7 helpful tips to prevent the dreaded hangover

preventing-hangoversSuffering from a hangover can be a very unpleasant effect of drinking alcohol; for those who enjoy drinking, there are a number of proven ways to reduce the symptoms of overindulgence.

Hangovers hit hard once the body has finished processing the alcohol, often resulting in thirst, nausea, dizziness, headaches or the loss of appetite. (1)

A few studies have been done on methods for preventing or softening the effects of a hangover. (2)

We’ll take a look here at some strategies that may be helpful.

  1. Drink Only Moderately, or Abstain Completely

Obviously the best way to avoid hangovers is not to drink alcohol.

If you choose to consume alcoholic beverages, the general rule is that the more you drink, the more severe your hangover is likely to be. (3)

Forgoing alcohol completely may not be an option for those who truly enjoy the pastime, whether they imbibe regularly or occasionally.

Nearly a quarter of people who drink alcohol never experience hangovers, even when they consume large amounts. (4)

The amount of alcohol a person can drink without risking a hangover the next day varies greatly; one person might only need to indulge in a drink or two to wake up with a headache, while someone else would have to consume much more to suffer unpleasant side effects.

  1. Avoid Dehydration by Drinking Water

Alcohol is a diuretic, which means it flushes water from the body; drinking alcohol will make you urinate more than if you drank an equal amount of pure water. (5, 6, 7)

Because you’re losing more water from your system when you’re drinking, alcohol can contribute to creating a state of mild dehydration.

This isn’t usually the main cause of getting a hangover, but even being slightly dehydrated can lead to headaches, fatigue, thirst and a dry mouth.

Rule out the possibility by drinking plenty of water when you’re indulging in alcoholic drinks. When you finish a drink, get a glass of water and finish it before you have the next drink.

And be sure to remember to drink a large glass of water before you go to bed.

  1. Avoid Drinks With High Levels of Congeners

What we refer to as alcohol is technically ethanol. Formed in the process of sugar fermentation, ethanol is the active ingredient in alcoholic drinks.

But it’s not the only side product formed during fermentation. Toxic chemicals known as congeners are also present in alcohol in smaller amounts. (8)

The best known of these congeners are acetone, isopentanol, and methanol. (9, 10)

Drinks low in these congeners appear to be less problematic when it comes to hangovers than those containing larger amounts.

Bourbon whiskey has an extremely high concentration of congeners. These drinks also measure high on the scale:

  • Other types of whiskey
  • Tequila
  • Cognac

Colorless alcohol usually has lower amounts of congeners. Among the lowest are:

  • Gin
  • Rum
  • Vodka

Vodka is the cleanest of these, containing almost no congeners. (11)

In studies comparing the intensity and frequency of headaches experienced by those who drank whiskey and those who drank vodka, whiskey was the clear winner on both counts. (12, 13, 14)

Methanol, a common congener found in alcoholic drinks, has also been strongly linked with symptoms of hangover. (15, 16)

  1. Ease Symptoms With A Drink In the Morning

This remedy is usually called “the hair of the dog,” or “hair of the dog that bit you.” The expression refers to applying a lesser dose of the same thing that got you in trouble.

The body converts methanol into formaldehyde, which is highly toxic and believed to be at least partially responsible for many hangover symptoms. (17, 18, 19) Methanol metabolism can be inhibited by ingesting more ethanol.

Science backs this up; ethanol can prevent the conversion process so toxins can be released from the system via breath or urine. (20, 21, 22)

Despite the fact that it may work to help prevent hangovers, drinking alcohol in the morning is strongly linked to the development of drinking problems.

It may not raise the risk of becoming an alcoholic to use this remedy once in a while, but if you find yourself considering it as a regular strategy, it may be time to take a serious look at your drinking habits.

  1. Eat a Good Breakfast

Hangover symptoms can sometimes be due in part to low blood sugar levels, also referred to as hypoglycemia. (23)

In fact, people who suffer from hypoglycemia often have more severe hangovers, especially headaches and weakness. (24, 25, 26)

Making certain you are well-nourished can go a long way toward improving how you feel. Consider eating a meal before you go to bed, even if you’re not particularly hungry.

  1. Get Plenty of Rest

The physical metabolism of alcohol can interfere with good sleep, causing restlessness and disruption from normal sleeping patterns, especially if you stay up later than normal while you’re drinking. (27)

This won’t necessarily cause symptoms like headaches, but it can certainly contribute to the irritability and fatigue often experienced with hangovers.

Many people like to plan ahead to make certain they will have the luxury of sleeping in after indulging. This gives the body a chance to recover from the effects of the alcohol.

  1. Supplements That May Be Helpful

The body’s inflammatory response is a vital mechanism used in repairing damaged tissues.

Low-grade inflammation may be the cause of many symptoms of hangover, and anti-inflammatory drugs can be helpful. (28, 29)

Medicinal herbs and plant preparations have also been shown to relieve hangover symptoms, including red ginseng, prickly pear and ginger. (30, 31, 32)

Prickly pear extract, made from the fruit of prickly pear cactus, can be purchased as a supplement, and may be useful for damping down the effects of a hangover.

The trick is to take it before you drink.

When 55 young and healthy test participants took prickly pear cactus extract five hours before drinking, the risk of developing a severe hangover dropped by 62%. (33)

Summary: To reduce hangover symptoms, avoid dehydration, choose drinks with less congeners, guard against low blood sugar with proper nourishment, and get plenty of sleep; you can also try taking anti-inflammatories or medicinal herbs.

References:

  1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18182417
  2. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16373736
  3. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16608151
  4. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19630704
  5. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7081477
  6. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14354014
  7. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20497950
  8. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20712591
  9. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/13518498
  10. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19347842
  11. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20712591
  12. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2641776/
  13. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/5450666
  14. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20028364
  15. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9719404
  16. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16318957
  17. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19630732
  18. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18034701
  19. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3588516
  20. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12733853
  21. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18446077
  22. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1306022/
  23. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/13780317
  24. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/4832720
  25. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1253812
  26. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15706734
  27. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/hup.470060407/abstract
  28. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20238396
  29. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/6342813
  30. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24458173
  31. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25232708
  32. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20559749
  33. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15226168
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