The best ways to beat a hangover
Most people know that drinking too much alcohol is not a good idea and can be potentially harmful to the body.
By drinking alcohol, no matter how little, you are exposing your body to a number of risks. However, since drinking alcohol is a well-known social custom, it is unsurprising that you may be familiar with number of unwelcome symptoms of drinking too much, commonly known as a hangover.
Nausea, headache and fatigue are some of the most typical hangover symptoms - but why do we get hangovers?
The body cannot not store alcohol, it sees it as a poison. As a result it wants to breakdown the alcohol as fast as possible and get rid of it. The liver uses enzymes to break down the alcohol content in the body, converting the alcohol into a rather toxic substance called acetaldehyde - sometimes the production of this substance is what makes you feel hungover.
One of the main causes of a hangover, is ethanol - this is the active ingredient in alcoholic drinks. Ethanol is a toxic chemical that works in the body as a diuretic, this means it can make you need to go to the toilet frequently, which can cause dehydration.
It is dehydration that is the culprit of many of the hangover symptoms.
What happens when you drink alcohol?
Ethanol in alcohol directly affects the brain. When you drink, the alcohol passes through the blood-brain barrier and can reach neurons directly. Once alcohol touches the neurons, it causes the cells to change, usually reducing their speed.
It is the reduced speed of neurons that affects actions in the body, including the ability to speak clearly and capacity to balance effectively.
Alcohol also makes you more susceptible to taking risks. This can lead to irresponsible behaviour and irrational decision making.
The side effects (hangover) of drinking alcohol commences as you blood alcohol levels (BAC) begins to fall, and peaks when the BAC reaches zero.
Unfortunately there is no miracle hangover cure. The best way to avoid a hangover is skip the alcohol altogether. However, if you’re planning to have a drink or five, keep in mind the following tips and you might be able to sooth the consequences of your drinking the next day.
This might seem obvious, but water is a necessity for all hangovers. Alcohol dehydrates the body and water rehydrates it, so there’s simply nothing better than water. That crippling hangover headache is the body telling you you’re lacking fluids, so drinking as much water as you can throughout the day will help alleviate this.
If you can get into the habit of drinking water alongside alcoholic drinks, or at least drinking a big glass of water before you go to bed after a night out, you’ll be well on your way to combating those unpleasant hangover symptoms. You will of course also need to continue drinking water throughout the following day to help keep that hangover at bay.
According to the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio (USA), the natural sugars (fructose) found in honey and fruits such as mango, bananas, grapes or watermelon, can help replenish your glucose levels and rid your body of a hangover.
Amino acids and minerals found in asparagus extract may alleviate hangover symptoms and protect liver cells against toxins, according to a study from the Institute of Food Technology, published in the Journal of Food Science.
Lead researcher B.Y. Kim said: "cellular toxicities were significantly alleviated in response to treatment with the extracts of asparagus leaves and shoots". This research therefore suggests, the biological functions of asparagus can reduce the impact of a hangover and can help protect the liver cells from damage.
As mentioned above, hydration is key to help combat a hangover. A lack of fluids causes dehydration and reduces the number of electrolytes in the body. Drinking electrolyte solutions such as sports drinks, coconut water, skimmed milk or salt water, will help to rebalance electrolyte levels and replace the salt and potassium lost by excessive alcohol consumption. If you don't like any of these options, simply drinking plenty of water will also help.
According to the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio (USA), low levels of vitamins such as B6 and B12 can help reduce the effects of a hangover. As salmon contains a healthy amount of both of those vitamins, it's a great option to help prevent or combat a hangover. Eggs also contain these useful vitamins, so perhaps a combination of the two is an even better option.
Drinking too much alcohol can leave you feeling queasy. The components in ginger can help relieve nausea and dizziness, which are common symptoms of a hangover. The best way to consume ginger is in its natural form, but if this is too strong - you can grate it into hot water or add it to fruit or vegetable juice. Eating ginger biscuits can also help improve an upset stomach.
As rice is composed primarily of carbohydrates, it’s a great source of energy for the body. It’s also good for the skin and helps the body maintain correct blood sugar levels. If you feel sick when you have a hangover, rice is a good option because it helps to absorb fluids and aids digestion, which should help curb the nausea.
