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Hangover.

Five ways to manage hangovers that anybody can apply

So you went out drinking, ended up drinking way too much, and now every fiber of your being is screaming in agony. What should you do about it?

Hangover.

image credits Michal Jarmoluk.

Most of us will go through a particularly bad hangover at least once in our lives. Some do it quite regularly (thoughts and prayers your way, folks). Obviously, nobody likes them. The combination of dizziness, an upset stomach, a splitting headache, and dehydration simply makes you feel terrible.

But is there anything we can do to escape the horrible clutches of hangovers?

Limit intake

The easiest and most effective way to not get hungover is simply not drinking that much. Hangovers are a perfect storm of several factors, all of which or another to how much alcohol you’re willing to put into your system. There seems to be a common value for how much alcohol is too much for humans  — but exactly how many drinks will take you to that value depends on several factors.

“Alcohol hangovers are generally not experienced after consuming low dosages of alcohol,” a study published in the journal PubMed Central reported in 2013. “Evidence from experimental studies demonstrates that, to develop an alcohol hangover, an alcohol dosage that produces a peak BAC [blood alcohol concentration] of at least 0.11% to 0.12% is necessary.”

“The peak BAC attained depends on various factors including sex, body weight, amount of time allowed for drinking, dilution of the beverage, and time since last meal.”

Some people develop a hangover after only 2 or 3 drinks, while others can drink the bar dry and still be perky the next day. Try to keep an eye on your alcohol intake each time you go out drinking and how you feel the next day. Over time, you’ll get a pretty good idea of what your body can handle. Don’t put too more than that on its plate (or rather, in its pint) and you should avoid bad hangovers.

Pint.

Image credits Stefan Schweihofer.

“How much you drink” isn’t limited to single outings. A 2010 study, also published in PubMed Central, showed that self-reported hangover severity of holidayers was “increased significantly during a week of heavy drinking” and that “the impact of alcohol consumed on hangover became more pronounced later in the week.” An approach I found effective was to alternate between drinking and non-drinking days — although this might make you the butt of a few jokes from your mates.

Avoid congeners

Congeners are by-products of the fermentation processes that put alcohol in your drink. They’re only found in small amounts in drinks, but they are toxic. A high intake of congeners seems to increase hangover severity and frequency. These compounds can also slow down your body’s efforts to metabolize alcohol, prolonging hangovers. This study tracked people that drank enough to reach a BAC of 0.11% over the course of two days. Among other things, it reports that:

“No effect of beverage congeners was found except on hangover severity, with people feeling worse after bourbon,” and that “[c]ongener content affects only how people feel the next.”

Gin, rum, and especially vodka have low levels of congeners. Meanwhile, tequila, whiskey, and cognac are all high in congeners, with bourbon whiskey containing the highest amount. A good rule of thumb is that clear drinks have low levels of congeners, while dark/brown drinks have higher quantities.

So make your own vodka and swig away merrily.

Stay hydrated

Water.

Drink this, it helps.
Image via Pixabay.

Alcohol is a diuretic — it makes you pee. This dehydrates and drains your body of electrolytes. These effects worsen if you drank so much you started throwing up. Dehydration, by itself, doesn’t cause a hangover. However, it contributes to many of its symptoms, such as increased thirst, fatigue, headache, and dizziness.

Staying well-hydrated, then, mitigates some of these symptoms. Try to have one glass of water for every alcoholic drink while you’re at it. Avoid carbonated (fizzy) drinks, which speed up the absorption of alcohol into your system. This will help keep you hydrated and reduce your overall alcohol intake at the same time.

Do your best to have some water before you go to sleep and every time you feel thirsty the next day to reduce your hangover symptoms. The best choices are simple, bland drinks like water or tea.

Eat well

A nutritious meal works wonders to put you back on your feet when you’re feeling wobbly. Hangovers are associated with low blood sugar levels, which make you feel dizzy, weak, or even nauseous.

Breakfast.

But food helps. Food always helps.
Image via Pixabay.

