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“Grease is the only cure for a hangover.”
Anecdotally yes, Cameron, it is. Yet this is not entirely accurate. Formally, a hangover is the experience of various unpleasant physiological effects following heavy consumption of alcoholic beverages. Informally it is most probably karmic feedback from your body – telling you not to drink as much the next time you got to a party. Teaching you a lesson. A lesson in: ‘how not to maintain your body’.
The most commonly reported characteristics of a hangover include nausea, headache, sensitivity to noise and brightness of light, lethargy, dysphoria, diarrhoea and thirst, usually after the intoxicating effect wears off. While a hangover can be experienced at any time, generally a hangover is experienced the morning after a night of heavy drinking. In addition to the physical symptoms, a hangover can also induce psychological symptoms including heightened feelings of depression and anxiety.
Hypoglycemia, dehydration, acetaldehyde intoxication, and ‘glutamine rebound’ are all theorised causes of hangover symptoms. Hangover symptoms can persist for several days after alcohol was last consumed. Some aspects of a hangover are viewed as symptoms of acute ethanol withdrawal, similar to the longer-duration effects of withdrawal from alcoholism.
Excessive consumption of alcohol results in the formation of acetaldehyde and malondialdehyde. These two compounds are very toxic in the body and cause free-radical damage to cells throughout the body on a massive scale. The free-radical damage generated creates an effect in the body similar to that caused by radiation poisoning!
Hangovers are caused by several factors. First, the body has to metabolize the active ingredient in alcoholic beverages: ethanol. This process requires cellular energy, distracting the body from normal activities (e.g. making glucose for the brain.) Even after all the ethanol is metabolised, the by-products of this process can cause additional problems. Likewise, other substances in certain alcoholic beverages can make a hangover worse.
Ethanol is a diuretic whose excessive consumption can lead to the body dehydrating.
Within the limited amount of serious study on the subject, there is debate about whether a hangover may be prevented or at least mitigated. There is currently no empirically proven mechanism for preventing a hangover – except the obvious: reducing the amount of ethanol consumed; nor for making oneself sober other than waiting for the body to metabolize ingested alcohol, which occurs via oxidation through the liver before alcohol leaves the body.
In light of this, it can still be said that hangovers may be alleviated by hydrating with water (coconut water may be more effective than regular water here) and also consuming food in the form of high nutrient soups (e.g. Miso soup). Honey may also alleviate certain symptoms.
And B vitamins confer liver support. Anecdotally it has been said that consuming larger than 'normal' amounts of lettuce before a 'big night' - can help stimulate the liver to deal with the coming alcohol onslaught and ensuing dehydration. Chronic pretreatment with vitamin E may prevent alcohol-induced vascular injury to the brain, so supplementing with it before you go out drinking may help protect you from further injuries.
WARNING: This advice is intended for moderate drinkers of alcohol and not intended for people who suffer from alcoholism. If you or your partner appear to have a drinking problem, there are health professionals that can help treat the disease.
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