Just the thought of a hangover-induced headache the next morning is enough to make many partygoers decline drinks even when they are really in the mood. As the biggest party of the year approaches, read up on everything you need to know about hangovers and use our checklist of dos and don’ts to ensure you get through it without too much trouble.
What is a hangover?
The symptoms of a hangover stem from the body’s attempt to process alcohol and get it out of the system. It’s a combination of dehydration (the alcohol depletes the body’s water reserves), nervous shock (the after-effect of a mild overdose of the depressant drug that alcohol actually is) and malnutrition (all that alcohol and liquid pumping through your body flushes away a significant supply of your essential vitamin and mineral stores). When you drink alcohol, your liver’s sugar stores are broken down as it concentrates on processing the booze, so you are left low on brain and body fuel, leading to low blood sugar.
Is throwing up a good idea?
A lot of people feel better after induced vomiting. Too much alcohol leads to acid secretion in the body, and vomiting helps throw the acid out, which helps you feel a little better at the time. But throwing up is not a cure for a hangover because by the time your hangover occurs, all the alcohol you’ve consumed has already been absorbed in the stomach. It is better to relieve the nausea associated with a hangover by taking an antacid rather than by inducing vomiting.
Why does my body crave fried, oily, spicy food during a hangover? Should I give in to the craving?
Oily or spicy food may help neutralise the high concentration of acid and alcohol in the stomach for some people. But ideally, if you have a hangover, you should eat light food that the body can digest easily.
How do I manage my hangover?
Take it one step at a time. The moment you wake up, start drinking loads of water. Lukewarm water with a spoonful of honey is ideal. Take two pain killers and then drink some more water.
If you feel sick, take an anti-vomiting pill or an antacid. Liquid antacid preparations help in reducing stomach irritation and nausea. Peppermint can also sort out an upset stomach.
Next, take a shower. It will increase blood circulation, which will push the alcohol out quicker.
Do some form of exercise to get rid of lethargy and get your mind busy.
As soon as you can face food, eat something — a cucumber and tomato sandwich works well. Or blend some apples with ice and turn it into a smoothie, to reduce nausea. Food helps absorb the acid in your stomach.
If none of this works, just drink a litre of water and go back to sleep.
Drink lots of water
Say yes to
Water: Alcohol is a known diuretic, so to beat dehydration, drink lots of water, orange juice or a sports drink. The faster you replenish your fluid loss, the quicker you will get better.
Breakfast: Have a hearty breakfast rich in proteins and carbohydrates to help ward off faintness-inducing, dizziness-causing hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar). Why? Blood-sugar levels are usually low after a drinking binge. So eat as soon as you think you can keep the food down.
Fruit: You need it to replenish the vitamins and energy in your body. A glass of fresh orange juice with a teaspoon of lime juice and a pinch of cumin will get you back in gear. In fact, any fresh juice will flush the toxins out of your system.
Vitamin B: if you are a regular drinker, make it a habit to take vitamin B complex tablets every day, because alcohol causes a loss of B-vitamins.
Electrolyte drinks: Drinks like Gatorade and Electrol help restore blood sugar, salt and fluid. Coconut water works along the same lines, as does ginger tea.
Honey: It helps increase the rate at which alcohol is processed in the body. Have a couple of tablespoons plain, or add it to water or a cup of tea. Or spread on whole-wheat toast to help neutralise the acidic stomach and get a burst of energy.
Yoghurt or milk: It can help soothe the gut. In fact, some people drink a pre-emptive glass of milk before they start drinking alcohol.
Bananas: It settles the stomach, wards off nausea (they are natural antacids) and replaces lost magnesium and potassium due to drinking.
eggs: Contain cysteine which helps mop up leftover toxins.
Say no to:
More alcohol: Whatever you do, stay away from more alcohol in the morning. A nip or two might give you temporary relief, but is sure to make things worse later.
Caffeine: When you wake up sleep-deprived, achy and cotton-headed, a pint of black, sugary coffee seems like the perfect antidote. But it doesn’t work. It may help the pounding head temporarily, but actually makes things worse because, like alcohol, coffee is a diuretic and leads to even more dehydration.