Friday, December 31, 2010

Hangover Helper

    By Mary Oleksowicz, M.S.T.O.M. , L.Ac.

  Of course the best cure for a hangover , is not to consume more alcohol then your body can digest. Factors that can influence your ability to process alcohol includes body structure, tolerance levels and the type of alcohol consumed. Many people do not realize that the liver can only process one alcoholic beverage per hour . This would mean that ideally your body can process one twelve ounce can of beer, one 6 ounce glass of wine or one shot of hard liquor per hour. However, during the course of a party it is often difficult to keep track of the amount of alcohol consumed. The brain tends to become less inhibited as we consume alcohol and in a social atmosphere it can become easy to have " just one more " if our inhibitions are already lowered. Additionally , fruity mixed drinks can contain several shots of liquor at a time and thus a single drink may contain enough alcohol for three to four hours of safe alcohol consumption . Alternating alcoholic drinks with non alcoholic beverages such as water or seltzer can help reduce some of the effects of alcohol consumption .

     Many of the negative effects associated with hangovers can alo be reduced. Headaches which are one of the primary signs of a hangover are often caused by dehydration . This dehydration is a two-tiered side effect. The body works rapidly to excrete alcohol as it is seen as toxic. Water from the cells is used to dilute the alcohol and increase urination so that the "poison" is excreted. Dehydration also occurs during alcohol consumption due to the lack of water intake. The replacement of water with alcoholic beverages decreases the available water for re-hydration thus leading to headaches. Alternating alcoholic beverages with water can help limit this side effect.
By-products of  alcoholic fermentation also called congeners, exaggerate many of the hangover symptoms; this probably accounts for the reduction  of hangover symptoms when distilled alcohol, particularly vodka, is consumed instead. A 2009 study provided evidence that darker-coloured liquors, such as bourbon, cause worse hangovers than lighter-coloured liquors, such as vodka. The higher amount of congeners found in darker liquors compared to lighter ones was indicated as the cause. A solution to this reaction is to restrict intake of darker liquors.

     While there are many precautions that we can take to prevent hangovers, the reality is that many people have to look for a remedy. Water is still a wonderful option and ending the evening with a tall glass of water can be helpful for re-hydrating. Use of ibuprofen based pain relievers rather then acetaminophen based products such as Tylenol is recommended. Acetaminophen is metabolized by the liver and thus avoiding use when the liver is already taxed from detoxifying the body is recommended. Fluids that contain electrolytes should also be encouraged. Electrolytes can be lost due to excess urination or vomiting. Products such as Gatorade may contain large amounts of sugar, so I recommend using an effervescent Vitamin C powder . Products such as Emergen-C contain not only water soluble vitamins that may have been lost but also electrolytes to re-balance the system. Avoid additional alcohol as the "hair of the dog ", will only further exacerbate symptoms. Also avoiding foods with high sodium content is recommended as more water will be leached from the body. As with any medical recommendations, please consult your physician before using any of the above solutions.

In conclusion , moderation or abstinence as prevention is best. I wish you a happy, healthy and safe start to the New Year !




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