- Causes, Prevention, and Remedies
We almost always
consume alcohol in moderation. On rare occasions, some of us
overindulge. I thought it might be interesting to explore the
topic of remedies for the day after. Much of what
follows is taken from the internet; these arent exactly
peer reviewed publications.
causes hangovers? (The following have been suggested by
1. Dehydration - Alcohol is a diuretic, ie a drug that increases
urination and flushes fluids from the body. Drinking coffee the
next morning may increase this problem as coffee is also a
diuretic (however, caffeine has a possible advantage, which will
be discussed later).
2. Mild poisons in the drink - A hangover may be a toxic reaction
or even a mild form of alcohol poisoning. Complex organic
molecules such as methanol and acetone are found in some drinks
and are said to be responsible for hangovers rather than ethanol
(alcohol). This view is supported by researcher Dr. Ian Calder of
the National Hospital for Neurosurgery (London).
3. Too much alcohol depletes the body of necessary substances
required to stay healthy, including blood sugar, vitamins and
4. Theres good evidence emerging that the chief cause
of hangover is acute withdrawal from alcohol, says Mack
Mitchell, M.D., vice president of the Alcoholic Beverage Medical
Research Foundation in Baltimore, and assistant professor of
medicine at Johns Hopkins University. The cells in your
brain physically change in response to the alcohols
presence; when the alcohol is gone, you go through withdrawal
until those cells get used to doing without the alcohol.
Couple that with the effects alcohol has on the blood vessels in
your head (they can swell significantly), and you end up living
through a day after that youd rather forget.
Which form of alcohol is worse?
From worst to best: bourbon, whiskey, brandy, rum, red wine,
white wine, gin and vodka. The British Medical Journal did tests
that showed drinking bourbon whiskey is twice as likely to cause
a hangover than the same amount of vodka.
What about Wine? (The following has appeared in
the popular press. Who knows if it's true?)
1. A bad harvest. If you are drinking wine that comes from a
country where a small change in the climate can make a big
difference to the quality of wine (France, Germany, New Zealand),
then in a bad season the wine contains many more substances that
2. Drinking it too young. Almost all red wines and Chardonnay are
matured in oak barrels so that they will keep and improve. If you
drink this wine younger than three years there will be a higher
level of nasties that can cause hangovers. If left to mature
these nasties change to neutral substances and dont cause
hangovers. As a rule of thumb, wine stored in oak barrels for six
months should be acceptable to drink within the first year. If
the wine is stored for twelve months or more in oak barrels, it
should then be aged at least four years. Some winemakers have
been known to add oak chips directly into the wine to enhance
flavors (especially in a weak vintage and especially in cheaper
wines); this can take years to become neutral.
How to Avoid a Hangover
A hangover once is a hangover never wanted again. But it
doesnt mean that you have to avoid alcohol to have a fun
night out and feel good the next day. So how do you avoid it all?
1. Of course the best and safest way to prevent hangovers is to
limit yourself to 1-2 drinks.
2. Drink slowly. The slower you drink, the less alcohol reaches
the brain (even if you end up consuming more). The reason is
simple math: Your body burns alcohol at a fixed rateabout
an ounce an hour. Give it more time to burn that alcohol, and
less reaches your blood and brain.
3. Drink on a full stomach. This is probably the single
best thing you can do besides drinking less to reduce the
severity of a hangover, Dr. Mitchell says. Food slows
the absorption of alcohol, and the slower you absorb it, the less
alcohol actually reaches the brain. The kind of food you
eat doesn't matter much. Eating well before you go out, during
alcohol consumption, and sometimes after is important. Breads and
pasta particularly slow absorption of alcohol into the blood
stream. So do milk and other dairy products.
4. Take some extra vitamin C before retiring. Some even suggest
taking extra vitamin C for a few days before imbibing a lot.
5. Drink the right drinks. What you drink can play a major role
in what your head feels like the next morning, according to
Kenneth Blum, Ph.D. The chief villains are congeners.
Congeners are higher order alcohols. (ethanol is the one we
commonly call alcohol but there are many others.)
They are found in essentially all alcoholic beverages, Dr.
Blum says. How they work isnt known, but theyre
closely related to the amount of pain you experience after
6. The least perilous concoction is vodka. The most perilous is
bourbon. Cognac and other brandies as well as single malt
scotches are close behind. These are followed by blended scotch
and other whiskeys and champagnes of all kinds (here its
the bubbles that are the problem). Red wine can be a problem, but
for a different reason. It contains tyramine, a histamine-like
substance that can produce a killer headache. Gin and white wine
are almost as benign as vodka, but in sufficient quantity, any
form of alcohol can do you in. Avoid sweet tropical mixed drinks
such as zombies and pina coladas, Also, avoid eating sugary foods
such as cookies, cakes and chocolate. You tend to drink more than
you realize, because the sugar makes it difficult to sense how
much alcohol you are consuming.
7. Avoid the bubbly. And that doesnt mean just champagne.
Dr. Mitchell and Dr. Blum agree. Anything with bubbles in it (rum
and Coke is just as bad as champagne) is a special hazard. The
bubbles put the alcohol into your bloodstream much more quickly.
Your liver cant keep up; the alcohol overflow pours into
8. Be size sensitive. With few exceptions, there's no way a
110-pounder can go one-on-one with a 250-pound drinker and wake
up the winner. So scale down your drinks. To come out even, the
110-pounder can handle about half the alcohol of the 250-pounder.
