This is from an article I found years ago from a blogger named “I’m not Martha”. It’s really great advice on hangovers and how to deal with them.
They don’t call it intoxication for nothing. Happy juice
is poisonous. Put enough of it into your body and you die.
It is not so much alcohol itself but the by-products of
alcohol, and especially one particularly nasty chemical
critter by the name of acetaldehyde. It’s got a lot more
of the bad kind of kapow, and the latest research suggests
that it may be responsible for the worst of your hangover.
After you ingest alcohol, your body breaks it down into
(among other things) acetaldehyde, before converting it
into less harmful substances. The acetaldehyde messes with
your brain at the same time as a host of depleted minerals
are short-circuiting your nervous system, and that’s in
addition to low blood sugar and the classic headache-and-
dry-mouth symptoms caused by dehydration. The result:
nausea, twitchy nerves, unpleasantness, pessimism, terrible
brain pain, and a temporary suspension of the laws of
The severity of a hangover varies according to . . .
* The amount you’ve guzzled in a given period of time
* Your own innate enzymatic capacity to deal with the poisons
* Your age
* Your gender…guys can drink more. Hey, they are bigger,
Translation: the more you drink in a short amount of time,
the more you’ll feel the alcohol. One’s weight is also a
factor (the less you weigh, the more you’ll feel it), as
is a genetic predisposition. Finally, the older you get,
the more you’ll feel the alcohol the next morning.
As anyone who has had a hangover knows, thirst and dry mouth
are 2 of the cardinal symptoms. These symptoms caused
scientists to investigate how drinking alcohol affects your
water regulatory system.
Anyone who has gotten drunk knows that drinking eventually
leads to multiple trips to the bathroom. This is because
consumption of alcohol causes a decrease in a substance
called anti-diuretic hormone (ADH). As blood alcohol levels
rise, less ADH is available, and more water is excreted by
the kidneys. This situation reverses itself, however, when
blood alcohol levels begin to fall, and your body begins to
compensate for the temporary, alcohol induced dehydration.
ADH levels rise, urinary output decreases, and you become
thirsty. By the time the hangover gets into full swing, you
are actually retaining fluid, as evidenced by the puffy eyes
and face that some people get after a night of drinking. I
suspect that this fluid retention, also known as edema,
contributes to the hangover headache.
Some of the other effects of hangover appear to be caused by
a condition known as metabolic acidosis. Acidosis is when
your blood becomes more acidic than it should be. There are
a number of reasons why alcohol causes this, but suffice it
to say that alcohol interferes with the normal metabolism of
some acids, and actually produces others. The end result is
a slight increase in the acidity of your blood. This increase
reaches its peak during the hangover period, and the level
of acidity is strongly correlated with the severity of the
hangover symptoms. It takes your kidneys and lungs about
18-24 hours to return the blood acid levels back to normal.
It seems likely that the symptoms of nausea and sweating are
related to this temporary increase in blood acidity.
The third cause of hangover symptoms is a disruption of some
of your normal daily (circadian) rhythms. I have found some
studies which observed that alcohol consumption that leads
to drunkenness can change the normal daily rhythm of body
temperature and brain activity. In those cases, the subjects
body clocks were set back about 6 hours; that means that if
they woke up at 9:00am after a night of drinking, their body
thought it was 3:00am. This could definitely account for
hangover grogginess and irritability.
Lastly, some people believe that certain impurities or toxins
that can be found in alcoholic drinks, called congeners, can
cause hangover. In fact, there is a brand of vodka that used
to market itself as so pure that it was hangover free; I
believe some governmental agency has since made them stop
saying that. In any event, drinks like vodka and gin have
fewer congeners, and are supposed to produce less of a hang-
over, whereas drinks like whisky and red wine, which have
lots of non-alcohol ingredients, are supposed to insure a big
headache. Along these same lines is the idea that a toxic
byproduct of alcohol metabolism (acetaldehyde), builds in the
bloodstream and causes hangover.
You’ve just opened your eyes to find yourself crumbled into
a collapsed mess, hopefully in a bed, hopefully in somewhat
familiar surroundings, but, worst of all, awake. Your mind
gradually manages to reconstruct some sort of memory of some
portion of the previous night’s activities. You feel like
the worst part of hell …this is the cue for the proverbial
“I’ll-never-drink-again” declaration. You need help. Quick.
You are suffering from the Big Three:
1. Dehydration – the alcohol has forced evaporation of a
certain vital portion of the body’s water.
2. Nervous shock – with alcohol you’re coming off the
effects of a mild overdose of a depressant drug, so your
nerves are displaying the great Newtonian natural law of
action/reaction by going into a relatively hypersensitive
3. Malnutrition – pumping all that alcohol and liquid
through your body has effectively flushed away a significant
supply of your storage of vitamins and nutrients, chemicals
which would stimulate natural defense systems, but you’re
running seriously low on them now.
What you need to do is take some restorative steps to begin
a recovery process.
Hydrate…water, water, water. Gatorade, Diet Coke, juice.
Tea sweetened with honey.
It also means trying to eat something that will help to
replace the nutrients you’ve lost. That really should be
in the forms of fruits/vegetables, NOT fatty, greasy junk,
not dairy foods, something that isn’t too tough on the
already beat-up digestive system.
Bananas are great for key vitamins….tomatoes! Strange but
true. This sort of explains half of the reason that a Bloody
Mary is the standard morning-after drink.
So, next time, try it. Maybe a little light pasta with a
meatless, greaseless, tomato sauce. Cold gazpacho or a mild
salsa may work too, but your stomach will be in no mood for
onions and peppers.
