The hangover is an expression that refers to alcohol poisoning also known as “veisalgia”. This occurs during excessive alcohol consumption. Are there any remedies in case of hangovers, or the aftermath of evenings too drunk? Here are our alternative and natural solutions.
Where does the hangover come from?
Definition of hangover
The medical term for hangovers is veisalgia. This syndrome is very similar to the symptoms experienced by alcoholics in alcohol withdrawal. Experts often refer to it as a preliminary stage of withdrawal syndrome associated with withdrawal, but it can occur even as a result of relatively modest consumption of alcoholic beverages.
The consumption of about 1.5 g of alcohol per kg of body weight (from 3 to 5 drinks for a person of 60 kg; from 5 to 6 for a person of 80 kg) almost invariably leads to a more or less pronounced veisalgia.
Symptoms of veisalgia
Symptoms of veisalgia occur several hours after alcohol consumption when the blood alcohol level is approaching the “0” value.
The most common hangover symptoms are:
- loss of appetite
Veisalgia is also frequently accompanied by:
- tachycardia (runaway heart rate);
- orthostasis (drop in blood pressure when you get up);
- cognitive impairments;
- visual and spatial confusion.
Although there is no more alcohol in his blood, the person suffering from veisalgia is truly physically and mentally impaired.
What happens in the body when you drink too much alcohol?
Digestion and elimination of alcohol
Alcohol is transformed by the liver into various chemical compounds including ethyl aldehyde or acetaldehyde, a substance that can cause nausea, vomiting, sweating, etc. when the body is saturated with it.
It can take up to 24 hours for the body to convert acetaldehyde into acetate, a substance with significantly less unpleasant effects.
The digestion of alcohol requires a huge effort on the part of the liver. The liver, when at its peak form, can remove about 35 ml of pure ethyl alcohol in one hour (which is equivalent to about a beer, a glass of wine, or 50 ml of vodka).
It is therefore wise not to give him more work by absorbing foods that are too high in fat. As a result, it is not recommended to take more alcohol to make the hangover pass. This type of behavior would enter a vicious circle from which it would be difficult to get out without damage.
During alcohol poisoning and the ensuing veisalgia, the body undergoes acidosis, which means that the body has more difficulty than usual in maintaining the acid/base balance necessary for its integrity.
It is therefore advisable to avoid consuming acidifying drinks or foods (such as orange juice, meat, etc.) and to choose carbohydrates, rather than alkalizing (such as bread, crackers, etc.).
Note that caffeine and acetylsalicylic acid (aspirin® or generic) are acidifying.
While it struggles to digest alcohol, the body suffers from dehydration. It is therefore recommended to drink plenty of water in the hours following excessive alcohol consumption.
To counteract the effects of dehydration, it is also advisable to take mineral salts (tomato or vegetable juice, salted broth, etc.) to replace lost electrolytes and restore balance as quickly as possible.
It is also useful to note that caffeine also causes dehydration, which has the effect of increasing physiological distress.
Which makes hangovers even harder to bear
The color of the alcohol
Various other substances, called congeners, are used in alcoholic beverages. Some of these can contribute to the various symptoms associated with hangovers. However, these substances are more numerous in colored alcoholic beverages (red wine, cognac, whisky, amber or brown rum, etc.) than in those that are clear (white wine, vodka, juniper, white rum, etc.).
Noise and light
Spending long periods of time in a smoky, noisy place and under flashing or flickering lights can worsen the symptoms of a hangover that follows a party.
- Lots of water, even if you don’t feel like it.
- Juice, but avoid very acidic juices, such as orange juice. Also try a mint, ginger, or chamomile herbal tea.
- Tomato juice or mixed vegetables. They contain mineral salts that will do you good.
- Take salty broth, not too fatty (beef, chicken, vegetables), even if you are not hungry. Make the effort to take some, at least a little at a time, as often as possible.
- A few crackers or a little toast.
- Honey or maple syrup. Spread your crackers, put them in your herbal tea, or swallow them with a spoon.
- A poached egg is a food that is digested very easily, as soon as you feel able.
Relieve your headache
- Ibuprofen (Advil®, Motrin®, or a generic), to relieve your headache.
Sleep and rest
- Dim the lights and flee the noise.
- Rest and sleep while you can. You’ll be working tomorrow when your liver has finished digesting alcohol.
Products to avoid absolutely in case of hangover
The relief, if it occurs, will only be temporary and you may embark on a soapy slope.
Highly acidic foods and beverages
Highly acidic drinks and foods are not recommended when you are hungover.
High-fat foods are also not recommended.
Coffee and tea
Also avoid anything that contains caffeine, such as cola drinks, chocolate, or some pharmaceutical preparations sold to fight hangovers that often contain caffeine.
Acetylsalicylic acid (Aspirin® or a generic)
It irritates the stomach and acetaminophen (Tylenol®, Atasol® or a generic) that would put too much strain on your already busy liver. If you are tempted by one of the pharmaceutical products intended to counter hangovers, read the label carefully: many contain, against all odds, acetylsalicylic acid.
They definitely don’t mix well with alcohol.
Natural remedies to prevent hangovers
Eating high-fat foods
Before a well-watered party, eat high-fat foods. The fat in food would slow the absorption of alcohol and protect the tissues of the digestive tract from inflammation caused by the acids that are produced during the digestion of alcohol.