Excessive alcohol consumption can throw a wrench in your body’s metabolic mechanism. One paper links hangovers with “marked metabolic acidosis” in the subjects it investigated, adding that glucose and fructose “significantly inhibit” these metabolic disturbances. It’s important to note, however, that the study found no evidence of hangovers being caused by alcohol-induced metabolic effects or its by-products. No amount of food, in other words, will cure your hangover.

“The results indicate that both fructose and glucose effectively inhibit the metabolic disturbances induced by ethanol but they do not affect the symptoms or signs of alcohol intoxication and hangover.”

Sugary foods are good for a quick boost of energy. Bullion soup is dense in vitamins and minerals and “easy for a fragile stomach to digest,” according to the NHS.

It also pays to keep in mind that when drinking on an empty stomach, alcohol passes into your bloodstream much more quickly. This intensifies all the side effects of drinking, such as impaired cognitive skills and coordination of body movements. It’s not a huge concern if you drink in moderation, but let’s face it — you’re researching hangover cures, so you don’t. Having a bite before you take up the pint can help mitigate a hangover to a limited extent, as it slows down alcohol absorption into your blood (giving your liver more time to process it)

Sleep it off

Lack of sleep won’t cause a hangover, but it will make any hangover worse. Fatigue, headache frequency, their intensity, and general irritability exacerbate when you’re sleep deprived. At the very least, getting a good night’s sleep will make you better able to handle the unpleasantness of a hangover.

You might have some difficulty doing this, however. I know I certainly do. Although a moderate quantity of alcohol can promote sleep, higher quantities and/or chronic use can be really disruptive of your sleeping patterns, leading to decreased sleep quality and duration.

alcohol hangover

The science of hangovers or why you feel like crap after a night of heavy drinking

alcohol hangover

Credit: Pixabay.

Science knows surprisingly little about what causes hangovers or how we can tackle them. While there are thousands of studies dealing with alcohol one way or the other, there are only a handful of published scientific papers that explore what causes hangovers and whether or not there’s a cure. That’s quite a shame too, considering hangovers are the bane of every weekend warrior all over the world.

What physiological changes or biological interactions with alcohol could be responsible for the diabolical melange of headache, nausea, poor appetite or diarrhea, to name a few? According to the Alcohol Hangover Research Group (AHRG), “an international expert group” which aims to “elucidate the pathology, treatment, and prevention of the alcohol hangover,” most of what we know about the morning-after effects of heavy drinking is wrong.

What causes hangovers?

According to the AHRG, “alcohol hangover develops when blood alcohol concentration (BAC) returns to zero, and is characterized by a feeling of general misery that may last more than 24 h.” 

In a 2008 article published in the journal Alcohol & Alcoholism, Dutch researcher Joris Verster dispels a number of popular beliefs surrounding the triggers for alcohol hangover symptoms.

One of the most widely cited reasons why people feel wretched following heavy drinking is dehydration. Alcohol is known to suppress a hormone called vasopressin, which typically keeps you from feeling the need to urinate. Because you urinate more often, the body also loses more water. What’s more, if you’re drinking whiskey or other spirits, water is likely not on the menu for the rest of the evening, which worsens the dehydration. Why is it then that even if you neck copious amounts of water before you go to bed or while drinking alcohol, there will still be a dreadful hangover the next morning? That’s because dehydration doesn’t have much to do with it, says Verster.

Research suggests that levels of electrolytes — naturally occurring elements and compounds in the body that conduct electricity when dissolved in water — are more or less the same in both controls and people with hangovers. Even in those cases where there were some differences in electrolyte levels, these didn’t correlate with the severity of hangover symptoms. What’s more, studies haven’t been able to link hormones associated with dehydration and hangover severity.

According to Verster “alcohol hangover and dehydration are two independent yet co-occurring processes that have different underlying mechanisms.” In other words, drinking alcohol will dehydrate causing symptoms such as dry mouth and thirst. Drinking alcohol will lead to a hangover but not because you’re dehydrated. 

To be fair, there’s one major hangover symptom that can be attributed, or at least largely so, to dehydration: the annoying monster headache. Blood vessels narrow because of dehydration, restricting the flow of blood and oxygen to the brain in the process. In an attempt to restore fluid levels, blood vessels begin to dilate causing swelling around the brain.