A glass of V8 may be just the thing. Citrus juices tend to
bother the stomach too; but tomatoes are highly acidic, so
I can’t explain that part.
BEFORE YOU GO OUT
So now that you know exactly how alcohol can affect your
little ol’ body and what makes you likely to feel the
aftereffects, it is time to figure out how to prevent a
hangover. Prepare yourself even before you step out the
door, by following these tips:
* Don’t go out on an empty stomach. Granted, it’s completely
unrealistic to ask you to pause and enjoy a healthy meal
full of starches and stocked with essential minerals when
you’re getting ready to have a night on the town. Also,
launch your night with a double order of curly fries. The
moderating effect this will have on the absorption of
alcohol into your bloodstream in the short term may be more
important than the clogged arteries in the long term. The
reason that food is so important is because it’ll sop up
the alcohol so that it doesn’t all go directly into the
* Hydrate your body. An ounce of prevention is worth a
pound of cure. Sure, you’ll probably still wake up at
4 a.m. with hairbrush tongue and a desperate compulsion
to hang your head under the faucet, but every glass of
juice or water you force yourself to swallow now is worth
two in the morning. Everyone knows that alcohol acts as
a diuretic. In case all those trips to the bathroom didn’t
tip you off, more is going out than coming in. You need to
replace that liquid.
So the lowdown is: eat, drink (water), and you’ll be merry
in the morning.
WHILE YOU ARE OUT
OK, so you’ve loaded up on food and water. Now you can
start your drinking. But while you’re deciding whether
you’d like a Fuzzy Navel or a Shirley Temple, there are a
few things you can do while you’re drinking to lessen the
effects of the alcohol:
* Choose your drinks with care. There are poisons besides
alcohol itself that contribute to a brutal hangover. Nasty
chemicals called congeners occur naturally in all fermented
drinks. The general rule is that darker drinks, such as
red wine, bourbon, scotch, and brandy have more congeners
than lighter drinks like white wine, vodka, and gin. But
you should also keep in mind that whatever your drink’s
color, the cheaper it is, the more poison will be in it.
So avoid the cheap sauce. One further note: red wine
contains an extra hangover-inducing poison all of its own
called tyramine. So be especially careful with cheap red
* Alternate alcoholic beverages with non-alcoholic beverages.
This simple measure will help keep you hydrated. A fruit
juice (which is particularly good at re-hydrating the body)
is an especially good choice.
* Consume less than one drink per hour. Your liver breaks
down alcohol at the rate of about a beer an hour, so
spreading out the drinking over the course of an evening
will lessen the likelihood of a hangover.
TIPSY TIME…despite all your best efforts!
* Don’t pass out! Your metabolism slows down when you’re
asleep, so your body takes longer to process and safely
dispose of all that alcohol. This is how hangovers happen.
* You have to drink lots of water immediately. Remember
dehydration is responsible for a major part of that
hungover feeling. OK, you hate water – try Diet Coke or
something, as long as it’s not full of sugar. Drink at
least 2 big glasses of it, whatever it is.
* You are going to stay awake for at least an hour, so
chat with a friend (or the cat), make a cup of tea (not
coffee – that just dehydrates you more), do anything that
keeps you awake.
Stay awake drinking water until you’re only about half as
drunk as you were, if not exactly sober. Now, go to bed –
and when you wake up you won’t feel nearly as ghastly as
you would have without the extra awake time and the water.
You may be pleasantly surprised by complete hangover
absence if the impending hangover was likely to be mild;
or if you were set for a major hangover, you’ll get a mild
* In your list of hangover cures you mention taking aspirin,
ibuprofen, or acetominophen. One thing you REALLY ought to
be aware of — if you plan on living very long — is that
acetominophen in combination with alcohol does HORRENDOUS
liver damage. Alcohol alone damages the liver; and
acetominophen (Tylenol ie.) does a little damage to the
liver; but if you mix the two, the damage you incur is
EXPONENTIAL. I’m sure you can find plenty of medical
journals to calloborate this if you want to. This made
news a while back. You can literally wreck your liver in
a very short time if you mix Tylenol with alcohol.
Aspirin upsets the stomach and aggravates the symptoms of
Ibuprofen is the best. Before you go to bed take 2 Advil
(or any headache pill that is made of Ibuprofen).
* If you want to take a pill, a multivitamin might help by
replenishing some of the B vitamins you’ve quite literally
pissed away during the course of the evening. Research has
shown that B Vitamins are the first thing to be used up
when the liver is processing alcohol.
IMPORTANT NOTE: See a doctor IMMEDIATELY if you are
experiencing tremors, stomach pain, or if you see blood
in your vomit. These are indications that you have tippled
way too much, and must get professional medical attention,
(e.g., a stomach-pump at the local emergency room). Better
safe than sorry.
Before you go out put a glass of water next to your bed.
Then drink it and put another one there for when you get
home. Works best if you know where you’ll be sleeping.
You can help your body to ease the pain and assist rapid
recovery by trying a little-known substance called cysteine.
Cysteine directly counteracts the poisonous effects of
acetaldehyde. It can be found at vitamin shops.
If necessary, follow up with a dose of Maalox, lots of
Gatorade, and bouillon soup for dinner. These ingredients
will rehydrate your body, replace essential vitamins and
minerals, and help rid your body of some of the toxic by-
products of metabolized alcohol.
For a headache that drugs don’t seem to touch, try an ice-
pack or a bag of frozen peas wrapped in a tea towel, 20
minutes on your head, 10 minutes off.
You will require something protein-heavy for breakfast–
avoid lots of sugar. You can have a cup of coffee now,
and extra water. Go out and face the day! .