Excess alcohol produces a series of symptoms to avoid after any party. Some foods and methods may help us relieve a hangover.
As you may already know or you have suffered on more than one occasion, the term "hangover" combines with this set of symptoms caused by excessive alcohol consumption during the previous day, where headaches, stomach pain stand out in a characteristic way, fatigue, dry mouth and even multiple muscle aches. As if suffering from the flu, but of short duration and caused by a well-known substance.
Today we will review why a hangover occurs, how we can prevent it and, if it is too late, how we can improve it the next day through a series of dietary and scientific tips.
Why the hangover occurs
First of all, let's get to the obvious: a hangover is caused by an excess of alcohol. It seems obvious, but the "excess" is not the same for everyone, since it will depend on the tolerance we have to alcohol at that specific moment and if said alcohol consumption has been accompanied by food or other drinks, or if it has been consumed alcohol alone.
For its part, each symptom suffered is due to various reasons, all related to alcohol:
The fatigue occurs by decreasing blood sugar, because alcohol alters the metabolism of the liver, and may cause not properly metabolize glucose or sugar organism.
The stomach pain is due to irritation of the mucous membrane of the same, which will be greater the more the graduation has consumed alcohol. Therefore, if alcohol is consumed with food (especially rich in fat or protein), irritation will be less. This is because food slows down digestion, decreasing the absorption of alcohol.
The aforementioned dry mouth, headache and fatigue have been linked to dehydration caused by alcohol, which is a known diuretic (increases urine output). However, some studies claim that alcohol produces an inflammatory reaction, which could also be responsible for these symptoms.
Finally, the liver's metabolism also participates in the process. If you drink a small amount of alcohol, the liver acts as a filter, and there are no harmful effects from it. However, if excess alcohol is due, giving the liver little room for maneuver, the molecules created by this "ineffective metabolism" are released into the blood, causing the typical hangover symptoms. In addition, if different types of alcohol are mixed, things get worse, since chemical substances called "congeners" are produced, different depending on the alcohol consumed, and which aggravate the situation.
Moral: better not to drink; if you drink, let it be little; and if you drink a lot, without mixing.
How to prevent a hangover
Although popular culture claims that drinking enough water or eating enough during dinner or a situation where we are going to drink excess alcohol can help prevent hangovers, the reality is that it is a myth.
Yes, it is true that consuming foods that slow down digestion helps decrease the absorption of alcohol, but that will not be enough to avoid a hangover if there has been an excess of alcohol consumption. The conclusion, according to a Canadian study echoed by the BBC, is that the only way to avoid a hangover is either not to drink or to drink less alcohol.
Of the 826 study participants, 54% of them ate after drinking alcohol (including high-fat foods and heavy breakfasts), and more than two-thirds of them drank more water than normal while drinking alcohol (more than half of them, before sleeping). And while there was a slight improvement, there was no real significant difference when it came to hangover.
How to Relieve a Hangover Through Eating
Next, we will go through a list of what foods could help us improve our hangover the next day, once the damage is done.
Coconut water or isotonic drinks: alcohol, due to its function as a diuretic, in turn causes a blockage of a hormone called antidiuretic (responsible for reabsorbing water and preserving body hydration). Disruption of this hormone can lead to dehydration, to which hangover symptoms have long been attributed. To improve this dehydration, coconut water and isotonic drinks can help not only to replenish the water but also to maintain a correct hydroelectrolyte balance (but without overdoing it, since more hydration is not always better).
Ginger: According to some studies, such as work published in the British Journal of Anesthesia, ginger would have enough potential to prevent nausea and vomiting, two of the typical symptoms of a hangover. You should take about a gram of ginger to relieve nausea, added to a drink for example. If we do not like the taste, it is always a good option to use ginger capsules.
Asparagus: According to a study carried out by researchers from South Korea, asparagus is capable of increasing the levels of liver enzymes responsible for breaking down alcohol. Although, yes, this research was carried out in people who ate asparagus before suffering a hangover, but they believe that its consumption after excessive alcohol ingestion could also help.
Eggs: Another study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine concluded that eggs are a great source of cysteine, an amino acid capable of accelerating the elimination of toxins from alcohol metabolism; In addition, eggs are a great source of B vitamins, which also help reduce hangover symptoms.
Coffee? There has long been speculation about drinking coffee to improve hangovers. However, considering the fact that coffee is also a diuretic (could aggravate dehydration) and an irritant to the digestive system, studies have shown that caffeine "tricks" the brain into a hangover, but does not help. In other words, caffeine may decrease hangover fatigue, but it cannot speed up the process, nor can it decrease the hangover itself. It is a kind of patch that only gives the feeling of being better, but it is a false reality.
How to Relieve a Hangover Through Science
As alternative methods to taking certain foods, we will give a little review of what science says about how to improve a hangover.
Be careful with mixtures: according to the Alcohol Hangover Research Group (or Alcohol Hangover Research Group), the high sugar content of the soft drinks that we mix with alcohol could contribute to the hangover, since they raise a type of molecule in blood -lactate-. making the problem worse. According to this group, it would be better to have a shot without mixing than to use soda to “lower” the alcohol.
The inflammation of the hangover: as we have commented previously, the same Alcohol Hangover Research Group affirms that the hangover would function as a body inflammation, elevating certain inflammatory substances. Therefore, taking anti-inflammatories just before bed may prevent or reduce a hangover, although this recommendation is controversial.
GAGA receptors: According to Richard Olsen, a neuroscientist at the University of California, to avoid a hangover, GABA receptors, a type of brain receptors highly sensitive to alcohol, should be blocked. However, if these receptors are blocked by medication, tolerance occurs; in other words, the recipients would end up being desensitized to any medication.
Chinese herbs: As a curiosity, a PhD student of Richard Olsen tried hovenia on himself, a type of traditional Chinese herb used for 500 years to combat hangovers. After purifying the herb, he extracted ampelopsin and tested it with his friends in pill form. It turned out that the pill made by this student reduced the hangover sensation for the entire group and is currently sold commercially as Blucetin. Although, yes, it is difficult to find.
Futuristic Hangover Remedies: Finally, today many starups have tried to manufacture various futuristic hangover remedies. From anti-hangover patches, to pills that would mimic alcohol without producing a hangover, to magical concoctions like the Morning Recovery by ex-Tesla engineer Sisun Lee, which seems to be an imitation of the Blucetin that we have discussed previously.
So, as a conclusion and summary, there is nothing more to say: to avoid a hangover, the best option is not to overindulge in alcohol. And, if it is already late, although there are foods that can help improve the situation, you have to know that there is no magic remedy in this regard. The effect of the hangover is only 24 hours maximum, and then a return to normal without major consequences.
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