The nausea we feel the morning after can be explained by alcohol’s effects on the stomach and intestines, which become irritated, causing inflammation. Alcohol also triggers the production of extra gastric acid along with more pancreatic and intestinal secretion.

Acetaldehyde, a byproduct that builds up in response to alcohol processing in the body, is thought to be 30 times more toxic than alcohol itself. Studies have shown that it produces hangover symptoms. The substance may partly explain the origin of hangovers.

Another intriguing hypothesis that might explain the origin of hangovers suggests that alcohol affects the immune system. Previously, researchers found a strong correlation between high levels of cytokines, which are the immune system signaling molecules, and hangover symptoms. When the body gets infected, cytokines trigger fever or inflammation, but it seems that excessively drinking alcohol can trigger a similar response, causing symptoms like muscle aches or headache, but also cognitive effects like memory loss and irritation.

Why hangovers are worse for some people

Some people seem more prone to hangovers. One study found that age may play a big part in hangovers, with adolescent drinkers reporting the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal less frequently than older adults. Another study found adolescent rats are less sensitive to the effects of a hangover has on anxiety and sociability.  The jury isn’t out yet as a recent Danish study which examined younger and older adult drinkers and found that the tendency to experience hangovers after binge drinking actually decreased with age.

Women seem to report the worst hangover effects, but that may be due to lower body weight than men rather than some intrinsic female biology. A total of 12.6 percent of women surveyed in the study say they ‘almost always’ or ‘always’ have a hangover after having more than five drinks at a party. The figure for men is 6.1 percent.

Are some types of alcohol more likely to give you a hangover?

Credit: Verster et al.=

Credit: Verster et al

You might have heard friends say that some types of alcohol give you a worse hangover or you might have experienced the feeling yourself. Like a lot of things related to hangovers, this hypothesis is rather poorly studied, but one important review from the 1970s seems to suggest there’s some truth to the idea. According to the study, alcoholic drinks with congeners — substances produced during the alcohol fermentation process or added later in the production — may enhance the toxicity effect of alcohol and, hence, increase the likelihood of a hangover.

Specifically, it seems like gin and vodka, both drinks with fewer congeners, are less likely to introduce a hangover episode than drinks with higher levels of congeners like brandy or red wine. Another study which followed 95 heavy drinkers compared vodka versus bourbon and reached similar results. 

So what can you do to cure a hangover?

There are a couple of things you can do to make things easier for you the next morning.

  • Don’t drink too much alcohol in the first place… but if that’s not an option,
  • At least don’t drink quickly or on an empty stomach.
  • Food doesn’t absorb the alcohol but a full digestive tract will slow down alcohol’s absorption into the bloodstream. Eating also replenishes electrolytes.
  • As we’ve learned, dehydration doesn’t really cause a hangover but it is partly responsible for some symptoms. Drinking a glass of water for every alcoholic beverage could prevent a very serious headache.

If you arrived here by googling a ‘science-based cure for hangover’, I’m sorry to break it to you but there’s no such thing yet. You’ll find many urban legends and anecdotal cures for hangovers — from coffee, eggs Benedict, tripe soup, and all the way to shrimp — but there’s no study that suggests any of these works. What you can do, however, is attack some of the symptoms. Aspirin or ibuprofen (Advil) can treat headaches and muscle pain while drugs like Tums or Pepto-Bismol can reduce nausea.

Until science comes up with a cure for hangovers, it’s best you wait it out.

Image: Hangover School

The best cure against hangovers is drinking less

Is this our most obvious, useless headline yet? Might be, but don’t hate the messenger. I’m just reiterating the findings of Canadian and Dutch researchers who performed two distinct studies to see what’s the best relief against hangovers. Their conclusions are stark: there is no proven remedy against hangovers. If you want to avoid feeling like train wreck in the morning you should simply drink less.

