The shrimp was abundant; the drinks superb. Belgians, English Ales, and Extreme Styles of American Beer, Bourbon and Scotch, Jager and La Mojita, and the ever-present Martini. And how ‘bout that hangover?
There can be a world of difference between what defines my hangover experience and what defines yours. How do you know you didn’t just wake up with a world class virus? The severity of your hangover increases with a decrease in quantity and quality of sleep, lack of food consumption, dehydration, increase of physical activity while intoxicated, and poor overall physical health. Sant P. Singh, Professor and Chief of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism at the Chicago Medical School, estimates that “approximately 75% of those who drink alcohol to intoxication will experience a hangover.”
Telltale signs that you may have a hangover
Vomiting – An efficient way for the body to purge itself of some of the excess alcohol in your system. Don’t fight it or force it. Let it come naturally. Immediately following the “event,” rinse your mouth with water, and brush those pearly whites with copious amounts of toothpaste. Recycled chemicals that uncontrollably expel through the “delivery system” are loaded with acids that can harm your teeth. You have taken care of your teeth for a lifetime, so don’t forget them when the going gets tough. Drink lots of water to rehydrate the body after your vomiting spell. If water makes you vomit more, then you weren’t done yet. You will feel better soon.
Unsatisfied Fatigue – You have slept all day, but your eyes feel like broken window shades. You can’t get enough sleep to satisfy the sandman. This is a big clue that you are suffering from hangover hell. High amounts of alcohol prevent the brain from entering into the Rapid Eye Movement (REM) phase of sleep patterns. Without the ability to follow dream catchers, your brain loses the ability to restore itself, leaving your body systems as paralyzed as those of an insomniac.
Headache – The flashing lights and strobing curlicues of Migraine Madness are extremely rare in a hangover-style head throb, but the headache, combined with nausea and other symptoms, is no less hellish. Alcohol inhibits antidiuretic hormone, leading to excessive urination and the resultant dehydration. As the body and brain is deprived of water, it becomes less able to flush out toxins, magnifying the multiple symptoms of the hangover. Hydrating is the easiest and quickest way to alleviate this loss.
Chemicals, known as congeners, form during the processing and maturation of alcohol. Alcoholic beverages high in congeners, such as brandy, wine, tequila, whiskey, bourbon, dark beer, and other dark liquors seem to produce more severe hangovers than those low in congeners, such as white rum, gin, vodka, or blonde beers. If you prefer the darker beverages, counteract the effects by eating ample quantities of natural fruits, cheeses, and sweet, buttery cookies and cakes.
As the body metabolizes alcohol (ethanol), it passes through two phases in the process. In the first phase, the ethanol is converted to acetaldehyde, a substance that is toxic to the body. Acetaldehyde is then converted to a benign substance called acetate in the second phase, but before this happens, it can magnify the symptoms of hangover. If the body is not replenished with water, B-vitamins and electrolytes, the nervous system experiences severe stress, and you are risking potential liver damage.
Muscle Spasms – Because the body has undergone extreme dehydration, the chance of muscle spasms during a hangover increases. Eating a banana as a normal part of your daily routine may help with your potassium levels, but it is necessary to re-hydrate after alcohol consumption to avoid damage to the muscle fibers. Flexing the muscle may give temporary relief.
The Morning Spins, Dizziness - Every step you take seems to make the room swirl. Your head feels like confetti, and cotton mouth seems to contribute. This is usually followed by vomiting, headache, and diarrhea. A forced shower, drinking water, and some light exercise, including sex, is the quickest way out of this one.
Tachycardia (Rapid Heartbeat) and Changes in Blood Pressure – Most people are not aware of what is going on inside their bodies during a hangover. The symptoms are so dramatic on the exterior that the inside trauma goes unnoticed. Although moderate consumption is good for you, be aware that inner damage occurs when you push past moderate into the realm of intoxication.
Treatments of Hangover
Caution with Over-the-Counter Drugs - New studies on the counter effects of medications and alcohol consumption give fair warning to consumers who want to treat their symptoms with over-the-counter medications. Dr. Singh cautions, “To reduce headache, anti-inflammatory drugs should be used cautiously. Aspirin [acetylsalicylic acid] may irritate the stomach and alcohol can amplify the toxic effects of acetaminophen [Tylenol] on the liver.” The same toxic effects exist for Ibuprofen (Motrin).
Liv.52, Himalaya Drug Company, Bombay, India – In clinical tests, this herbal preparation has shown positive results, published in the European Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, in February 1991. “Liv.52 produced a considerable reduction in blood and urine levels of ethanol and acetaldehyde after 12 h. It is possible that Liv.52 prevents the binding of acetaldehyde, bringing about higher initial blood levels followed by rapid elimination. It reduced the hangover symptoms.” The study group was small, so the significance of the study may be questionable.
Chlormethiazole – A research study by Myrsten AL, Rydberg U, Idestrom CM, Lamble R, published in Psychopharmacology (Berl.) In 1980 reported, “Therapeutic administration of 1 g of chlormethiazole (a psychotropic sedative) reduced symptoms of hangover when compared with placebo. However, it also diminished cognitive performance and had important side effects, such as sedation.”
Natural Hangover Cures - Although most natural hangover cures are a matter of trial-and-error, they remain your safest and most direct route to fighting a hangover. Vitamin B6 is favored in numerous studies, as is the consumption of water and sports drinks. What works for one person may not for another, so choose your own weapon. For more on natural cures visit: