‘Tis the season to be merry. But don’t get too merry, or you may
wake up the next morning feeling less than festive.
Anyone who’s ever drunk too much knows the consequences: a banging headache, sickness, dizziness and dehydration.
Alcohol is a diuretic (it removes fluids from the body), so drinking excessively can lead to dehydration. Dehydration is what causes many of the symptoms of a hangover.
Alcohol can upset your stomach and give you a bad night’s sleep. If you drink heavily you may also still have alcohol in your system the next morning.
Hangover cures are generally a myth. There are no cures for a hangover. There are tips to prevent you getting a hangover and for easing the symptoms if you have one.
The best way to avoid a hangover is not to drink. If that’s not possible, drink sensibly and within the recommended limit.
To minimize the risk of future serious health problems, men shouldn’t regularly drink more than three to four units of alcohol a day, and women shouldn’t regularly drink more than two to three.
To avoid a hangover, don’t drink more than you know your body can cope with. If you’re not sure how much that is, be careful.
Follow these tips to keep hangovers away:
- Don’t drink on an empty stomach. Before you go out, have a meal that includes carbohydrates (such as pasta or rice) or fats. The food will help slow down the body’s absorption of alcohol.
- Don’t drink dark-coloured drinks if you’ve found that you’re sensitive to them. They contain natural chemicals called congeners (impurities) that irritate blood vessels and tissue in the brain and can make a hangover worse.
- Drink water or non-fizzy soft drinks in between each alcoholic drink. Carbonated (fizzy) drinks speed up the absorption of alcohol into your system.
- Drink a pint or more of water before you go to sleep and keep a glass of water by your bed to sip if you wake up during the night.
The morning after
If you do wake up the next morning feeling like you’ve gone 10 rounds with Mike Tyson, you probably didn’t follow this advice. Although there are no real cures for hangovers, there are some ways to help ease the symptoms.
Treatment involves rehydrating the body so it can deal with the painful symptoms (though the best time to rehydrate is before going to sleep).
Sugary foods may help you to feel less trembly. In some cases, an antacid may be needed to settle your stomach first.
Bouillon soup, a thin vegetable-based broth, is a good source of vitamins and minerals, to top up any depleted resources. Its main advantage is that it’s easy to eat on a fragile stomach.
You can replace lost fluids by drinking bland liquids that are easy on the digestive system, such as water, soda water and isotonic drinks (available in most shops).
‘Hair of the dog’ (drinking more alcohol) doesn’t help. Drinking in the morning is a risky habit to start, and you may just be delaying the appearance of symptoms again when it wears off.
If you have had a heavy drinking session, hangover or not, doctors advise that you allow 48 hours to pass before you drink any more alcohol, in order to give your body tissues time to recover. Sometimes, of course, a hangover makes that advice easier to follow.