We’re entering that time of year when holidays and parties pop up with abundance and while it may be tempting to cut loose, it’s far too easy to get carried away. In Great Britain alone, 60 million work days are lost each year to employees too hungover to go into work the day after a holiday, and Johns Hopkins Hospital reports that hangovers can last up to 72 hours. Go ahead and enjoy yourself at that party but remember that while it’s always easiest to head off a hangover in advance, we’ve got you covered if you mess up.
What causes hangovers?
Simply put, the nausea, headache, dry mouth, dizziness and light and sound sensitivity you experience after a night of drinking is a dehydrated body. For every cup (250ml) of a standard-sized alcoholic beverage you drink, your body loses 800-1000ml of water. “Dehydration alters all sorts of pressure relationships associated with headaches, and dehydration can cause hangovers. You may be able to head it off with water the night before,” says Griffith Edwards, an addiction behaviour professor at London’s National Addiction Centre. The dry mouth is the strongest signal your body gives off that you need water; the headache is caused by dilated blood vessels in the brain and less blood glucose, the main energy source for the brain.
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure
Hangovers are really easy to avoid: don’t drink. But if you do, make sure that your body isn’t losing four times as much liquid for every cup you drink. Eat, have a few glasses of water, and take a B6 vitamin before you start your evening. “To digest food, your body closes the valve into the small intestine, where alcohol is most quickly absorbed, so you’re less likely to get buzzed,” says Dr. Mehmet Oz.
While you’re drinking, alternate one glass of water with each alcoholic beverage, and have another few glasses of water after your night is done. You can also take a preventative painkiller, but stick to something like aspirin or ibuprofen. While they can increase the risk of bleeding in the stomach when taken with alcohol, it’s still a safer bet than overtaxing your liver with acetaminophen. Sports drinks like Gatorade or Powerade can also help because they’ll add electrolytes that you may have lost.
The next morning
He’s more a fan of preventing hangovers than dealing with them the next day, but Dr. Oz also has tips for working through them. “You can’t flush out alcohol with exercise, but some people find that a workout makes them feel better, probably due to the feel-good chemicals physical activity releases.”
Make sure you keep up with drinking water to restore hydration in your body, and try some of Mother Nature’s fixes, like mint tea and eggs. Mint will soothe your stomach and the eggs contain cysteine, “a substance that breaks down acetaldehyde, a hangover-causing toxin in alcohol,” recommends Dr. Oz. As tempting as it may be to have a cup of coffee, skip it on mornings when you’re hungover because its diuretic properties are the last thing you need.
It’ll get better
So, enjoy your holidays party and remember that if you go overboard, it will be okay. You might not feel the greatest the next day or two, but these tips will go a long way in helping. And remember, you’ve got almost two months until the next round of parties when you’ve got to practice safe and responsible drinking.