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Hangovers

Hangover Cures & Prevention

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Updated November 29, 2006

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Why do hangovers occur?
Alcohol is a diuretic, which means it pushes fluids out of the body. Loss of fluid is accompanied by loss of essential salts like potassium and magnesium. Blood-sugar levels are also disrupted and toxins from the intake of alcohol can remain in the body for several hours after drinking has finished. The general loss of essential salts and dehydration leads to the hangover.

Minimizing the hangover
The type of alcohol you drink does make a difference. The darker sweeter drinks have more congeners (complex organic molecules of which methanol is one). Therefore brandy, sherry, red wine and whiskey will give you more of a hangover than white wine and vodka. Cheap spirits poorly refined are more likely to give you a hangover.

Hair of the dog. 
Drinking more alcohol actually does work to an extent. This is because ethanol in alcoholic drinks blocks the breakdown of methanol to formaldehyde and formic acid. It is however a very bad way of dealing with hangovers because of the strain it puts on the liver and stomach. It also puts off the hangover to a later time which, when it does arrive, can feel even worse. The Prairie Oyster is just such a "cure", (brandy, angostura bitters, worcestershire sauce and raw egg). 

The None-Alcohol Hangover Mix
1 part olive oil, 1 raw egg yolk, salt and pepper, 1-2 tablespoons of tomato ketchup, a dash of Tabasco and worcestershire sauce and some lemon juice (or vinegar).

The egg yolk contains N-acetyl-cysteine (NAC), an amino acid that helps to drive out the toxins acquired from booze and tobacco smoke. Tomato ketchup provides bioflavonoids which are an excellent source of antioxidants to help boost the immune system. If you absolutely can't cope without a hair of the dog, mix this with a splash of Vodka. Vodka contains fewer additives than other alcoholic drinks.

Other Hangover Recommendations

  • Drink lots of water, at least twice the amount of water to alcohol.
  • Take some vitamin C.
  • If you can stomach it, bananas help to replenish many essential salts.
  • Take some sugar; alcohol lowers your blood sugar levels.
  • Take some pain relief tablets. Avoid aspirin as the alcohol has probably already made your stomach lining rather sensitive.
  • Sleep. A few hours of it can work miracles. Don't drive until you have fully recovered. Just because you've slept after a drinking session doesn't mean you're sober. Nothing can speed alcohol out of the body so don't kid yourself that a strong coffee will do it (it's more likely just to help replenish a little fluid).

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