We’ve all been there. Maybe you met with a few friends for a couple of drinks and before you know it a couple of drinks have turned into double figures. Then the next morning we suffer the consequences – extreme tiredness, pounding headache, rumbling stomach and just general misery. It is the prelude to a question many millions have no doubt asked themselves, how do I get rid of this hangover quickly and effectively?
Let’s start with what a hangover actually is. As you may be aware a hangover is generally caused by drinking large quantities of alcoholic beverages in a short period of time. The main result of this is dehydration, as alcohol is a diuretic, which causes you to urinate more as the day/night progresses and doesn’t give your body the chance to rehydrate.
We can split the ‘cure’ to a hangover into 2 sections – reaction and prevention.
Let’s start with reaction first. As mentioned above the main cause of a hangover is dehydration, so drinking a pint of water when you wake up won’t do your body any harm. Something a lot of people tend to do is have a fry up for breakfast. Even though it may strain your digestive system, having food like bacon and eggs will eventually give you a much needed energy boost due to all the calories in them. Eggs and meat are also thought to be rich in the amino acid, cysteine, which is thought to be good at clearing out toxins.
What about medication? You may think it might be a good idea to take a paracetamol to make yourself feel better, but it actually gives your liver more work to do, and since you’ve already battered it with alcohol all night then you might want to grant it a wee rest. Caffeine is also a favourite for hangovers, but it will only give you a temporary boost, as it too has dehydrating properties so in the long run won’t make you feel that much better.
This next suggestion definitely will not sit well with everyone – exercise. You may have heard people say they try to sweat out the alcohol in their body as a joke, but doing some sort of exercise, as terrible as it sounds, raises your metabolic rate and helps you clear toxins that are associated with metabolizing alcohol. It also allows oxygen to get into your system which speeds up clearing any toxins. Even a short walk outside would make a small difference.
You may be delighted to hear that lots of sleep will help cure a hangover so if you were wise to pick a night where you had nothing particularly on the next day, then a long lie might be in order. This allows the body to purely focus on recovery, plus you may not want to leave the safety of your bed in any case.
The last suggestion I have is a slightly ambitious one, as it takes a brave, perhaps foolish soul to do – and that is to get back on it. No matter how terrible you find the smell of alcohol the next day, or how destroyed your body feels, there is scientific value to forcing yourself to drink more alcohol. By doing so allows your body to focus on a new intake of alcohol and it conveniently forgets about everything else. Obviously the small flaw in this brilliant plan is once you stop drinking again you are back to square one!
So we’ve tackled reaction, what about prevention?
Obviously the best way to not get a hangover is not to drink alcohol in the first place, but who would want to do that!(I’m not an alcoholic…honest!) To re-quote a statement that has always amused me, ‘Alcohol, because no great story ever starts with a salad!’
Since I have mentioned already that a hangover is caused by dehydration the next obvious step is to keep drinking water throughout the night also. I remember during my ‘exploratory’ years with alcohol my mother used to say ‘Now remember to have a pint of water in between every beer’. At a time when reputations still mattered at school, there was not a chance that I was ever going to do that.(Seriously, I’m not an alcoholic!) If you have a soft drink in between each drink though, it may not be as sobering as you think, as fizzy drinks tend to speed up the rate of the alcohol already in your body getting into the blood stream.
Another prevention method is to line your stomach beforehand, either with food, milk or whatever delicacy you’ve heard rumoured to be effective. A general rule is the more fat in the food/milk the better, so things like steaks and burgers, as the fat is digested slowly which stops the alcohol getting around your body as quickly.
What you are drinking will play a part in how strong you hangover is. The ’lighter’ your alcohol is the less likely you will have a bad hangover. ‘Darker’ drinks, such as red wine and port, are full of congeners from the fermenting process, which tend to caused worse hangovers.
Having some food (classics like chips ‘n’ cheese or a kebab) and a glass of water at the end of the night is a wise choice also, as it slows down the alcoholic process in the same way as before the night began.
So you may be thinking that there is not much science in what I have been saying, and you may be right, but do not fear because the reason for stating all of the above is that it may not be necessarily needed soon.
In Australia (where else could this have come from) there has been an effort to produce non-hangover beer by adding electrolytes to each beverage. These electrolytes are the same things you find in Lucozade or Powerade, which are designed to rehydrate the body more effectively. So the thinking behind it is that by putting electrolytes into beer, then the body will remain more hydrated over the course of an evening than with ordinary beer. To prove this they asked members of a local health club to drink some beers after one of their sessions, half with electrolytes in them, half without. What they found was that the people who drank the electrolyte beer actually rehydrated, whereas the other began to dehydrate further.
So there you have it Ladies and Gentlemen, the cure for an alcoholic beverage hangover…. Is in the beverage itself!
You may be wondering if I have my own cure for a hangover, and you’d be right. I generally cannot function the following day without the magical properties of this.……….