Image: Hangover School

Image: Hangover School

 

The researchers at Utrecht University surveyed 826 Dutch students about both their drinking habits and hangover coping mechanisms. They found that neither drinking water or eating food did much to help. Drinking water right after you get up in the morning with the hangover seems to help a bit, but it only solves one part of the problem: dehydration. It does little to curb headaches, dizziness and other foul bodily sensations. “The more you drink, the more likely you are to get a hangover,” the researchers say.

Another group in Canada echoed these findings. They set out to study the drinking habits of 789 students after they noticed some students seemed to suffer less from hangovers than others. By the end of the study, they found these said students weren’t simply drinking enough to get a hangover. Had they, they’d still feel like a train wreck – just like the rest of us.

“The majority of those who in fact reported never having a hangover tended to drink less, perhaps less than they themselves thought would lead to a hangover,” said  Dr Joris Verster, the study’s lead author of Utrecht University in the Netherlands.

Once you go pass 0.2% alcohol in your bloodstream, there’s nothing that can cure the hangover.

Despite it’s a worldwide problem affecting millions every Sunday morning, little progress has been made in the fight against hangover. That’s because we’ve yet to understand what triggers it. We know that the immune system is somehow involved, as well as the key enzymes that break down the alcohol, but the mechanism are blurry.

There is one particular food you might want to try to help curb your hangovers – if you drink just a bit to get woozy, nothing too overblown. According to a group from Australia, eating a pear before having a drink can significantly improve your chance of not having a hangover since it affects the alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) and aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH). These are the alcohol metabolizing enzymes I mentioned earlier.

For all you otherwise fine folks googling “hangover cures” in a rotten morning, I’m sorry to break it to you. You’re all stuck.

 

Australian scientists reportedly found a cure for hangover

Hanging on the edge of the chair, suffering from a sickness Relaxing peacefully in a wooden chair

CSIRO, Australia’s peak science body has reportedly discovered one of the more sought after cures in human history: the cure for a hangover. The secret? A simple fruit, the pear.

In case you’ve been lucky enough to never experience them, hangovers are various unpleasant physiological and psychological effects following consumption of ethanol (from alcohol). Typical symptoms of a hangover may include headache, drowsiness, concentration problems, dry mouth, dizziness, fatigue, gastrointestinal distress, absence of hunger, sweating, nausea, hyper-excitability and anxiety – yep, it can be pretty rough. It’s the price you pay after a night (or several) of heavy drinking.

Despite being very common, hangovers are still pretty mysterious; we don’t know exactly why they happen. Furthermore, there is no compelling evidence to suggest that any are effective for preventing or treating alcohol hangover. The only safe way to avoid hangovers is to not drink – but we all know that’s not how it goes, so some scientists have been working on a cure or a way to alleviate the symptoms of hangovers.

IMG_3799

Researchers from Australia’s national science agency (CSIRO) have been researching pears with Horticulture Innovation Australia to discover the hidden benefits of this common fruit. Among others, pears can lower cholesterol, relieve constipation and have anti-inflammatory effects; but the big interest, of course, is that they might cure hangovers.

Lead researcher Manny Noakes says the pears, specifically the Korean variety, act on the key enzymes involved in alcohol metabolism, alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) and aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH). The effect works for 220 ml of Korean pear juice, although consumption of full pears has a similar effect. However, you have to eat/drink the pears before drinking.

“The effect was only demonstrated if pears were consumed before alcohol consumption,” says Noakes. “There is no evidence that you can consume pears after drinking and avoid a hangover. And remember, the very best way to not get a hangover is to not drink in the first place.”

