Hangovers are caused by three main culprits:

  • Chemicals in the drink – Congeners are the by-products of the process of alcohol fermentation and exaggerate the symptoms of a hangover. Dark spirits such as brandy, whiskey and red wine contain more congeners than lighter spirits like vodka and white wine. The more congeners consumed, the worse a hangover is likely to be. Cheaper spirits have had fewer of these impurities removed and are more likely to cause a hangover.
  • Chemicals made by the body as  it detoxifies the alcohol –
    • Ethanol – Your liver breaks ethanol down with the aid of enzymes produced by liver cells. These chemical reactions do many things including impairing the liver’s ability to supply glucose to tissues, in particular to the brain. Glucose is responsible for the brain’s energy and the lack thereof results in fatigue, weakness, moodiness and decreased attention.
    • Dehydration –
      • Alcohol stimulates your body to produce more urine. In turn, urinating more than usual can lead to dehydration.  Part of it is oxygen depletion to your brain, the other is that alcohol flushes a lot of your body’s electrolytes out of your system.
      • The ethanol contained in alcoholic beverages has a dehydrating effect which causes headaches, dry mouth and tiredness.

 Minimise the damage

  • Eat preferably before you drink – don’t drink on an empty stomach, and eating snacks whilst drinking will slow down the absorption of alcohol.
  • Choose the booze carefully. Again, dark spirits contain more congeners, light spirits fewer, cheap booze more.
  •  Don’t go for the shots!!!!
  • Alternate alcoholic with non-alcoholic beverages. Choose water, fruit juices or light carbonated beverages. If you drinking rounds with friends, slow down and miss a round. They may be too drunk to know the difference and who cares anyway, you will feel so much better in the morning than they will!
  • Your liver breaks down alcohol at the rate of one unit (half a pint or one small glass wine) per hour, so spreading out your drinking over many hours will give your body a chance to keep up with you.
  • Once you make it home and before you crash on the bed force yourself to drink a glass of water and take some Vitamin B complex and vitamin C. This is also not the time to take any headache medicine (Ibuprofen, Aspirin) as they could add to the burden on your liver, take high strength magnesium instead as this relaxes the blood vessels reducing your chances of a headache.
  • Alcohol flushes the vitamins and water from your body which is also why you need the loo more when you drink. The next day take a multivitamin.
  • Make your own sports drink to boost electrolytes, which are diluted by alcohol by adding a pinch of salt to diluted squash.
  • Eating a lightly cooked breakfast, especially scrambled eggs or bacon with wholegrain toast can restore blood sugar levels.

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