What is a hangover? For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of experiencing one of these yourself, a hangover is a feeling of sickness or discomfort after a period of drinking. Symptoms of a hangover include nausea, headaches, dizziness, light sensitivity and fatigue – basically you feel a little like you might be dying. The amount that you have to drink in order to induce a hangover varies for everyone. For some, it’s two drinks. For others, it’s five. And for some lucky (mostly younger) folks, they can drink as much as they want and never get hangovers at all. Just like snowflakes, no two hangovers are alike, but one thing is certain – hangovers suck.
WHY DO WE GET HANGOVERS?
“The ethyl alcohol that is in alcoholic beverages is one culprit,” said Jennifer Bleiweis, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and National Board Certified Health and Wellness Coach. Bleiweis is also the owner of her private practice, Real Foods RD. “The metabolism of alcohol in the liver forms the compound, acetaldehyde, which is toxic to several organ systems.”
Bleiweis said that in addition to giving us a “buzz,” alcohol increases inflammation in the body, increases stomach acid production and irritates the stomach lining. Two other compounds that dwell in alcohol are congeners, present in darker liquors, and sulfites, used as preservatives in wine. All of these factors contribute to and worsen hangovers.
HOW CAN YOU PREVENT A HANGOVER?
As much as we wish there was an anti-hangover pill that we could take, science hasn’t gotten there yet. Bleiweis says that your best bet for preventing a hangover is to hydrate!
“Since one of the possible causes of hangover symptoms is a mild dehydration, it’s always a good idea to be well hydrated before drinking alcoholic beverages and to drink water between alcoholic beverages,” Bleiweis said. “Not only does this slow the rate of consumption down, but also prevents some of the dehydration you may develop from drinking alcohol.”
Of course, another way to prevent a hangover is to drink in moderation and know your limits. Some people are more sensitive to darker liquors or certain wines. If you know the a certain type of alcohol affects you the next day, make the choice to find another option.
I HAVE A HANGOVER… WHAT DO I DO???
Okay, so it’s the morning after a night out, and you totally knew that you shouldn’t have taken that last lemon drop shot. You wake up with a pounding headache and curse the sunshine coming through your window. Now what?
Bleiweis says to rest, hydrate and eat mild foods. Starchy, bland foods such as rice, bread or crackers can help soothe a queasy stomach from increased stomach acid production. Drinking electrolyte replacement drinks can also help with dehydration, but “once suffering the physical effects of dehydration, it just takes time for your body to reach its equilibrium,” said Bleiweis.
At the end of the day, if you suffer from hangovers, the only way to completely prevent one is to avoid drinking too much alcohol. Next time you have a little too much fun at the bar, try these hangover tips to save yourself the morning after.
SOME OTHER UNCONVENTIONAL HANGOVER CURES
(not tested or backed by science)
Tomato juice (a main ingredient in a Bloody Mary) is said to reduce blood alcohol levels, which would remedy a hangover faster.
Herbalists swear by eating ginger to naturally reduce hangover symptoms like nausea and indigestion.
Prickly pear extract taken before a night of drinking is said to lessen hangover symptoms the morning after.
The amino acids and minerals found in asparagus are said to help reduce hangover symptoms and protect liver cells.
Coconut water is naturally full of electrolytes and can help with dehydration.
Eating miso soup can help rehydrate your body after a hangover and the natural bacteria and enzymes in miso are said to aid in digestion.
PRO TIP: Clear liquors like vodka or gin are less likely to give you a hangover compared to darker liquors like whiskey or red wine.
*Always drink in moderation, 21 years old and over. If you are experiencing hangover symptoms, contact your doctor before trying any remedies.
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