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Tips for tipplers

Hangovers cannot be wished away. Sanchita Sharma offers some help on how to survive them.

health and fitness Updated: Dec 20, 2008 23:52 IST
Sanchita Sharma
Sanchita Sharma
Hindustan Times

Everyone knows that the best way to avoid a hangover is to not drink alcohol or stick to a peg or two, but this knowledge hasn’t stopped millions from waking up to the New Year with a splitting head, jellied limbs, wasting fatigue and a tongue coarser than sandpaper. As far as possible, stick to two small pegs of whiskey, vodka or rum; a beer; or a glass of wine. Till the discovery of the elusive hangover pill — without doubt, the most awaited lifestyle drug after the slimming pill — follow these to cope with the morning-after woes.

Go slow and steady

Hangovers are the body’s way of indicating it cannot cope with the alcohol onslaught, so it helps to stop before your metabolism trips over. Alcohol is absorbed very quickly by the body from the stomach, from where it is carried to the liver and broken down into acetaldehyde and other toxic byproducts. On an average, the body can process about one drink in an hour, so going slow can lower hangover risk.

Colour-code your spirit

Clear drinks cause less severe hangover because they have lower congeners; toxic byproducts of fermentation that the body’s immune system fights as it does bacteria and viruses, causing ache and fatigue associated with an illness. This explains why vodka and white wine cause less severe hangovers than dark rum and red wine.

Tank up on water

For every peg of alcohol you have, drink a glass of water. Chasing alcohol with water is important because etha-nol is a diuretic that causes the body to lose even the water it needs to function. Ethanol does this by blocking the production of the hormone vasopressin by pituitary gland in the brain. Vasopressin works as a hydrostat and directs the kidneys to absorb water needed by the body from the bladder. Once it’s switched off, the bladder loses water quickly, causing dehydration. The dehydrated brain shrinks temporarily and the shriveled dura (membrane covering the brain) tugs the pain-sensitive nerves connecting it to the skull, causing the classic lead-head sensation associated with hangovers.

Have a little sugar and salt

Dehydration makes your body lose not only water but essential electrolytes such as sodium and potassium, both of which are needed by nerves and muscles to function normally. The depletion of these irons causes chemical imbalances that lead to nausea and fatigue. Apart from containing sodium, salt also helps the body to retain water. Equally insidiously, alcohol depletes the body’s glucose (sugar) reserves by breaking down the body’s store of glycogen in the liver into glucose and excreting it through the urine. This leads to hypoglycaemia (the reason why people with diabetes are asked not to drink) and make the limbs feel weak and wobbly. Adding a bit of sugar and salt to the water or having fortified sports drinks helps replete the missing ions.

Pop a painkiller or just sleep

To take the edge of the aches and pains, pop a painkiller (Aspirin or Ibuprofen) before going to bed. Don’t take paracetamol (Crocin) as it can compound alcohol’s damaging effect on the liver. Sleeping out the misery is always effective so crash out if you feel your body’s not listening to your mind. And whatever else you do, don’t drink and drive.

First Published: Dec 20, 2008 23:50 IST