For many people, alcohol is the key ingredient to any good party or celebration. Unfortunately, it is also the key ingredient to the morning-after hangover. Below is an explanation as to why hangovers occur and steps to take to prevent one.
Why do we get hangovers?
Alcohol is toxic to the human body. A hangover is a sign the body had too much toxin put into it the night before and is now trying to recover. Common symptoms associated with a hangover include:
Headache – alcohol dilates blood vessels around the brain and triggers the extra release of certain brain chemicals, all of which can lead to a major headache
Dehydration – alcohol blocks the release of a hormone that helps the body retain fluid. Excess urination, sweating, vomiting and diarrhea all increase dehydration, which adds to the headache and nausea felt the next morning.
Fatigue – While alcohol may make you tired, it also disrupts sleep patterns, significantly reducing the amount of time spent in REM sleep.
Ways to prevent a hangover
Eat something – Do not drink on an empty stomach. Eat something before you head out to a party or at least before you start drinking. Some people find fatty foods help prevent hangovers, but the truly important part is to eat in volume. A few hor dourves aren’t going to cut it here.
Drink plenty of water – Alcohol is going to make you lose fluids, so keep replacing them with water or other non-alcoholic drinks. Try drinking a glass of water or fruit juice between alcoholic beverages. Avoid beverages with caffeine, such as cola products, as these have a diuretic effect and will only increase dehydration.
Know your limit – Different people can handle different amounts of alcohol. Do not go beyond the amount you can handle. If you do not know your limit, stick to just one or two drinks (or none at all).
Choose your drinks wisely – Some types of alcoholic drinks — red wine, brandy, and whisky to name a few — are more likely to cause a hangover. Clear liquors, such as vodka and gin, are usually better for most people. If drinking beer, stick to light (color, not calories) varieties, as they are less likely to cause a problem than darker, heavier beers.
Drink more water – Once you have come home from the party, keep drinking water before you go to bed. A sports drink is also a good option, as it will replace some of the nutrients and electrolytes lost during the evening.
Take pain pills – Take two over the counter pain pills before bed, and then two more when you wake up. Choose one that does not contain acetaminophen (Tylenol), as the combination of the drug and alcohol puts too much strain on the liver. If you have had quite a bit drink, skip the before bed dose to be safe.
Sleep – Give yourself plenty of time to sleep. Your body (and your head) will thank you for the recovery time.
Treating a hangover
If you find you still end up with a hangover after taking all the steps to prevent one, try the hangover remedies in the article How to Treat a Hangover.