Hangovers have been a curse on the human race since before the beginning of recorded history. But modern science, along with building nuclear bombs and MP3 players, has dedicated some serious research time to the subject.
The Cause – For light to moderate drinkers, it takes about five to seven drinks over about five hours to bring on a hangover. Hangovers can be made worse by drinking on an empty stomach, dancing, not having had enough sleep, being dehydrated, and so on. The science of hangovers is myriad. One of the big things is the diuretic effect of alcohol. Once you start drinking, you urinate more than you consume. To make it worse, you also pee away salts like potassium, plus vitamin B and C, which work together with the liver.
Alcohol also breaks down the liver’s store of glycogen, an important energy source. This is one of the reasons you feel so worn out and clumsy the next day. Cogeners, a toxic in alcohol, cause several of the more severe hangover symptoms, are present in varying concentrations, depending on the type of booze. Generally, the darker the liquor the more of it, so lean towards clear liqours like vodka, white wine and gin.
The alcohol metabolism process also creates a toxin called acetaldehyde, chemically similar to vinegar. This is attacked by the enzyme dehydrogenase and a substance named glutathione, which are only effective for the first few drinks, explaining why six or seven drinks are no big deal, but 10 drinks multiply the hangover intensity by five times.
So that’s the basic science. Let’s move on to our hangover reduction program.
Before – Eat dinner. This slows down alcohol absorption. Fatty food are good for this. Food also decreases stomach irritation, reducing the likelihood of throwing up. Drink water. Make sure you’re hydrated before the diuretic effect kicks in. Take multivitamins. Concentrate on water soluble vitamins B and C for your liver.
During – Sip, don’t gulp. A drink per hour is about as much as the body can process. Drink a glass of water with every drink, and throw in some rehydration salts as well to boost the salt and sugar you’re losing. Don’t mix. Different types of alcohol force the body to readjust the chemistry to cope, ultimately increasing hangover severity. Try not to drink cheap stuff. Higher-priced alcohol is brewed and distilled more carefully to reduce the nastier by-products. Many of the big name distilleries and breweries have hundreds of years of experience and know what keeps the puntes coming back.
After – Before bed take two aspirin (NOT Paracetamol), which inhibit prostaglandin, another hangover toxin. Knock back a couple of glasses of water with some vitamin B and C tablets.
In the morning – Take two more aspirin, and toss in a few more vitamins to keep up the toxic purge. Eat breakfast. Eggs contain cysteine, which works against the chemical skinheads, have a banana and/or rehydration salts for the potassium, and fruit juice for the fructose. Skip the coffee and tea if you can. They are diuretics and only exacerbate water loss. Drink water. Keep knocking it back and sit around and watch TV. By sunset, when the phone rings and one of last night’s friends invites you out again, you’ll be good to go.