Hangover Cure: How To Cure a Hangover
After a night of partying and consuming too many alcoholic drinks, you are surely going to have tremendous bouts of hangover in the morning. Statistics show that more than 75% of alcohol drinkers have experienced hangover at least once, and 15% have one at least every month. College students are also considered heavy alcohol consumers, and 25% of them experience hangover symptoms every week. Hangover is the negative consequence or effect of consuming too much alcohol. It impairs your judgment and it can even get you into a more depressed mood. In this article, we will provide more in-depth information regarding hangover cure and the remedies you can take to lessen its effect.
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What is a Hangover?
A hangover is a collection of symptoms caused by a recent bout of heavy drinking. Usually, the person who has a hangover feels sick and dizzy. He or she may experience headaches, confusion, sleepiness and thirst. Hangovers can happen any time of the day, but most people experience hangover in the morning when they wake up after a night of drinking.
Hangover came from the word veisalgia. The Veis or Kveis is a Norwegian word that means “uneasiness following debauchery” and Algia is the Greek word for pain. The meaning is very appropriate considering the discomfort the person experiences during the hangover.
How Hangovers Work
A light-to-moderate alcohol drinker usually takes around five to seven cocktail drinks over the course of 4 to 6 hours to get intoxicated and cause a hangover. Heavy drinkers may need more cocktail drinks because of their increased tolerance to alcohol. There are also other factors that may contribute or make hangover worse:
- Drinking on an empty stomach
- Dehydration before drinking
- Lack of sleep
- Increased physical activity while drinking
- Poor health
Usually, after a night of heavy drinking, you can wake up in the morning and feel a throbbing headache, queasiness, exhaustion and even muscle fatigue. This is the usual symptom of hangovers, but the real culprit here is dehydration.
When you drink alcohol, your body loses water, since alcohol is diuretic. This also means that the more you drink, and the stronger the alcohol, the more dehydrated you are going to be. So what really happens inside the body when you get intoxicated?
The alcohol you consume enters the bloodstream and causes the pituitary gland in the brain to block the creation of vasopressin, or the antidiuretic hormone. Vasopressin is a form of hormone that is secreted by the pituitary gland and it acts on the kidneys and blood vessels. Its function is to prevent loss of water from the body by helping the kidney reabsorb water and reduce urine output. Its other function is to constrict the blood vessels.
If the alcohol suppresses the creation of vasopressin, the kidneys will send water directly to the bladder instead of being reabsorbed into the body. This is the reason why many drinkers go to the bathroom to urinate when they are drinking alcohol.
According to researches, if you drink about 250 milliliters of alcoholic beverage, your body expels around 800 to 1,000 milliliters of water. You are expelling more water than you are taking in, which makes you dehydrated and thirsty during your hangover. However, you don’t have to worry too much because this effect will decrease as soon as the alcohol in your bloodstream starts to decrease also.
When you wake up in the morning, your body is now in a state of dehydration, and it is manifested by having an extremely dry mouth. This causes headaches and dizziness because the body is trying to make up for the loss of water by getting its supply from the brain. Your brain begins to decrease in size because of the loss of water, and it begins to pull on the membranes that are connected to the skull, causing pain or headaches.
Another reason why hangover always involves headaches and nausea is because of the frequent urination. Urinating often expels potassium and salt, which is important for muscle and nerve function. When the potassium and sodium level in your body gets too low, it can result in headaches, nausea and fatigue.
During a hangover, you feel very weak and you don’t have enough energy to move around. You experience lack of coordination and fatigue. Alcohol tends to break down the body’s supply of glycogen in the liver and turns it into glucose, then sends it out of the body through the urine. With a low level of glycogen, your body becomes weaker and low in energy. Alcohol also forces the body to expel electrolytes such as potassium and magnesium, which promotes proper cell function.
Did you know that your hangover symptoms can depend on what type of alcohol you consumed? Studies have shown that different types of alcohols can result in different hangover symptoms. Alcoholic drinks have different amounts or concentration of congeners, which are the byproducts of fermentation in some alcohol.
Those with high amounts of congeners cause the most severe hangovers like red wine, and dark liquors such as brandy, bourbon, whiskey, and tequila. If you want less severe hangovers, you should drink white wine and clear liquors, such as gin, rum, and vodka, because they have fewer congeners. In one particular study, 33 percent of the people who drank bourbon relative to their body weight suffered severe hangover, while only 3 percent of those who drank vodka had a hangover.
This is also the reason why it is a bad idea to mix different alcohols because combining the congeners will definitely result in a severe hangover. Beer is also not recommended to mix with liquors because the carbonation in the beer speeds up the alcohol absorption of the body. When you drink liquor and follow it up with beer, your body cannot keep up with processing the toxins or congeners.
