Your head is pounding, your mouth is dry, your stomach is churning, and the thought of ever drinking alcohol again makes you sick to the core – all common signs of the next day hangover! Anyone who has ever drunk too much knows the consequences of it.
A hangover typically begins within several hours of someone stopping drinking, peaking when your blood alcohol concentration falls to zero and continuing for up to 24 hours. The rate at which you will recover depends on how fast your body can clear itself of the toxic by-products of alcohol.
WHAT’S HAPPENING WHEN YOU HAVE A HANGOVER?
Drinking alcohol affects nearly every part of your body. And the hangover you experience is when the body goes into recovery mode, trying to fight the toxins you’ve put into your system. Here’s how the body fights back:
Headache - Headaches are the most common side effect of being hung over. Alcohol is a known vasodilator, which means it widens our blood vessels, and that in turn increases the blood flow to the brain. This combined with the effects alcohol has on various neurotransmitters and hormones contribute to the painful throbbing in your head.
Dehydration - As alcohol is a diuretic, excessive consumption can cause the body increase the amount of urine it produces. Alcohol also inhibits the production of the antidiuretic hormone, a hormone that keeps the urine concentrated. If you drink too much alcohol your kidneys may expel water in your urine instead of reabsorbing it into the body – and your body may become dehydrated. By the time your mouth and throat are ‘dry and scratchy’, you are well and truly on your way to dehydration
Nausea - Since alcohol is absorbed directly through the stomach, drinking excessive amounts of alcohol can irritate the stomach lining and cause nausea. If consumed in excess, alcohol can promote the secretion of hydrochloric acid in the stomach. Your body may react by vomiting if too much hydrochloric acid builds up in the stomach. Excess urination also removes necessary salts and potassium from the body and can result in fatigue and nausea.
Sweating - When you have been drinking, your body needs to eliminate the alcohol in the most efficient way possible. Usually this is through the kidneys, however your skin assists with this and that’s why you sweat more.
Weak and fatigued - Glycogen is the body’s main source of stored energy. Alcohol breaks down glycogen in the liver and expels it from the body in the urine. The resulting lower levels of glycogen can make you feel tired and weak until the body restores its supply. Excess alcohol can also inhibit the production of glutamine, a naturally occurring stimulant in the body. When you stop drinking the body may react by overproducing glutamine. The increased production of glutamine can stimulate the brain, making for a restless night and contributing to feelings of fatigue and anxiety.
Puffy Red Eyes - The redness is again due to the vasodilation, and the puffiness is a result of fluid retention.
HOW TO PREVENT AND EASE A HANGOVER:
There are no cures for a hangover. There are however tips to help avoid hangovers and ways to ease the symptoms if you have one. To help keep hangovers away:
Eat Something - Don't drink on an empty stomach. Before you go out, have a meal that includes carbohydrates (such as pasta or rice) or fats. The food will help slow down the body’s absorption of alcohol.
Pick your Poison - Dark-coloured drinks, such as bourbon, cognac, scotch or whiskey, are to be more likely to give you a hangover as they contain natural chemicals called congeners (impurities), which irritate blood vessels and tissue in the brain and can make a hangover worse. . While wine and gin are considered better choices, and vodka is considered the best.
Drinking Water - Drink water or non-fizzy soft drinks in between each alcoholic drink. Carbonated (fizzy) drinks speed up the absorption of alcohol into your system. Drink plenty of water before you go to sleep. Keep a glass of water by the bed to sip if you wake up during the night.
Avoid sugary drinks – Avoid sugary mixers like soft drinks, syrups or sweet cocktails with alcohol. These will send your blood sugar levels all over the place, leaving you dehydrated and lethargic in the morning, ultimately exacerbating your hangover symptoms.
If you have landed with a hangover, here are some ways of easing the symptoms:
Drink water or Electrolytes - drinking water is essential when hung over as it counteracts the dehydrating effects of the alcohol. A faster way to rehydrate is with Hydralyte or Gastrolyte (an electrolyte replace solution) or coconut water (a natural source of electrolytes)! These are useful for replenishing fluids and minerals lost from the body and helps reduce common hangover symptoms.
Sit up to sleep - Those who’ve seen the room spin will know: lying down when you’re hung over can sometimes make you feel worse. This is because blood pools in your brain when you’re flat on your back, causing dizziness, nausea and headaches. Instead flop some pillows and try and nod off with their support while keeping your back straight. Use a travel neck pillow if you like. This can help maintain your blood flow. Sleeping while sitting up lets gravity continue its work and drains blood out of the brain more naturally. Those who have tried it, say it isn’t obviously the most comfortable position to sleep in but at least, you get some rest without feeling ill.
Eat Protein - Believe it or not what your body needs when you have a hangover isn’t grease, fat and oil – its protein! In the body, proteins are broken down into individual amino acids – the substance that helps detoxify your liver and, in turn, assists your recovery. Alcohol depletes the number of amino acids in your body so replenishing your stock come breakfast time will help get things back to normal.
Vitamins – In order to detoxify alcohol, liver enzymes require mineral zinc and B vitamins, particularly B1. A good juice or multivitamin will help replenish the body with these vitamins!
Exercise –A gentle stroll will speed up your metabolic rate and break down the alcohol quicker, speeding up the toxin release.