9. A new over-the-counter
supplement called Zeo is now available. We sell it. An Initial report from one
of our employees (who shall remain nameless) is that it seems to help.
10. Take Alka-Seltzer at bedtime. There's no hard scientific
data on this, but my own clinical experience and that of a lot of
others says that water and Alka-Seltzer before going to bed can
make your hangover much less of a problem, says John Brick,
Ph.D. Others claim that two aspirin tablets (which is really
Alka-Seltzer without the fizz) can also help. However,
non-prescription pain relievers can be tough on the stomach,
especially when there is alcohol in the system. Plain water is
always a good idea for rehydration. Some recommend flat ginger
have a hangover, how can you minimize the effects?
There is no one thing that cures a hangover except time. But
there are a few things you can do to relieve the
symptomsthe headache, nausea, and fatigue.
1. Drink fruit juice. Fruit juice contains a form of sugar
called fructose, which helps the body burn alcohol faster,
explains Seymour Diamond, M.D., director of the Diamond Headache
Clinic in Chicago, Illinois. A large glass of orange juice or
tomato juice, in other words, will help accelerate removal of the
alcohol still in your system the morning after.
2. Eat crackers and honey. Honey is a very concentrated source of
fructose. Believe it or not, sauerkraut juice is said by some to
neutralize congeners. (More proof that sometimes the cure is
worse than the disease!)
3. Get some pain relief. A headache is invariably a part of the
package that goes with a hangover. You can take aspirin,
acetaminophen, or ibuprofen but you dont want anything
stronger, Dr. Diamond says. With more potent pain
relievers, you run the risk of habituation, and you dont
want the first problem to start another problem.
4. Willow bark is a natural, organic pain reliever, according to
Kenneth Blum, Ph.D., chief of the Addictive Diseases Division at
the U. of Texas Health Sciences Center at San Antonio. It
contains a natural form of salicylate, the active ingredient in
5. Drink bouillon. Broth made from bouillon cubes or any homemade
soup broth will help replace the salt and potassium your body
loses when you drink, Dr. Diamond says.
6. Replenish your water supply. Alcohol causes dehydration
of your body cells, says John Brick, Ph.D., chief of
research at the Center of Alcohol Studies of Rutgers State
University of New Jersey. Drinking plenty of water before
you go to bed and again when you get up the morning after may
help relieve discomfort caused by dehydration.
7. Take B-complex vitamins. Drinking drains the body of these
valuable vitamins. Research shows your system turns to B vitamins
when it is under stressand overtaxing the body with too
much booze, beer, or wine definitely qualifies as stress, says
Dr. Blum. Replenishing your body with a B-complex vitamin capsule
can help shorten the duration of your hangover.
8. Eat amino acids. Amino acids are the building blocks of
protein. Like vitamins and minerals, they can also be depleted by
use of alcohol. Dr. Blum says that replenishing amino acids plays
a role in repairing the ravages of a hangover. Amino acids are
also available in capsule form at most health food stores.
9. Have two cups of coffee. (I know this contradicts previous
advice, but you didnt expect consistency, did you?)
Coffee acts as a vasoconstrictorsomething that
reduces the swelling of blood vessels that causes headache,
Dr. Diamond says. Coffee can do a great deal to relieve the
headaches associated with hangovers. But dont drink
10. If you have a headache, cool/cold compresses may help.
11. Eat a good meal. If you can tolerate it, that is. A balanced
meal will replace the loss of essential nutrients, explains Dr.
Blum. But keep the meal light; no fats or fried foods. Toast,
cereal, fruit and yogurt are easier to digest than eggs and
dairy. (Chicken soup, anyone? It may not help, but it
PANEL OF ADVISORS: a) Kenneth Blum, Ph.D., is chief of the
Addictive Diseases Division of the University of Texas Health
Sciences Center at San Antonio; b) John Brick, Ph.D., is chief of
research in the Division of Education and Training at Rutgers
State University of New Jerseys Center of Alcohol Studies
in Piscataway, New Jersey; Seymour Diamond, M.D., is director of
the Diamond Headache Clinic and the inpatient headache unit at
Louis A. Weiss Memorial Hospital in Chicago, Illinois. He also is
executive director of the National Headache Foundation. He has
co-written several books on headaches. c) Van Lierer, Ph.D., is
director of research and owner of Decision Systems, a research
and development firm in Stanford, California. He is a former
cognitive psychologist at Stanford U; d) Mack Mitchell, M.D., is
a vice president of the Alcoholic Beverage Medical Research
Foundation in Baltimore, Maryland, and assistant professor of
medicine at Johns Hopkins University.
From the Nutritionists:
Try some of the following herbs before and after drinking to
reduce toxins and free radicals produced by them as well as herbs
to nourish the nervous system. V-8 juice along with cucumber is
an excellent carrier for your herbs and the two alone will help
to replenish salts, vitamins, minerals and water your body is
1. Willow bark; 2) Scullcap; 3) Ginseng; 4) Chamomile; 5) Green
Tea; 6) Nux vomica; 7) Kava and Valerian (take these two only
after all the alcohol has cleared your system.)
Website Design ©Maron Marketing Consultants, Inc.