Long weekend of partying? You’re not alone. On a normal day, about half a million Americans go to work hungover. That number rises after big sports events such as the Super Bowl and long weekends such as Memorial and Labor Day weekends. And for as many people that are hungover, there are about as many myths about curing a hangover.
A hangover can also be categorized as acute ethanol withdrawal. So if you were to start drinking during a hangover you would actually feel better. But that only delays the symptoms and can court addiction.
When drinking, the alcohol in your body eventually reaches your kidneys. It inhibits the effect of a hormone called anti-diuretic hormone, or ADH, and it prevents your body from feeling thirsty! The ethanol causes increased urine production and drains the body of fluids. That loss of water in the your body actually shrinks some of your brain cells, which can lead to a multitude of symptoms.
Hangovers can be so unbearable because the alcohol and ethanol have their own separate effects on each organ system:
-Alcohol’s effects on the lining of the stomach causes nausea.
-The liver converts ethanol to acetaldehyde, which is 10 to 30 times more toxic than alcohol itself.
-The conversion of ethanol in the liver uses gratuitous amounts of glucose and can cause hypoglycemia, leading to fatigue, weakness, mood disturbances and lethargy.
-Dysphoria, depression, and anxiety include the most common psychological symptoms.
Hangovers are medically not well understood because doctors are more concerned with preventing alcohol abuse. They, therefore, want hangovers to be a disincentive for people to drink! As of today, there is no known “cure” or prevention for a hangover. There’s only ways to manage the symptoms.
Rehydrating is the absolute most important thing to do after a heavy night of drinking. A full 8 ounce glass of water every two hours is a good way to replenish the body. Coconut water is also great because it has natural electrolytes.
It’s also important to eat food with a lot of protein and carbohydrates to help your body’s metabolism. It has actually been medically proven that a bacon sandwich reduces the effects of a hangover! Bread, red meat, and likewise foods are known to be effective.
Contrary to popular belief, exercising and taking a hot shower do nothing to help hangovers. They can even make them worse. Exercising causes you to sweat which causes water loss, the exact opposite of what your body needs. Hot showers and saunas also do the same thing. Remember, a hangover is not caused by the presence of alcohol in your body, but the after-effects of the alcohol. By the time you feel the effects of a hangover, your body has already metabolized most of the alcohol in your system.
But there is one full-proof, 100% way to avoid a hangover: not drinking at all.