New Year’s Eve is a time for celebrating, rejoicing and reminiscing, but it’s also an occasion when many people indulge in excessive drinking, causing them to go to great lengths trying to survive New Year’s Day, also known as National Hangover Day.
Despite the fact that no silver bullet has been found against the splitting headaches, dehydration, tiredness, diarrhea and overpowering nausea triggered by binge drinking, there are certain strategies that could be adopted so as to try and eliminate or at least reduce such symptoms as much as possible.
Given that the expression “hangover cure” is more often than not the most popular search to be performed on Google every January 1st, the latest episode posted on YouTube by the American Chemical Society in its “Reactions” series deals precisely with this topic.
As researchers explain, one of the key aspects is to drink responsibly, knowing one’s limits and not going beyond them. This is especially important for women and older individuals, which have a harder time processing drinks.
As alcohol is ingested, the liver tries to metabolize it by resorting to an enzyme called ADH, which produces acetaldehyde. This toxic, cancer-causing substance is later transformed into acetate by another protein known as ALDH, and eventually acetate is converted into water and carbon dioxide.
However, until this entire process is complete, acetaldehyde wreaks havoc throughout the body, causing various symptoms such as fatigue, cotton mouth and cognitive problems.
In order to assist the body in breaking down this compound, it is recommended to consume eggs upon waking up, because these food items are rich in l-cysteine, a semi-essential amino-acid which speeds up metabolic processes that turn acetaldehyde into acetic acid.
Dehydration, which is also responsible for the headaches and vertigo that are so common during hangovers, appears because alcoholic beverages severely disrupt the release of vasopresin, also called the anti-diuretic hormone.
Vasopresin influences how much water can be retained by the kidneys, so when this hormone’s levels drop, water is passed to the kidneys instead, and that’s how the overwhelming need to urinate appears during a night of heavy drinking.
In order to better pace oneself, while also combating dehydration and all the other pesky symptoms associated with it, it is advisable to consume one glass of water following each alcoholic drink.
Bananas are also worth trying the morning after, so as to restore potassium concentration at normal values, while pickle juice can restore electrolytes, and smoothies can provide an extra helping of vitamins.
Another aspect related to hangovers is excessive weariness, which occurs because alcohol prevents GABA and glutamate neurotransmitters from functioning correctly, having a dampening effect on neural activity.
This leads to debilitating fatigue, which is further increased because alcohol makes it less likely for the body to enter the REM (rapid eye-movement) sleep phase.
So as to enjoy as much rest as possible, without the urge to urinate during the middle of the night, one important tip is to avoid consuming any alcohol for at least 90 minutes before going to sleep.
There are also certain ways of avoiding hangover manifestations such as nausea, vomiting and other digestive issues, which appear because the gastric mucous membrane is irritated and becomes inflamed.
More precisely, it is recommended to start the night by ingesting high-calorie foods, rich in protein, fat and carbohydrates, so that alcohol drinks can be more effectively metabolized.
Another aspect worth taking into account is the fact that darkly-colored drinks tend to result in more incapacitating hangovers than clear spirits, because of higher levels of congeners.
Fizzier drinks such as champagne or beer are also not recommended, because their consumption causes alcohol to reach the bloodstream much faster.
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