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How to Prevent a Hangover

If a hangover were an embodiment of something tangible, it would probably be a mischievous imp settling on your shoulder, taunting you when you’ve had too much to drink. Your head may swirl, your steps become less graceful, and if you don’t make it to a bathroom in time, you’re in for a morning filled with embarrassment. Hangovers are no fun and they can strike at anytime alcohol is a part of your festivities. When you drink too much or under the wrong circumstances, a hangover is just around the corner. For many, a few pre-emptive measures help avoid this highly unwanted event.

How To Prevent A Hangover

What is a Hangover?

The unpleasant after-effects associated with the heavy consumption of alcoholic beverages often attack the equilibrium of human physiology. Hangover victims often complain of headaches, nausea, sluggishness, excessive thirst, and sensitivity to light and noise. These are symptoms often caused by hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), dehydration, acetaldehyde intoxication, and a deficiency in vitamin B12 [1]. Typically, hangovers last between 12 and 36 hours, yet some individuals have endured 48 to 72 hours of symptoms after the consumption of their last alcoholic drink.

The Negative Effects of a Hangover

The effects of a hangover cause distress in individuals at varying degrees and not every drinker will experience the same symptoms. Depending on the amount of consumption and individual circumstances, a drinker will not encounter the same hangover symptoms each and every time they consume alcohol. The symptoms associated with alcohol hangovers are some of the most irritating, which include diarrhea, vomiting, hypersalivation, anxiety, moodiness, concentration difficulties, and trouble sleeping.

Some people experience a temporary repulsion by the thought or taste of alcohol while under the influence of a hangover. Sometimes, people with hangovers suffer embarrassment that stem from the night before and physically wear the evidence of a hard night of drinking in the form of red, puffy eyes and a drowsy appearance in the morning.

Overall, a heavy session of drinking affects almost every system attached to the body for up to 24 hours. The liver accumulates fatty and lactic acids, which impairs the body’s ability to process sugar. This often results in weakness and a fluctuating mood. The stomach lining suffers inflammation, disrupted digestion, and gathers an excess of gastric acid, which encourages nausea.

Dryness settles over the throat and mouth, often producing a scratchy voice in the morning. Dehydration also makes the muscles feel weak and actually causes the brain to pull away from its lining, which intensifies the pain of the throbbing headache caused by dilated blood vessels [2]. A hangover is also felt in the pituitary gland, central nervous system, heart, pancreas, and kidneys.

How to Prevent a Hangover

While the best method of preventing a hangover is to pass on alcoholic drinks altogether, exercising self-control is a good place to begin. Drinking in moderation helps avoid the onset of a hangover. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, daily recommendations for women is to have no more than one drink, while men should stick with no more than two [3]. A 12-ounce bottle of beer, 4-ounce glass of wine, or a 1 ½-ounce shot of liquor is considered the appropriate amount for one drink. Additional hangover prevention methods include:

a) Eat Before You Drink:

Before indulging in a night filled with drinking, it is a good idea to eat a hearty dinner. The food in your stomach will absorb some of the alcohol, which lessens the risk of suffering from a hangover. For example, the complex fat and protein contained in a big, juicy steak provides just the right filler for absorbing alcohol.

b) Coat the Stomach:

Some people have consumed milk or olive oil before entering a night of drinking, which lines the stomach to create a protective layer against alcohol.

c) Select Clear Alcohol:

The color of alcohol plays a role in the overall effect of drinking. Clear alcohols, such as vodka, white wine, and light rum pose less of a threat than darker liquors, such as sherry, whiskey, brandy, or red wine. Darker beers also affect the chances of suffering from a hangover as well.

d) Avoid Cheap Alcohol:

To prevent a hangover, one should avoid the cheaper, off-brand, or discount liquors, which are often referred to as “Well” drinks or “House” brands. Instead, request “Call” or “Top Shelf” drinks when choosing liquor.

e) Eat While You Drink:

When an individual eats while drinking, it is the fats, carbohydrates, and sugars that replenish the body and slow down the rate of alcohol absorption. A few good foods to consider when interested in delaying alcohol absorption include cheese, pretzels, and nuts.

f) Stay Hydrated:

Since alcohol dehydrates the body, it is suggested to drink a glass of water after each alcoholic drink [4]. This practice helps prevent the headaches and body aches associated with a hangover. It is important to stay clear of caffeinated products, such as coffee, hot chocolate, tea, and soda, which are known to cause dehydration. A satisfying alternative to water includes sports drinks, such as Powerade and Gatorade, which also make an interesting drink mix for hard liquor.

g) Follow Extra Precautions Before Bed:

Before turning in for the night, eating a little something, such as a banana or crackers, will decrease the chances of waking up to a hangover. Drinking another couple glasses of water before bed will also help. Taking a multivitamin (especially a B-complex selection) or liver salts before bed will also replace the vitamins and minerals lost after a night of drinking.

h) Avoid Smoking:

Since smoking constricts the lungs and decreases the flow of oxygen to the bloodstream, it is suggested to leave the cigarettes at home. A body deprived of oxygen means a stronger hangover may develop the next day.

i) Avoid Mixing Alcohol:

When a person drinks more than one type of alcohol over the course of the night, they increase their chances of suffering from a hangover in the morning.

j) Alka-Seltzer:

Before going to bed, it is suggested to dissolve two Alka Seltzer tablets in a glass of water and drink. The aspirin contained in the Alka Seltzer helps prevent the headache that comes with a hangover and the water helps to replenish a dehydrated body, hopefully preventing or lessening the effects of a hangover.

k) Home Remedies [5]:

There are plenty of home remedies situated in the average kitchen that may help an individual beat the dreaded hangover. For instance, a bowl of Campbell’s Chicken Noodle Soup helps replace the potassium and salt lost during a night of heavy drinking. The fructose in Campbell’s Tomato Juice is known to increase the rate at which the body is able to burn alcohol, thus flushing it from the body faster. The combination of honey on Saltine crackers may help prevent a hangover. The concentrated amount of fructose in the honey coupled with the salt on the crackers, helps the body flush out the alcohol remaining in your system.


[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hangover
[2] http://www.healthfinder.gov/news/newsstory.asp?docid=600120
[3] http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/002041.htm
[4] http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/hangovers/DS00649/DSECTION=8
[5] Joey Green’s Amazing Kitchen Cures by Joey Green (pgs 182-183)

One Response to “How to Prevent a Hangover”

  1. susan
    June 14, 2011 at 12:04 pm #

    Waking up to a large glass of warm water with the juice of half a fresh lemon helps with hangovers and generally flushing the body out

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