Oats are rich in vitamin B have been a staple part of the diet of many cultures and civilizations for thousands of years. Oats or ‘oatmeal’ when consumed, can help to neutralise some of the acids in the body and absorb harmful toxins. Oats also it work to regulate your blood sugar levels and can help to avoid the ‘crash’ associated with a hangover.
Coconuts contain vitamins and mineral salts that help prevent and soothe stomach problems, a regular hangover complaint. Coconut water regenerates the intestinal flora and is considered a natural isotonic drink. Coconut milk is a diuretic, meaning it prevents fluid retention, so it’s ideal to help flush out alcohol from the body.
This exotic fruit also contains vitamin B, potassium, calcium, sodium and other minerals that will help revitalise the body, should you be faced with a hangover.
Consuming food rich in antioxidants can help the body begin to recover from a hangover. Spinach is a natural source of vitamin A, E and K and is also rich in iodine and antioxidants. It helps protects the mucous membrane of the stomach, and is even said to prevent certain types of cancer. Spinach has more than a dozen anti-inflammatory compounds making it one of the best leaves to consume when you’re feeling unwell, or have a hangover.
Eggs are rich in the amino acid, cysteine, a natural antioxidant. Cysteine helps to break down acetaldehyde, a toxin produced by alcohol consumption, and root cause of hangovers.
Some research suggests that vitamin C accelerates alcohol metabolism, so a glass of orange juice or eating an orange could help you feel better when you’ve got a hangover. The fructose in orange juice can help reduce fatigue and, this alongside the vitamin C found in oranges will help cleanse the liver and kidneys. Oranges also have a mild diuretic action, so helps to flush out alcohol from the body.
Dairy products might not be high on the list of things you fancy when you’ve got a hangover, however they could be a be a good option. Milk is a great source of calcium and will help settle an upset stomach, and will also increase your fluid levels - very important when you have a hangover. Similar to eggs, milk also contains a high percentage of cysteine.
Apples contain a high level of fructose and potassium, and are kinder on the stomach than citrus fruits (e.g. oranges). Eating apples helps to stimulate the liver and kidneys, and also helps cleanse the body.
Apples contain ‘malic acid’, a compound capable of neutralising toxic substances (such as acetaldehyde). The are good remedy against s diarrhoea and help aid proper digestion, all helpful when dealing with a hangover.
The healing properties of honey are numerous. Against the hangover, honey will help you detoxify your body, leveling the amount of glucose in the blood, and will give you extra potassium. It is best to take a whole spoonful of honey on its own, but it is also very effective mixed with a little warm water, if that’s a little easier on your stomach.
Toast is great for a hangover because it’s almost completely carbohydrate, meaning it’ll give you much needed energy. While bread and toast contain the same properties, in toasting the bread you’ll consume a larger amount of carbon.
The carbon found in toasted or burnt bread is said to absorb impurities and toxins, and it acts like a filter to prevent some compounds and microorganisms from passing through the mucous membrane of the stomach.
If you have a tablespoon of olive oil before you drink alcohol, it could help the rate in which the alcohol is absorbed into your body, as it essentially ‘lines the stomach’.
Olive oil protects the liver and neutralises the unpleasant symptoms of acid reflux. If swallowing a tablespoon of olive oil doesn’t sound too appealing, you could simply add it as a dressing to some of the foods we’ve discussed in this article.
BRAT stands for B (banana), R (rice), A (apple sauce) and T (Toast). These food food types are easy to digest, bland and will help to settle your stomach, ideal for when you have a hangover.
There’s no definitive cure for a hangover, but if you take on board at least a few of the recommendations discussed in this article, the likelihood is, you’ll speed up the process of recovery.
It’s really important to avoid drinking alcohol on an empty stomach and you should really ensure you hydrate properly the following day with water, or the other drinks we’ve suggested.
Taking an ibuprofen and having sufficient sleep may also help ease hangover symptoms a little more. Most importantly, avoid foods with a high fat content and don’t drink more alcohol or coffee, as this will delay the recovery process.