• Louis van den Berg

Hangover Prevention

With the festive season fast approaching, hangovers are commonplace. Turns out with hangovers, like many other health issues prevention is better than cure.


There is only 1 foolproof way to prevent a hangover, and that is not to drink. I am sure that is not what you wanted to hear, failing that drink in moderation, and if that is not an option, read the rest of this article.


In this article, I will attempt to tackle the most devastating symptoms of hangovers and how to mitigate against them.


Headache

There are as many theories about what causes a hangover headache as there is advice on how to cure a hangover.


Here is what the science says. When we drink alcohol your pituitary gland in your brain stops producing a hormone called vasopressin. Think of vasopressin as the flood gates to a dam. When all is well the flood gate keeps the dam at the right level to make sure all the residents that depend on it has enough water. When it rains too much it opens a bit and lets out some water to get the dam to the right level. When it rains too little it remains closed and tries to keep as much water in the dam as possible. Think of the rain as the water your drink however when we drink alcohol vasopressin gets suppressed and the flood gates just open up. For every 250ml of alcohol, you consume your body will excrete 800ml to 1,000ml of water. This means the dam runs empty and the residents that depend on that water starts stealing water from each other, and the biggest loser in this contest is your brain. This means as your brain dehydrates it actually shrinks and starts pulling on the membranes in your skull. Which causes the severe headache, you experience.


The solution, drink water. First thing you need to do, is to drink water throughout the night. A good rule of thumb is to take a glass of water or a soft drink between every alcoholic drink. Then right before you go to bed drink another 500ml to 1,000ml of water again. Depending on how much alcohol you consumed this could eliminate or at the very least reduce your hangover headache quite a bit.


Fatigue and Tremours

This is not the only factor that contributes to fatigue and tremors, but it is a major factor. Studies have found that both are less severe if you take congeners into account.


Congeners are a by-product of the fermentation process and contribute to the taste of your alcoholic beverage. The more congeners a drink contains the slower the ethanol will be processed in your body, which means the longer you stay intoxicated and basically the more work your body has to do which leads to fatigue.


The solution: Consume drink low in congeners. How do you know which drinks are low in congeners? The basic rule is the darker the drink the higher the number of congeners. The lighter the drink the fewer congeners.

Here are a few examples:

High in Congeners: Rum, Brandy and Red Wine.

Medium in Congeners: Whiskey, White Wine and Gin

Low in Congeners: Beer, Vodka, and drinks that are mixed with vodka


The second contributing factor to fatigue and especially tremours is low blood sugar. Alcohol spikes your blood sugar, which causes an extreme response of insulin, which reduces your blood sugar and stores that sugar in the form of fat, leaving you with low blood sugar the next morning.

The Solution: Eat before you drink, and eat allot especially protein. Not only does this help regulate your blood sugar, but it also slows down the absorption of alcohol giving your body a chance to process it with less severe side effects.


Nausea and vomiting

These are probably the worst side effects in my opinion, and they are not limited to the hangover the next day, they may even occur during the session.


The first reason this occurs is that alcohol introduces a toxin called Acetaldehyde to your system, which your liver binds with an enzyme called Acetaldehyde dehydrogenase and a compound called Glutathione. When your liver runs out of Glutathione you start to get nauseous and may even vomit.


The Solution, take a Milk Thistle tablet, in the morning before your night out, again at lunch and one before you go to bed. This has shown to increase your Glutathione levels.


When you wake up and you do have a hangover

Let's start with what not to do, the hair of the dog. Although it will numb your sense for a while and make you feel better a bit, as some "feel good" hormones are excreted. However, you are just kicking the can down the road. and full recovery will just take longer.


Here is what to do:

  • Drink water, a litre or so.

  • Drink a pain killer if needed.

  • Drink your milk thistle.

  • Have a coffee, or green tea or anything else high in caffeine.

  • Have a hearty high protein breakfast.

  • If possible, have a nap and keep drinking water.


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