom of a hangover. However, they also tax the already overworked liver. If a pain reliever is necessary, aspirin will have the least effect on the liver but can irritate the stomach. Either way, pain relievers may delay recovery more than ease the symptoms.
- Over-the-counter miracle cures may seem too good to be true, and they probably are. Most of them require each pill to be taken with large quantities of water. See * above about re-hydration. These products may help ease the symptoms, but at an unnecessary expense.
- Eating a meal with complex carbohydrates, protein and a little fat can help ease the symptoms of a hangover. Whole wheat toast can absorb some of the acid the stomach is producing. A fried egg can give the stomach something else to do instead of producing acid and also replaces some nutrients the body lost during the party binge