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Hangover Cures, Causes and Home Remedies

  • Synopsis: Published: 2009-01-16 (Revised/Updated 2017-01-16) - Bad hangover? Information on hangover causes, prevention of alcohol effects, and home remedies to cure hangovers and headaches. For further information pertaining to this article contact: Ian Langtree at Disabled World.

A hangover is a group of unpleasant signs and symptoms that can develop after drinking too much alcohol. Typical symptoms of a hangover may include headache, drowsiness, concentration problems, dry mouth, dizziness, fatigue, gastrointestinal distress, absence of hunger, sweating, nausea, hyper-excitability and anxiety. Studies show that alcohol hangover is associated with a decrease in blood glucose concentration (less than 70 ml/dl), but the relationship between blood glucose concentration and hangover severity is unclear. Also known as insulin shock, hypoglycemia can lead to coma or even death. As a general rule, the more alcohol you drink, the more likely you are to have a hangover the next day. But there's no magic formula to tell you how much you can safely drink and still avoid a hangover.

Main Document

Quote: "A persons weight is a major factor in how your body absorbs alcohol, the less you weigh the more you'll feel it."

What is a Hangover? A hangover, or veisalgia, is the unpleasant effects following heavy consumption of alcohol. Hangovers can last up to two or three days after excessive alcohol is consumed. Common symptoms of a hangover include headache, nausea, lethargy, dysphoria, sensitivity to light and/or noise, and thirst.

There are some lucky people who never experience a hangover!

Around 25 to 30% of drinkers do not suffer hangover symptoms. It is said people with allergies to wheat, barley, corn, or yeast often have the worst hangovers.

A persons weight is a major factor in how your body absorbs alcohol, the less you weigh the more you'll feel it. Plus the older you are, the more you will feel the effects of alcohol consumption the next morning.

What Causes a Hangover

Acetaldehyde intoxication, hypoglycemia, dehydration, and vitamin B12 deficiency are all known to be causes of hangover symptoms.

Picture from a scene in the movie The Hangover
About This Image: Picture from a scene in the movie The Hangover
As well as being toxic, alcohol due to the ethanol (a diuretic) contained in it, has a dehydrating effect by causing increased urine production, which causes headaches, dry mouth, and lethargy. This diuretic also causes dehydration and metabolic disturbance, especially of the kidneys, as alcohol will cause the kidneys to stop absorbing water and send it to the bladder instead. This causes your brain to become dehydrated and it starts to shrink, causing your brain to stretch away from the inside of your skull, this is where the hangover headache comes into play. This can be somewhat helped by drinking water or an oral electrolyte solution after heavy consumption of alcoholic beverages.

Nausea is often a characteristic of a hangover and is caused by the alcohol's effect on the stomach lining. Because of the increased NADH production during metabolism of ethanol, excess NADH can build up and slow down gluconeogenesis in the liver, thus causing hypoglycemia, also called low blood sugar, which occurs when your blood glucose or blood sugar level drops too low to provide enough energy for your body's activities.

Another factor contributing to a hangover are the products from the breakdown of ethanol via liver enzymes. This diverts pyruvate from other pathways such as gluconeogenesis impairing the ability of the liver to supply glucose to tissues, especially the brain. As glucose is the primary energy source of your brain, a lack of glucose will contribute to a hangover causing symptoms such as weakness, mood disturbances, fatigue, and decreased concentration or attention.

The presence of other alcohol by products of the fermentation stage in producing alcoholic drinks may exaggerate a hangover, which accounts for the mitigation of the effects when distilled alcohol, particularly vodka, is consumed.

Removal of the depressive effects of alcohol in your brain accounts for noise and light sensitivity.

Which Alcoholic Drinks Cause the Worst Hangovers

Avoid drinks that contain large amounts of congeners, as these cause more severe hangovers. Generally, these are dark colored drinks like red wine, brandy, and port. The darker the alcohol, the worse the hangover is the saying. Organic wine and spirits are said to be a little easier on your system.

  • Pure ethanol
  • Vodka
  • Tequila
  • Champagne
  • Gin
  • White wine
  • Whiskey
  • Rum
  • Red wine
  • Brandy
  • Cheap and nasty booze.

Tips to Prevent Hangovers:

Before you start drinking alcohol:

  • Drinking on an empty stomach will get you drunk much more quickly. Try lining your stomach with a large glass of milk, garlic, milk thistle, or even junk food, as food especially dairy products help slow the absorption of alcohol into your system as fat is digested slowly, and will protect the stomach from the irritating effects of alcohol. If there is food in your stomach, it will take a lot longer for the alcohol to reach your small intestine, meaning it will take longer for you to get drunk!
  • It has been said that an extract of prickly pear may decrease the effects of congeners (toxic chemicals that are formed during alcohol fermentation - found in tequila, wine and whiskey drinks). However, it needs to be taken several hours before you start drinking.
  • Drink lots of water before the party or your night out. If you start your night dehydrated, it will only get worse with the more alcohol you consume.
  • Try taking 50 milligrams of Vitamin B6 before leaving home, carry another 50 milligrams with you and take with water around 2 - 3 hours later at the party, and take another 50 milligrams of B6 with a glass of water when you get home.
  • Before you go to bed eat a large plate of Nachos chips with cheese and a lot of jalapeno peppers. Drink a large glass of water with this.
  • Take milk thistle tablets before you go out, your hangover will be considerably reduced. Milk thistle is natural and helps the liver to process alcohol.

