The term ‘hangover’ covers a range of symptoms including headache, nausea and dizziness caused by the consumption of alcoholic beverages. Some people are affected much more severely than others. The process is not fully understood.
The effect of alcohol (ethanol):-
- Ethanol is a diuretic – it makes you excrete more than you normally would. The body becomes dehydrated, which can lead to many problems.
- Ethanol is toxic, and is one of the few chemicals which can cross cell membranes. It can even cross the blood-brain barrier into brain cells.
- It causes the blood glucose level to decrease, which can lead to weakness.
How alcohol is metabolised
Alcohol is normally metabolised in a 2 stage process. Accumulation of acetaldehyde is a real problem, as it is much more toxic than ethanol.
Why some types of drink affect some people more than others?
- All alcoholic beverages are a mixture of chemicals. Some such as wine are made up of hundreds, often present in very small quantities. These provide the drink’s character.
- The particular chemicals depend on the raw materials, processing such as fermentation and distillation, and subsequent ageing.
- Some people are adversely affected by particular chemicals. The reason may be that they are allergic, or cannot metabolise them.
- I have known people have a problem with wines made from a particular grape variety, or a type of spirit. If you have very adverse reactions, it is worth investigating this possibility.
How to prevent a hangover
It shouldn’t need saying, but I will say it anyway:-
- Eat food when you drink – the alcohol is absorbed more slowly.
- Drink plenty of water – this limits dehydration.
- Avoid drinks which have a particularly bad affect – why be a masochist?
- Know your limits.
How to get rid of that hangover
- Drink water to rehydrate. You may also want to use sachets of electrolyte to replace those you have lost.
- Your blood glucose level is usually low after drinking. Eat carbs such as bread or cereals, as these can be readily converted into glucose.
- Potassium levels are also low. Try eating foods such as bananas and kiwi fruit to boost this mineral.
- ‘Hair of the dog’ is often tempting, but sadly only delays the inevitable.
The only way to be guarantee a hangover-free life is to drink no alcohol, and where’s the fun in that.