Acetaldehyde is a product of alcohol metabolism that is more toxic than alcohol. When alcohol dehydrogenase breaks down the alcohol in the liver, it produces the acetaldehyde. The acetaldehyde is then attacked by an enzyme called acetaldehyde dehydrogenase, and another substance called glutathione, which contains rich quantities of cysteine. The combination of the acetaldehyde dehydrogenase and the glutathione forms non toxic acetate that is similar to vinegar. This process leaves the acetaldehyde only a short amount of time to do its damage if there are only a few drinks consumed.
However, the problem starts when large amounts of alcohol are consumed. The liver’s store of glutathione runs out quickly when a heavy dose of alcohol enters the system. There is a buildup of acetaldehyde in the body as the liver struggles to create more glutathione. While the acetaldehyde is in the body, it continues to do damage, which can result in serious headaches and vomiting.
Women should not keep up with men when it comes to drinking because they have less acetaldehyde dehydrogenase and glutathione in their system. This is also the reason why women suffer very severe hangovers since their body takes a longer time to break down the alcohol.
Glutamine rebound is the most probable cause why people suffering from hangovers feel restless and very tired. After heavy drinking, a person will not be able to sleep soundly as normal because the body is rebounding from the alcohol’s depressive effect. When you are drinking, your body prevents the production of glutamine, which is the body’s natural stimulant. After you’ve stopped drinking, the body then starts to go on a rebound and produce more glutamine than it needs. This is why it is called glutamine rebound.
You will not be able to sleep soundly because the increase in glutamine levels stimulates your brain, which prevents you from going into a deep and healing slumber. The fatigue level for hangover sufferers is very high. If the glutamine rebound is too much, it may cause tremors, anxiety, restlessness, and high blood pressure.
Vomiting is also one of the signs of a severe hangover. In most cases, vomiting can be good for the person because it gets rid of the alcohol in the stomach, reducing the toxins that the body has to deal with later on. When the alcohol is directly absorbed by the stomach, it starts to irritate the cells that line the stomach. The presence of too much alcohol in the stomach also promotes the secretion of hydrochloric acid, which causes the nerves to send a message to the brain to expel the contents that are hurting the stomach. The irritation of the stomach may also cause other discomfort such as diarrhea and lack of appetite.
So now you know the science behind hangover and how it works in your body. It is mostly a combination of different factors and inner workings of the body, leading to the symptoms that you experience during a severe hangover. Now it’s time to find a hangover cure that can be effective for you.
What are the Hangover Symptoms?
Here are the hangover symptoms that you may have experienced after a night of heavy drinking:
- Loss of appetite
- Sensitivity to light and sound
- High blood pressure and increased heart rate
- Weakness or lack of energy
- Trouble concentrating
- Tremors or trembling
The most common symptom of hangover is headache, dehydration, and fatigue. The symptoms also vary from person to person. It is true that the more you drink, the worse your hangover will be.
5 Hangover Remedies
Here are five of the best remedies on how to cure a hangover. We will also tackle some hangover remedies that are not based on facts and have no truth behind them.
Eggs – eggs are great morning food because it provides protein for energy. Eating eggs during a hangover is also recommended since it contains large amounts of cysteine, which is the substance that breaks down the acetaldehyde toxin in the liver’s depleted glutathione. The cysteine in the eggs can help break down the remaining acetaldehyde to make you feel better quickly.
Bananas – it was mentioned earlier that your body loses a lot of potassium because of the diuretic effect when consuming large amounts of alcohol. Eating banana in the morning can help replenish the lost potassium and electrolytes needed by your body. If you don’t have a banana at home, you can try Kiwi fruit or other sports drink which are also rich in potassium and electrolytes.
Water – dehydration is your worst enemy after consuming large amounts of alcohol. It is important to replenish your body with water. Drinking water during a hangover also helps to the toxins left in your stomach. You can add salt and sugar to your water to replace the lost sodium and glycogen, or you can also try non-carbonated and non-caffeinated sports drink.
Water can also be used as prevention for hangover. If you drink a glass of water for every alcohol you drink, the drinking slows down, which gives your body more time to deal with the alcohol. You have to remember that your body is only capable of processing about ¾ of an ounce of alcohol in 1 hour. You should also drink 1 glass of water before going to bed to fight dehydration after your body breaks down all the alcohol.
Fruit Juice – Hangover causes weakness and lack of energy. Fruit juice is a good for you during hangover because it contains fructose or fruit sugar, which naturally increases your energy level. Fruit juice also has high levels of vitamins and nutrients that were depleted by the alcohol because of the diuretic effect. This healthy drink is also effective in getting rid of toxins that was left by the alcohol metabolism. You can also take vitamin supplements that have high levels of vitamin C and B to counter the effects of hangover.
Time – Time is probably the best hangover cure. No matter what you do, what remedy you take in, the body still needs to break down and process all the toxins in your body. All you need is some time to lessen the symptoms of hangover. All these remedies like fruit juice, banana, eggs, and water are remedies to speed up the healing process.
Fake Hangover Remedies
The following are considered hangover remedies that are not recommended by the doctors and experts. These are not true hangover remedies and they are not backed up by any scientific facts. These are also called fictional cures and should be avoided next time you have a hangover.