As you are drinking:

  • You can certainly lessen the effects of developing a hangover by taking some preventative measures before start drinking.
  • Try drinking one soft drink or drink a glass full of water after every 2 to 3 alcoholic drinks.
  • Stick with one kind of alcohol as mixing your drinks will certainly increase your chances of getting a hangover.
  • Keep your salt levels up by snacking on peanuts and crisps or chips
  • Take that next dose of Vitamin B6 with lots of water about 2 - 3 hours after you left home.
  • If your urine is a darkish color then you are already becoming dehydrated, so have another large glass of water before you resume drinking.

When you get back home:

  • Take another dose of Vitamin B6 with lots and lots of water.
  • Eat a light meal with a glass of orange juice to raise your blood sugar level and the vitamin C in the orange juice will help your liver process the alcohol.

Alphabetical List of Home Remedy Hangover Cures:

  • Acetylcysteine - There are claims that N-acetylcysteine can relieve or prevent the symptoms of hangovers through scavenging of acetylaldehyde.
  • Alka Seltzer or Resolve - Said to work quickly in curing a hangover, well worth a try.
  • Aspirin - Helps your headache but unfortunately doesn't help with the level of alcohol in your system.
  • Bananas - Bananas contain a natural antacid to help with nausea, and are high in magnesium which helps relax the hammering blood vessels causing your hangover headache.
  • Barley grass - Barley grass juice 24:1 extract powder can substantially mitigate hangover effects experienced by people suffering from acute alcohol toxicity.
  • Berocca - Containing vitamin B complex, vitamin C, and calcium supplements. Berocca will put vitamin B back in your system, as well as the large glass of water it is mixed with.
  • Bloody Mary - Ingredients for Bloody Mary Hangover Cure: 2 oz Vodka - 6 oz Tomato Juice - 4 tsp Worcestershire Sauce - 2 to 3 drops Tabasco sauce - Stick of celery. The tomato juice and celery in the Bloody Mary are full of vitamins.
  • Cabbage - Eating raw cabbage has been used throughout history for preventing and curing hangovers.
  • Calcium - Drink a glass of milk, water and orange juice. The Calcium, re-hydration properties, plus the vitamin C contained is found to combat the symptoms of a hangover if taken shortly after consumption of alcohol.
  • Charcoal tablets - Congeners are absorbed by activated charcoal, so if you take some activated charcoal tablets before going to bed, your body may absorb some of the congeners before they do damage.
  • Chaser - Definitely alleviates the dizziness the following day.
  • Chili Peppers - A bowl full of hot and spicy chili works as chili peppers help the body fight the free radicals that come from drinking.
  • Clam chowder - If you find a place that has clam chowder or don't feel up to making your own then buy the Campbell's Chunky Soup version. Eat it with pepper then take an hours nap.
  • Coffee - A weak cup of coffee the morning after is okay but lots of caffeine will dehydrate you even more. Try coffee with honey instead of sugar as fructose is absorbed quicker than sugar.
  • Cysteine - Consumption of foods such as eggs, which contain cysteine, and water help replenish lost moisture and at re-hydrate the body, making a hangover shorter.
  • Evening Primrose Oil - A few capsules of evening primrose oil or flaxseed oil, both rich sources of essential fatty acids, will also help to reduce the effects of over indulgence.
  • Exercise - After heavy intoxication light jogging or some form of exercise helps the heart pump blood around the body and increases the amount of oxygen in the body.
  • Firecracker - A 50/50 mix of Tequila and Tabasco sauce in a shot glass will clear the head in no time.
  • Fresh air - Light exercise in the fresh air will do wonders towards curing your hangover.
  • Gatorade - Drink a sports drink like Gatorade, Lucozade or Powerade as sports drinks contain everything you need to help fight the effects of a hangover.
  • Ginseng - As caffeine is a diuretic like alcohol, it will make the dehydration worse, so try ginseng instead.
  • Glutamine - Improves nitrogen balance, enhances the rate of protein synthesis, supports immune cells, and maintains integrity of the mucosa.
  • Green tea - Try drinking a large cup of green tea first thing in the morning.
  • Magnesium - Excessive alcohol consumption can lead to a magnesium deficiency, or reduce levels of magnesium, as well as depleting zinc and other minerals causing individuals with lower magnesium levels to experience more severe hangovers. The hangover symptoms of headache, and light and sound sensitivity, are very similar to those of migraine. Some scientists hypothesize that a hangover may be exhibiting at least some symptoms of an acute magnesium deficiency.
  • Milkshake or Smoothies - A Milkshake will calm your stomach and help relax you. Drink while eating a greasy hamburger.
  • Minerals - Eat mineral rich food like pickles, pickle juice, or canned fish such as tuna or sardines.
  • Multivitamins - Take extra multi B vitamins and drinks a lot of water. A well rounded multivitamin pill with riboflavin, potassium, calcium, thiamine, magnesium and zinc and a high dose of Vitamin B12 will help cure a hangover.
  • Opioid - Codeine, dihydrocodeine, tilidine and other such medication directly work against many of the effects of alcohol hangover. However the FDA says if you combine over the counter pain killers with alcoholic drinks to ward off a hangover it can lead to stomach bleeding. Also be sure not to take Acetaminophen or Tylenol as studies have proven acetaminophen can damage your liver when mixed with alcohol.
  • Orange Juice - Drink orange juice for the Vitamin C content which will aid the liver to break down the alcohol in your system.
  • Oxygen - Oxygen can also reduce the symptoms of hangovers sometimes caused by alcohol consumption. The theory is that the increased oxygen flow resulting from oxygen therapy improves the metabolic rate, and thus increases the speed at which toxins are broken down.
  • Peach Syrup - Drink the peach syrup from a can of peaches as it raises your blood sugar level.
  • RU 21 - Touted as the first supplement specifically intended for those who like to enjoy alcohol responsibly, without the unpleasant side effects.
  • Sauna - Get yourself all hot and sweaty in the sauna for about 10 to15 minutes, then take a cold shower or better still jump into freezing water immediately afterwards.
  • Sex - Have sex the morning after as sex burns calories, and makes you sweat out the alcohol, plus if feels really good.
  • Shower - Take a shower constantly switching between cold and hot water.
  • Sleep - Give your body a chance to recover - go back to bed!
  • Sodium bicarbonate - A heaped teaspoon of baking soda in a glass of water helps with the nausea feeling, and gets rid of alcoholic shakes or anxiety feeling associated with having a hangover.
  • Succinic acid - There is evidence that succinic and fumaric acid accelerate the decomposition of acetaldehyde (known as the chemical that causes hangovers).
  • Vegemite on toast - Vegemite is known for its very high vitamin B content and the salt in the Vegemite will help replenish your body's salt level.
  • Vitamin B6 - Studies have shown that Vitamin B6 reduces hangovers.
  • Water - Keep drinking lots of water throughout the day to rehydrate your body. But avoid drinking coffee as it is a diuretic and can make your hangover worse. Green or ginger tea will also help with a headache and nausea feelings.

