Hangovers. They were fine when you were 18, but as you get older being bent over a bucket whilst having to be a functioning human is a real struggle.
Whether Sunday on the couch is a regular occurrence, or you have the occasional blowout then promise yourself you’re never drinking again (until next month)… we’re sure you would love some cures to help make the pain go away.
The lowdown on hangovers
A hangover is caused by a combination of the toxic by-product of alcohol metabolism (acetaldehyde), dehydration, and Vitamin A, B (particularly B6) and C depletion after your body has tried to get the alcohol out of your system. Typical hangover symptoms include a dry mouth, nausea, fatigue, dizziness and headache.
Research has shown that as people age, they may experience worse hangovers. When we drink, our livers release an enzyme called alcohol dehydrogenase, which breaks down the alcohol into a harmless chemical so less of it enters the bloodstream.
Young people – and regular drinkers – produce more of this enzyme, so they don’t feel the effects of alcohol as much as older people, according to University College Hospital London.
Some drinks do create worse hangovers. While it’s the ethyl alcohol (ethanol) that gets you drunk, amyl alcohol, butyl alcohol, methyl alcohol, propyl alcohol, and isopropyl alcohol is also found in many drinks and these “congeners” will go a long way to determining the severity of the hangover.
Vodka and gin (white spirits) are generally lower in congeners than whisky, rum and bourbon. Another contributor to the hangover is the “freshness” of the alcohol since the natural oxidation of ethanol produces ‘acetaldehyde’ – a carcinogenic byproduct of alcohol metabolism. Finishing off an already open bottle of wine which has a ready made supply of acetaldehyde means you are already drinking in the stuff that makes your body feel like it has a hangover. (So… I may as well finish that bottle, right?)
- Most hangover “remedies” merely relieve uncomfortable symptoms for a short time. There is no such thing as a hangover cure as the symptoms don’t tend to stop until the alcohol is out of your system. Here’s a few things that may ease the suffering a bit:
- Berocca – the fizz of those vitamin B tablets and the big glass of water it’s mixed with seem to do something to make us feel better..
- Paracetamol – Simply attends to the headache yet does nothing for the level of alcohol in your system. At least gives the illusion of feeling better.
- Bananas – Sugar in the form of fructose, and potassium, which is one of the things you lose lots of when you drink. Bananas are also a natural antacid to help with the nausea, and are high in magnesium which can help relax those pounding blood vessels causing that hangover headache.
- Vitamin C – Another thing the alcohol takes out that you’re advised to put back in as soon as possible. Try orange juice, tomato, a 600mg Vitamin C tablet..
- St Mary’s Thistle, the liver herb. The average liver handles about 1 standard drink an hour. St. Mary’s Thistle (Silybum marianum) is the liver herb which has been shown to protect the liver against alcohol damage, particularly if taken a few hours before the event.
- This could just be an old wives tale, but an over-the-counter heartburn drug such as Zantac taken before an alcohol binge and again in the morning seems to alleviate hangover symptoms, as well as indigestion. (Shhh, don’t tell the health authorities – we have no scientific research to prove it.)
- Kylie Minogue apparently swears by egg sandwiches as a hangover cure. It might work, what with the protein and amino acids from the egg?