If you’ve ever overindulged in alcohol, it’s likely you’ve experienced a hangover. And if you’ve experienced more than one you have already heard, and ignored, the best advice for avoiding them—drink in moderation, or don’t drink at all.
The only sure-fire way to avoid a hangover is to avoid alcohol altogether. But the truth of the matter is, if you enjoy alcohol and live anywhere but a convent, you’re likely to drink to excess every now and again. Which means an occasional hangover. And if your first encounter with a hangover didn’t cure you of the sauce, it did, at the very least, leave you with an intense fear of experiencing one again.
In this article you will find some basic information about hangovers, and some ways to mitigate their damage.
What is a Hangover?
It is not entirely clear just what a hangover is. That is to say, research on the affliction is limited and inconclusive. So what is known?
- The basic cause: an over-indulgence in alcohol.
- The symptoms: dry mouth, headache, nausea, impaired brain function, sensitivity to light, sleeplessness and dizziness, among others.
Because everyone reacts to alcohol differently, no specific amount is known to generate a hangover. For the same reason, hangovers affect different people in different ways. Some people experience more and severer symptoms than others from just the same amount of alcohol.
While research has generated few conclusions, there are a number of factors thought to cause, or at least affect, a hangover. Here are three of the most widely accepted:
- Dehydration and Toxins. Alcohol consumption severely dehydrates the body and subjects our organs to toxins—and these are the cause of our painful morning-after symptoms.
- Cogents. Alcohol contains cogents, chemicals generated in the fermentation process. Some studies suggest that cogents (which are more common in dark beverages like scotch or red wine, than in clear ones like gin or vodka) add to the severity of morning after symptoms.
- Age. Many report severer hangovers as they age. While no conclusive evidence exists to substantiate these claims, they do make sense. The older you are, the longer it takes to recover from injury and illness.
As mentioned, the best way to avoid a hangover is to drink in moderation. If you find yourself drinking to excess, here are some suggestions for mitigating your morning after symptoms:
- Eat before you drink—food might slow the absorption of alcohol.
- Stay hydrated before, and while, you consume.
- Stick to clearer drinks as these contain fewer cogents.
If you wake up with a hangover, don’t worry: it should go away within 24hrs. If this seems too long to wait, here are some approaches to mitigating your pain:
- Stay hydrated and eat foods like toast or cereal, which are easy to digest. The greasy food thing is a myth—experts say such food will do nothing to help hangover symptoms, and will likely add to whatever indigestion you may already be experiencing.
- Try Alka-Seltzer: it contains sodium bicarbonate, which might settle your stomach.
- Replenish your vitamins. Excessive drinking depletes your vitamin B and C stores. While there is no scientific evidence to suggest vitamin intake alleviates symptoms, many people use a B complex as a hangover “cure.”
- Take a pain reliever. But be careful: while a NSAID may relieve pain, it may also exacerbate an upset stomach.
- Go back to sleep. Although alcohol makes you drowsy, it also disrupts sleep. Catching up on proper rest could help dispel your symptoms.