Let’s face it no one likes a hangover. Even with your best efforts every now and again one sneaks up and bites you in the ass. And each time it appears, it’s worse than last time, almost like you’re using up your life-force until one day it’ll be the mother of all hangovers and you’ll die on the bathroom floor head down the pan wrenching up your insides. Or is that just me!
If you’re like me you try to avoid hangovers like the plague. Understanding a hangover will actually help you either avoid hangovers, put you off drinking for life or reduce the effects they have on your body.
When alcohol enters your bloodstream it suppress the creation of a chemical called vasopressin. Without this chemical your kidneys send water to you bladder instead of re-absorbing it back into your body. Hence the need to pee a lot when drunk. This leads to dehydration and is one of the causes of your hangover. Headaches tend to come from dehydration because your body’s organs try to replenish their water and they take it from your brain, causing it to shrink and stretch the connective tissues to your skull causing you a throbbing headache. Nice!
The constant peeing also causes you to expel a lot of your electrolytes such as potassium, magnesium and sodium and when these get low your body becomes fatigue, you feel nauseous and this also adds to your headache. Double whammy. If that’s not enough, the peeing also decreases your livers glycogen stores which leads you to be fatigued and wobbly on your feet the next day
The types of alcohol you drink also have a dramatic effect on your hangover. This is due to the fermentation process which causes congeners. These toxins are found in different types of alcohol in various different levels, red wine and dark spirits such as whisky and brandy have the highest levels. White wine, vodka and gin have less and therefore cause less severe hangovers. Combining your drinks can have a really negative effect on your body as you are combining these different congeners which are likely to cause severe hangovers, due to all the impurities and a combination any of these with beer or fizzy drinks means the carbonation actually speeds up the absorption of the alcohol into your system overloading your liver. The old saying was right about not mixing grape and grain.
If all that was not enough then the real cause of those humdingers is the way your liver processes the alcohol. Your liver produces a by-product when breaking down the alcohol which is called acetaldehyde which causes a major toxic overload. Your liver uses Glutathione and acetaldehyde dehydrogenase to breakdown this toxin and convert it to a nontoxic like vinegar which is then expelled from your body. This process works well when dealing with small amounts of alcohol but when we drink a lot we run out of Glutathione and our liver then stops the breakdown of acetaldehyde in order to make more glutathione, which means our body is exposed to the toxic acetaldehyde for longer. An interesting point to note here is that women tend to have lower glutathione levels than men and therefore their hangovers tend to be more severe and last longer.
Finally the lack of sleep affects your body, and although you may sleep for a good few hours the quality of that sleep is often poor. While you were drinking the alcohol inhibits the production of glutamine which is a natural stimulant, so when you stop drinking and go to sleep your body over compensates and produces more glutamine. Which stimulates your brain and causes you to have a restless sleep. Severe glutamine rebound also causes increased blood pressure and anxiety, hence the ‘beer guilt’ the next day
So although there are no ‘hangover cures’. Now we understand the mechanics of a hangover we can actually do a few things to alleviate the symptoms and also help our body’s own natural processes deal with the alcohol quicker and more efficiently.
Taking vitamin drinks before and after will replenish the lost electrolytes from all that peeing. The strategy of drinking a glass of water for every glass of alcohol works twofold, slowing down your consumption of alcohol giving your liver time to process it and also keeping you hydrated so can prevent the banging headache the next day.
Otherwise make sure you drink water before bed and also have a glass beside your bed for the middle of the night when you will likely wake. Drinking water the next day also helps.
Take charcoal tablets before you go to bed, this will bind to the alcohol and prevent it from absorbing into your blood stream.
Its true that if you eat before or while drinking this will help as it slows down the absorption of the alcohol again giving your liver time to break it down.
The next day
Drink fruit juice & eat eggs with a banana chaser. The eggs contain cysteine which helps break down the acetaldehyde, the banana will help replenish your potassium and the fruit juice because its high in vitamins and nutrients, as well the fruit sugar will give you an energy boost.
So to recap – Before Drinking
Step 1 – Take Vitamin drink before you start drinking
Step 2 – Drink White spirit and don’t mix your drinks
Step 3 – Drink water during and before you go to bed.
Step 4 – Take Charcoal supplements before bed
Step 5 – Have a breakfast with eggs, fruit juice and banana’s.
Step 6 – Drink water, another vitamin drink or sports drink to replenish your electrolytes.
Sadie’s top tips
I take upgraded glutathione every day in order to keep mine topped up. Glutathione is a major antioxidant. Don’t believe me? Just type glutathione into google and read some of the articles on
I take Berocca when I’m drinking, this helps replenish my electrolytes. I also take upgraded charcoal