The chemistry of hangovers video

In this video clip we look at the chemistry behind the effects of a hangover, and offer some tips to limit its symptoms.

Facts: Alcohol and Congeners

A distilled beverage, spirit, liquor, or hard liquor is an alcoholic beverage produced by distillation of a mixture produced from alcoholic fermentation. This process purifies it and removes diluting components like water, for the purpose of increasing its proportion of alcohol content (commonly known as alcohol by volume, ABV). As distilled beverages contain more alcohol they are considered "harder". In North America, the term hard liquor is used to distinguish distilled beverages from undistilled ones, which are implicitly weaker.

In alcoholic beverages, congeners are substances other than alcohol produced during fermentation. These substances include small amounts of chemicals such as methanol and other alcohols (known as fusel alcohols), acetone, acetaldehyde, esters, tannins, and aldehydes (e.g. furfural). Congeners are responsible for most of the taste and aroma of distilled alcoholic beverages, and contribute to the taste of non-distilled drinks. It has been suggested that these substances contribute to the symptoms of a hangover. Congeners are also used by forensic toxicologists to determine what a person drank in a sub-discipline called alcohol congener analysis.

Statistics: Hangover

  • About 23% of drinkers do not report any hangover after drinking to intoxication.
  • An estimated 9.23% (11.6 million workers) of the U.S. labor force work with a hangover.
  • A study in college students found that 25% had experienced a hangover in the previous week and 29% reported losing school time for hangover recovery.
  • 15% of men and women who have consumed alcohol experience hangovers at least monthly and ten percent of British men reported hangover-related problems at work at least monthly.

Related Information:

  1. What is the Best Alcohol to Drink When on a Diet- Charles Carter - (2009-09-01)
  2. Number of Calories in Alcoholic Drinks Chart - Calorie chart showing the amount of calories in a range of popular alcoholic beverages - Ian Langtree
  3. How to Tell if You Are an Alcoholic - Alcoholic Information - (2010-09-24)

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