The study is still in its preliminary stages, and more evidence is needed before a definite conclusion can be drawn, but so far, the results are very promising. Furthermore, Noakes and her team hope to deliver a comprehensive review of the scientific literature on pears, their nutritious components and the relevant health effects. .

soda_water_cure_hangover

‘Sprite’ and soda water best cures against hangover

Drinking until the early hours of dawn may be exhilarating for some, however the next day everything seems to tumble over as the mind is assaulted by a barrage of hangover attacks. There are a number of popular home-brewed remedies against hangover: eating eggs, sipping a bit of castor oil, Vitamin B effervescent pills, tomato sauce, work (or anything that keeps you distracted from the pain) or even more alcohol. Anthony Burgess, famous writer known as the author of A Clockwork Orange,  liked to beat his hangovers to the finish line with a homemade cocktail that rarely left him feeling weary – a concoction known as Hangman’s Blood. “Into a pint glass, doubles of the following are poured: gin, whisky, rum, port and brandy. A small bottle of stout is added and the whole topped up with Champagne … It tastes very smooth, induces a somewhat metaphysical elation, and rarely leaves a hangover,” he instructs.

soda_water_cure_hangoverScientists however warn that drinking more alcohol, even beer, doesn’t help with hangovers. More alcoholic drinks will only boost the existing toxicity of the alcohol already in one’s body, and may lead to further drinking, according to previous research (National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism). With a hangover, you’re most likely suffering from dehydration and a deficiency of important minerals like magnesium and potassium. Symptoms of dehydration include headache, cottonmouth, lightheadedness, and thirst.  Drinking water is an obvious first step anyone should take following a night out drinking. Often than not that’s not enough, so what would be effective against hangovers?

A recent research performed by Chinese researchers found that what you drink following alcohol consumption can have a significant effect on one’s hangover symptoms – that is to say, you can alleviate or worsen it. The researchers made tests on several beverages, including teas and various carbonated drinks. According to their findings the carbonated drink Sprite, as well as soda water, helped cure hangovers the most.

Curing a hangover

It’s important to understand what causes hangovers or better said what are the mechanisms that lead to a hangover. A popular assumption is that the adverse effect of consuming alcohol is caused by ethanol. In reality, ethanol’s first metabolite –  acetaldehyde – is what causes the dreaded feeling. The compound is metabolized by the enzyme alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) and then into acetate by aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH). Acetate is actually thought to be responsible for some of the positive health benefits of alcohol consumption, so the key to alleviating post-alcohol consumption hangover is to control acetaldehyde through the dehydrogenase enzyme.

University in Guangzhou researchers tried various drinks which based on their chemical content they hypothesized these might interact with dehydrogenase in some way – either promoting or inhibiting its use. Some of the drinks tested, including a herbal infusion known as Huo ma ren, were found to increase the activity of ADH, accelerating the metabolization of ethanol into the toxic acetaldehyde. Therefore consuming these drinks will actually increase your hangover.

Other drinks, however,  markedly increased ALDH activity, thus promoting the rapid break-down of acetaldehyde and could minimise the harmful effects of drinking alcohol. These drinks include Xue bi and Hui yi su da shui or the carbonated drinks known in English as Sprite and soda water, respectively. According to the paper, soda water consumption reduced alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) activity by 5.7% and also increased acetaldehyde dehydrogenase activity by 49.3%. This minimises the exposure to acetaldehyde.

 

Cure for the hangover possibly found

In a promising discovery for students and party aninals all over the world, a team of researchers led by UCLA engineers has identified a method for speeding up the body’s reaction to alcohol consumption – practically elimining the hangover.

drinks

Researchers take their hangovers really seriously – in a paper published online Feb. 17 in the peer-reviewed journal Nature Nanotechnology, Yunfeng Lu, a professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at UCLA, successfully placed two complementary enzymes in a tiny capsule to speed up the elimination of alcohol from the body. Basically, when you drink, your liver starts processing the alcohol. It works and works, and after a while, it’s just overwhelmed. This pill does pretty much the same thing – it essentially processes alcohol the way the liver does.

“With further research, this discovery could be used as a preventative measure or antidote for alcohol intoxication.”

The researchers used a mouse model to test how well the enzyme package worked as an antidote after alcohol was consumed. After they got the mice drunk and served them the enzymes, they found that blood alcohol levels dropped significantly – 15.8 percent lower than the control group after 45 minutes, 26.1 percent lower after 90 minutes and 34.7 percent lower after three hours.

The researchers believe this is just the beginning.

“Considering the vast library of enzymes that are currently or potentially available,” the authors write, “novel classes of enzyme nanocomplexes could be built for a broad range of applications.”