Proven Tips to Cure Hangovers
While enjoying the occasional night out with cocktails can be an enjoyable experience, the aftermath of alcohol-induced hangovers is far from pleasant.
Regrettably, even the most well-intentioned partygoers may find themselves grappling with the consequences of an evening spent under the influence. The day-after-drinking symptoms, including nausea, headaches, fatigue, shaking, and a dry mouth, can leave those affected by excessive alcohol consumption desperately seeking relief. However, the reality is that hangover cures are often unreliable, if not outright myths.
Nonetheless, even though a complete cure remains elusive, there are strategies to potentially alleviate the adverse effects of overindulgence.
Discover below some ways you might help alleviate the discomfort of an unexpected hangover.
A hangover occurs when your body struggles to process the amount of alcohol you've consumed. Alcohol, specifically ethanol, acts as a potent diuretic, frequently causing dehydration and metabolic imbalances. In simpler terms, a hangover can be described as a state of alcohol-induced physiological exhaustion, akin to heat exhaustion in several aspects.
It's important to note that individuals have varying abilities to metabolize alcohol, which can influence their sensitivity to hangovers. Factors such as illness or hormonal changes can also affect an individual's tolerance. The term "alcohol hangover" refers to the combination of negative mental and physical symptoms that follow a single episode of alcohol consumption, typically starting when blood alcohol concentration (BAC) approaches zero. In essence, a hangover sets in once the alcohol leaves your system.
Recent updates in the definition of a hangover acknowledge that it can occur not only after excessive drinking but also at low BAC levels and during different times of the day or night. The transition from intoxication to zero alcohol in the body triggers the onset of a hangover. This variability makes it challenging to establish a standardized hangover threshold. Previous research suggested a BAC of 0.11% as the "toxicological threshold" for hangovers, but recent findings emphasize the importance of an individual's subjective intoxication level in determining hangover severity.
The Causes of a Hangover
While the precise mechanism behind hangover symptoms remains uncertain, several contributing factors have been identified. These include:
Dehydration: Alcohol suppresses a hormone called vasopressin, leading to increased urination and dehydration. Symptoms may include dizziness, fatigue, and headaches.
Inflammation: Hangovers are often associated with elevated cytokines, part of the immune system's response to control inflammation. This inflammatory response can lead to symptoms such as nausea, headaches, difficulty concentrating, and a general sense of malaise.
Gastrointestinal Irritation: Alcohol can increase stomach acid, leading to abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting.
Low Blood Sugar: Alcohol can cause low blood sugar levels, resulting in symptoms like fatigue, shaking, anxiety, dizziness, and confusion.
Sleep Disturbances: While alcohol may induce sleep more quickly, it disrupts the quality of sleep, leaving you feeling tired. Sleep deprivation contributes to hangover grogginess.
Can Hangovers Be Cured?
Currently, there is no definitive "cure" for a hangover aside from allowing it to naturally subside. Once alcohol is absorbed into the body, it is metabolized into acetaldehyde, a highly toxic compound that induces inflammation and oxidative stress, leading to tissue damage and hangover symptoms. Eventually, the body converts acetaldehyde into a less toxic substance called acetate, resolving the symptoms. However, there are no quick fixes to reverse the damage already done.
A recent review of hangover treatments found that most purported hangover cures, such as clove extract, red ginseng, and Korean pear juice, lacked strong evidence of effectiveness.
So, what can a person experiencing a hangover do to find relief?
Rehydrate Properly: Replenishing fluids is essential, as hangovers often accompany dehydration. Alcohol's diuretic effect leads to frequent urination, so it's crucial to rehydrate while drinking. Consider options like coconut water, sports drinks, or cantaloupe to restore electrolytes and fluids.
Consume Complex Carbohydrates: Quality carbohydrates can help raise blood sugar levels, which alcohol consumption can lower. Opt for whole grains, oats, and whole grain bread or toast for a quick energy boost.
Take an Anti-Inflammatory: Aspirin or ibuprofen may help alleviate headaches and body aches. However, avoid acetaminophen, as it can worsen liver damage if alcohol is still in your system.
Use Ginger: Ginger, in the form of tea or crystallized root, can relieve nausea and upset stomach. It also has carminative properties that aid digestion.
Replenish B Vitamins and Zinc: Alcohol consumption depletes vitamins like B3 and zinc, which are crucial for alcohol metabolism, energy production, and overall health. Try to restore these nutrients through dietary sources like whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, and eggs.
Get Adequate Sleep: Rest is essential for hangover recovery, as it helps with hydration, detoxification, and symptom relief. Alcohol may initiate sleep but disrupts its quality, so prioritize restorative sleep.
When to Seek Medical Attention
Most hangovers resolve on their own, but heavy drinking can lead to alcohol poisoning, a medical emergency. If you or someone you know experiences symptoms like mental confusion, vomiting, difficulty breathing, slow heart rate, or seizures, call 911 immediately.
If you have concerns about your drinking habits or its impact on your life, consider consulting a physician for support. Otherwise, the most effective hangover remedy remains time, allowing your body to metabolize alcohol and recover naturally.