• Muji Castilho

Hangover: 4 Best Cures for you to Stop the Pain

Muji Castilho, HK BioTek Intern

What is it?

A hangover is characterized by the constellation of unpleasant physical and mental symptoms that occur after a bout of heavy alcohol drinking. Generally, the more and longer you drink, the more prevalent is the hangover, most people who are intoxicated would experience a hangover at least some of the time. There is an association between increased weekly alcohol consumption and the frequency of hangover. Physical symptoms of a hangover include fatigue, headache, increased sensitivity to light and sound, redness of the eyes, muscle aches, and thirst. Signs of increased sympathetic nervous system activity can accompany a hangover, including increased systolic blood pressure, rapid heartbeat (i.e., tachycardia), tremor, and sweating. Mental symptoms include dizziness; a sense of the room spinning (i.e., vertigo); and possible cognitive and mood disturbances, especially depression, anxiety, and irritability. The particular set of symptoms experienced, and their intensity may vary from person to person and from occasion to occasion. In addition, hangover characteristics maybe depend on the type of alcoholic beverages you consumed and the amount you drink. Typically, a hangover begins within several hours after the cessation of drinking, when your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is falling. Symptoms usually are at peak during the time BAC is at zero and may continue for up to 24 hours thereafter.


1. Have a good breakfast

Eating a hearty breakfast is one of the most well-known remedies for a hangover. One reason is that a good breakfast can help maintain your blood sugar levels. Although low blood sugar levels are not necessarily the cause of a hangover, they’re often associated with it. Low blood sugar could also contribute to some hangover symptoms, such as nausea, fatigue and weakness. In fact, some studies also show that maintaining adequate blood sugar could mitigate some of the bodily changes that occur with alcohol consumption, such as the buildup of acid in the blood.

Excessive drinking can throw off the balance of the chemicals in your blood and cause metabolic acidosis, which is characterized by an increase in acidity. It could be associated with symptoms such as nausea, vomiting and fatigue. In order to help reduce certain hangover symptoms, eating a healthy breakfast can provide important vitamins and minerals, which may become depleted with excessive alcohol intake. Although there is no evidence that show low blood sugar is a direct cause of hangovers but eating a nutritious, well-balanced and hearty breakfast in the morning after drinking may help reduce hangover symptoms.


● Eggs

● Greek yogurt

● Oatmeal

● Chia seeds

● Berries

● Nuts

● Green tea

● Protein shake

● Fruit (esp. Citrus fruit)

● Flax seeds

● Cottage cheese


2. Stay hydrated

Drinking alcohol can lead to dehydration in a few different ways. First, alcohol has a diuretic effect. This means that it increases the production of urine, leading to a loss of fluids and electrolytes that are needed for normal functioning. Second, excessive amounts of alcohol can cause vomiting, leading to a further loss of fluids and electrolytes. Although dehydration is not the only cause of a hangover, but it contributes to many of its symptoms, such as increased thirst, fatigue, headache and dizziness. So, increasing your water intake may help alleviate some symptoms of hangovers and even prevent them altogether.

When drinking alcohol, a good rule of thumb is to alternate between a glass of water and a drink. Though this won’t always prevent dehydration, but it can help you moderate your alcohol intake. Afterward, to stay hydrated throughout the day remember to drink water whenever you feel thirsty to reduce your hangover symptoms.


3. Have a drink the next morning

As alcohol changes the way methanol (a chemical found in alcoholic beverages), is processed in our body. So, after you drink alcohol, methanol is converted into formaldehyde, a toxic compound that could be the cause of some hangover symptoms.

However, drinking ethanol (alcohol) when you have a hangover can stop this conversion and prevent the formation of formaldehyde altogether. Instead of forming formaldehyde, methanol is then safely excreted from the body.

However, this method is not recommended as a treatment for hangovers, as it can lead to the development of unhealthy habits and alcohol dependence.


4. Avoid drinks with congeners

Through the process of ethanol fermentation, sugars are converted into carbon dioxide and ethanol(alcohol). Congeners are toxic chemical by-products that are also formed during this process.

Some studies have found that consuming drinks with a high amount of congeners could increase the frequency and severity of a hangover. Drinks that are high in congeners include tequila, whiskey and cognac, with bourbon whiskey containing the highest amount.

Different alcoholic beverages have different amount of congeners. And selecting drinks that are low in congeners such as vodka (containing almost no congeners), gin and rum may help reduce the incidence and severity of hangovers.

Congeners may also slow the metabolism of alcohol and cause prolonged symptoms. It was found that drinking high-congener bourbon resulted in worse hangovers than drinking low-congener vodka.


References:

Harburg, E., Gunn, R., Gleiberman, L., DiFranceisco, W., & Schork, A. (1993). Psychosocial factors, alcohol use, and hangover signs among social drinkers: a reappraisal. Journal of clinical epidemiology, 46(5), 413-422.


Swift, R., & Davidson, D. (1998). Alcohol hangover: mechanisms and mediators. Alcohol health and research world, 22(1), 54.

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