Try to drink as slowly as possible throughout the party. Limit yourself to one alcoholic drink per hour.
Drinking water at the same time as alcohol
Keep a glass of water close to you to quench your thirst. Take water, juice, or a soft drink between each glass of alcohol. Similarly, when you return home, take one or two large glasses of water before going to bed.
Eating during the party
Take breaks to eat a little: carbohydrates and sugar. On the other hand, avoid eating foods that are too salty.
Avoid mixing different types of alcoholic beverages. It would be better to stick to one type of drink throughout the party.
Choosing your alcohol
Choose white wine rather than red wine. White spirits (vodka, juniper, white rum, etc.) rather than those that are colored (cognac, whisky, amber, or brown rum, etc.). Avoid sparkling alcoholic beverages and cocktails that contain soda or soft drinks. Small bubbles accelerate the effects of alcohol.
Avoid cigarette smoke
Avoid spending several hours at a time in a smoky, noisy place where there is flashing or flickering light.
Some scientific evidence suggests interventions that could help the body speed up the process of alcohol digestion or temper sudden increases in blood alcohol levels.
A mixture of bitter plants and antioxidants
These plants would stimulate the liver and have an anti-inflammatory action. The mixture (Liv.52® or PartySmart®) includes the following plants:
- andrographis (Andrographis paniculata);
- grape extract (Vitis vinifera);
- Embelica officinalis;
- chicory (Cichorium intybus);
- Phyllanthus amarus.
To be taken preventively according to the manufacturer’s recommendations. The results of a preliminary clinical trial, conducted by the manufacturer with fewer than 10 participants, indicate that the product, taken before and after alcohol consumption, would have reduced by 50% the time it takes to eliminate blood levels of acetaldehyde. Hangover symptoms would have been less in participants who took the mixture.
Milk thistle (Silybum marianum)
This plant could accelerate the elimination of alcohol. Milk thistle contains silymarin, a substance that stimulates the liver and helps regenerate it under toxic stress. But no clinical trials have been conducted in this regard. It should be taken from 140 mg to 210 mg of a standardized extract (70% to 80% silymarin).
This vitamin may also speed up the elimination of alcohol, according to preliminary trial results. It is generally advisable to take 1 g (1,000 mg) of vitamin C before consuming alcohol.
It seems that honey, taken at the same time as alcohol, could also speed up the process of removing alcohol from the blood and reduce blood alcohol spikes.
In a clinical trial conducted in Nigeria with about fifty young men, the consumption of honey at the same time as alcohol would have had the effect of accelerating the elimination of alcohol by about 30% and reducing the blood alcohol level at the time of alcohol intoxication.
In general, hangover symptoms would have been reduced by 5%. But to achieve this effect on a well-watered evening, a person who weighs 60 kg should take about 75 ml of honey or 5 tbsp. at the table. Such an amount would also have the effect of raising blood triglyceride levels and blood pressure.
Pyridoxine, or vitamin B6, is known for its anti-nausea properties. A placebo-controlled clinical trial was conducted with 17 adults attending an alcoholic party.
According to the results, 1,200 mg of vitamin B6 (400 mg at the beginning of the party, 400 mg three hours later, and 400 mg after the festivities, or a placebo each time) would have had the effect of reducing hangover symptoms by about 50%.
The experiment was repeated a second time with the same participants, reversing the groups (those who had taken the vitamin the first time took the placebo and vice versa): the results were the same.
It is possible that other antinausea drugs, such as ginger (psn), or plants traditionally prescribed for intestinal disorders, such as German chamomile and peppermint, may also be useful if only to reduce the intensity of symptoms at the time of veisalgia.
Nopal (Opuntia ficus indica)
This plant would have the effect of reducing the symptoms of hangovers. Results from a clinical trial of 64 healthy young adults indicate that taking an extract from the fruits of nopal (Opuntia ficus indica) and B vitamins five hours before heavy drinking reduced hangover symptoms the next day. The supplement may have reduced nausea, lack of appetite, and dry mouth, according to the results of the study.
The authors also noted a strong association between a blood marker of inflammation and the severity of veisalgia symptoms. They concluded that nopal could exert its beneficial action by decreasing the production of inflammatory mediators. For dosage, follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
- If you decide to take a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) before drinking alcohol to reduce hangover symptoms, choose ibuprofen and avoid taking acetylsalicylic acid (aspirin® or a generic) or acetaminophen (Tylenol®, Atasol® or a generic);
- Some products currently sold commercially to prevent hangovers contain a plant called kudzu (Pueraria lobata). Avoid taking these products. They could do more harm than good. While it is true that an extract of the flowers of this plant has already been traditionally used for this purpose, commercial products unfortunately too often contain an extract of the roots, which are totally unsuitable for this use, or even carcinogenic in association with alcohol.
Hangovers shunned by scientists
Barely 0.2% of scientific studies focus on hangovers. The few preliminary clinical trials that have shown positive results in treating or preventing veisalgia have had little follow-up and have not resulted in further studies.
The most recent research also indicates that relieving a hangover does not encourage the subject to drink more. The hangover would afflict less the little drinkers and less frequently the real alcoholics.
Image Credit: Photo by Adam Jaime on Unsplash