Hair of the Dog
This “hair of the dog that bit you” means drinking a little more alcohol during a hangover. This practice is not based on any scientific facts. It is just delaying the inevitable. Hangovers become a discomfort because the liver is still processing the toxins left behind by the alcohol metabolism. When you drink more alcohol, it seems as if the symptoms go away at first. However, you are just making it worse because the liver will have more toxins to deal with. This is not the best hangover cure.
The burnt toast remedy may have gotten a bit of scientific truth in it because of the carbon or charcoal in the charred bread. Activated charcoal is a known cure for some types of poisoning because it can act like a filter in the body. However, activated charcoal is never used to treat alcohol poisoning. Also, the charcoal or carbon that is found on a burnt toast is not the same as the activated charcoal that can treat poisons.
It is believed that the caffeine in black coffee can counteract the fatigue and weakness you feel during a hangover. However, the caffeine is only temporary and when it wears off, you will feel even more tired than before. It is true that coffee can give some relief for headaches, because it can reduce the size of the blood vessel and counteract the effect of alcohol, which made the blood swell and cause the headache. Unfortunately, coffee can also make you dehydrated, just like alcohol. This will only make your hangover worse, so coffee is not a real hangover cure.
Fried or Fatty Foods
Eating fried or fatty foods during a morning hangover is not recommended because it will only irritate your stomach. However, eating fatty foods before drinking can be helpful for you. Fatty foods can stick to your stomach lining and causes the absorption of the alcohol in your bloodstream to slow down. You will still feel the effects of alcohol but it gives the body more time to process the toxins and byproducts, and it also increases the chance of a milder hangover in the morning.
3 Hangover Medicines
3 Medicines on how to get rid of a hangover:
Excedrin is a painkiller that can help alleviate the headache that you will feel during your hangover. This medicine contains acetaminophen and caffeine to reduce the size of the blood vessels, which lessens the pounding you feel in your head. However, Excedrin should be taken in moderation because prolonged combination of alcohol and acetaminophen can damage the liver. Caffeine is also diuretic which also causes dehydration.
Aspirin is a much better hangover medicine and pain reliever because it is non-caffeinated. Aspirin is also classified as an anti-inflammatory drug or prostaglandin inhibitors. Studies show that high levels of prostaglandin are associated with hangover severity. People who took prostaglandin inhibitors before going to bed reported that they felt less nausea, less headache, and less thirst than those who did not take the prostaglandin inhibitors and drank the same amount of alcohol. However, aspirin is not good for people with sensitive stomach. Taking aspirin after drinking may actually cause pain in your stomach.
- Over-the-Counter Medicines
Some of the over-the-counter medicines that claim to be a hangover cure are RU-21, Sob’r-K Hangover Stopper, Chaser, Rebound, and Berocca. They are all considered as dietary supplements and their effectiveness varies accordingly. Some of these products are using carbon to help reduce the toxins and cure hangover. Others, like the RU-21 is being marketed as a detoxification pill. Berocca and Rebound are just multivitamins that claim to provide more energy through vitamins.
The real cure can be the water that you drink when taking in these pills and medicines. You have to take these pills with full glasses of water through the course of the day, before going to bed and after waking up. The water alone improves your chances of lessening the effects of the hangover because your body is hydrated. The vitamins in the pill are just an added bonus that gives a little boost to alleviate the hangover symptoms.
Tips on How to Get Rid of a Hangover and Minimize Its Symptoms
If you really want to avoid getting a hangover, just avoid drinking alcohol in the first place, or don’t drink too much. Here are some tips on how to cure a hangover and reduce its symptoms.
- Drink a glass of water before you drink alcohol. This ensures that your body is fully hydrated before the diuretic effect of the alcohol takes hold.
- Eat a full meal before drinking alcohol. This slows down the absorption of alcohol, which gives your body more time to process the toxins. Choose fatty foods to increase this effect. Having food in the stomach before drinking also lowers the chances of stomach irritation.
- Take your multivitamins before drinking to replenish the vitamins that will get lost due to frequent urination.
- When you are drinking, limit yourself to just one drink per hour. Your body takes one hour to process a single drink.
- You should drink a glass of water for every alcohol you take in. This practice keeps you hydrated and gives your body more time to process the alcohol and dilute the toxins.
- Stick to one drink. You lessen the severity of your hangover if you just stick with one drink. Each new drink has different alcohol content that makes your body work harder because more toxins are going in.
- Before you go to bed, you can take two aspirins with a full glass of water to decrease the severity of your hangover in the morning.
- After waking up, take two more aspirins with a full glass of water to lessen the headaches.
- Replenish your lost vitamins by taking your multivitamin pills in the morning.
- Always eat breakfast consisting of eggs, banana, and fruit juice or sports drink. These foods can help your body recover from a hangover. Remember to avoid coffee, soda, or tea because these drinks will only dehydrate your body.