Had a great time last night but now find yourself paying for it? We’ve all been there. If you do find yourself over-indulging with alcohol, take action! Here are the most up-to-date solutions to a horrid hangover, and how to prevent another one.
What is a hangover?
The unpleasant feelings of a hangover – headache, nausea, thirst – are caused by a toxic substance called acetaldehyde. This chemical is produced by our liver when metabolising alcohol, as well as from inhaling tobacco, and is linked to some cancers. When we drink too much, the enzymes that break down alcohol can’t keep up, and the toxins build up. Another principle factor is simple dehydration. This is caused by alcohol causing your body to produce much more urine than usual, with the resultant dry mouth, headache and lethargy. Sounds horrid? Onto the cures.
How do hangover cures work?
Hangover cures work in several ways. Scientists believe that one solution is to reduce the amount of time acetaldehyde is present in the body. Recent studies show some drinks, such as Sprite (see below) speed up the process, while others lengthen it. Dehydration also needs to be tackled, and electrolytes replaced, and most fluids will replace lost water and help flush alcohol out of the system. Another purpose of hangover cures is to restore sugar levels to their previous levels and give your body and brain cells renewed energy. Anything which metabolises quickly is good here, so peanut M&Ms may be allowed!
BEFORE YOU DRINK
Asparagus. Research in 2012 suggested that eating a few asparagus spears before you start drinking may prevent hangovers from occurring. According to the South Korean study, amino acids and minerals in the vegetable help the body break down alcohol more quickly, and protect liver cells from alcohol’s toxic effects. The leaves had even higher levels of the beneficial compounds. Perhaps a breakfast of asparagus and eggs is all that’s needed?
Fatty foods. It might sound like a myth, but fatty foods are a good way to ‘grease’ the lining of your stomach before you drink, meaning it slows the rate that alcohol is absorbed. A traditional Mediterranean approach is to swallow a spoonful of olive oil, which has the same effect. Good foods to eat are chorizo, bacon, eggs and cheese. In fact, most high protein/high fat foods such as a cheese sandwich are perfect.
Protein shake. If you really don’t have time to eat, or don’t feel like eating, drink a protein shake to line your stomach.
AFTER YOU DRINK
Sprite. Earlier this year Chinese researchers tested 57 drinks to discover which provided the most relief from hangovers. All types of drinks were tried, from herbal teas to fizzy drinks. Sprite proved to be the most effective because it speeded up the breaking down of acetaldehyde more than any other drink.
Water. Preventing dehydration caused by alcohol is one of the best ways to prevent a hangover. Water helps to hydrate our muscles and organs as well as flushing out toxins. Drinking plenty of water before you go out and before you go to bed will really help. Even better is to alternate every alcoholic drink with a glass of water. Some experts recommend 200ml of water to counteract each 30ml of alcohol. Drinking water also dilutes other impurities which are added to alcohol during the distillation process, which can make a hangover worse. These impurities are higher in sweeter and malt drinks. Therefore avoiding such drinks will also help.
Sports drinks. Not just for gym visits, sports drinks are believed by some to be the perfect hangover drink. After particularly indulgent nights your body may need more fluid-balancing electrodes, which is exactly what sports drinks are packed full of. Pick sugar-free ones if possible.
Cheese, bacon and carbs. When you stumble in the house at 2am, eating something - anything really - will help to increase metabolism and accelerate alcohol absorption. Protein and carbs which contain amino acids, such as cheese or a bacon sandwich, will top up these amino acids and make you feel better.
Eggs. Eggs contain an amino acid called cysteine, which helps to break down acetaldehyde. This takes the strain off your liver, which may be pushed to its max already. They are also an easily digested food which will be gentle on your tender stomach in the morning.
Fruit. Fruit and 100% fruit juice will help replace lost vitamins and minerals, such as potassium, which you lost due to your boozing last night. The fructose will also give you vital energy and help your body clear acetaldehyde faster, while your thirst is quenched in a delicious, healthy way. Bananas, in particular, get a lot of potassium into your system, while being easy to eat. They also contain lots of magnesium which may help to relax your blood vessels, and replace some electrodes which may have been lost.
Of course, the best cure is to avoid drinking too much in the first place. But even the best of us go overboard sometimes. Have fun and stay healthy!