Coming to a Head
Though abstinence has always been the surest way to avoid a head-pounding hangover, it’s not always practical. Consider these tips, tall tales and worth-a-tries to make for a happier morning.
Black outs. Drunk dialing. Hangovers. All are possible and unfortunate side effects of too much alcohol consumption. While the first two outcomes can be embarrassing or disastrous, hangovers, though dreaded, are generally expected by those who overindulge because your body metabolizes large quantities of alcohol like a poison. And ingesting poison is never a good idea.
When consuming alcohol, your stomach and intestines become inflamed, your liver works overtime to expel the toxic intruder, and your brain chemistry goes out of whack, causing a hangover that makes you wish you would’ve volunteered to be the designated driver.
Rachel Scott has been bartending at The Hunt Club for seven years and has seen it all. “How people process alcohol depends on their rate of consumption and their body mass,” says Scott. “Big men can drink more than small women.”
If going dry makes you cry, consider these tips, tall tales and worth-a-tries to make for a happier morning so you can live to drink another day.
Eat, then drink and be merry
Many people skip eating before binging so they can consume more alcohol, because, after all, a binge is all about more, not less. But if you forgo eating even a light meal, the alcohol enters your bloodstream full steam ahead, increasing the chance that the party train you just boarded might end up crashing into the next morning with a nasty hangover.
“People who come from dinner with a full belly don’t get drunk as quickly,” says Scott.
That’s because eating, especially high-fat and protein foods, before drinking slows alcohol absorption so you won’t get tipsy as quick. If your stomach and intestines are busy working on that pepperoni pizza or burger, the alcohol has to wait its turn to enter the bloodstream. Less alcohol, less drunk, which can help you be less hung over the next day.
If you’re health conscious, you can indulge in fatty fish like salmon, albacore tuna and even sardines instead of a burger and fries. Pair that with a salad with olive oil dressing or an avocado, and you’re ready to imbibe.
Metabolizing (breaking down) alcohol stresses even the healthiest body by depleting it of essential vitamins needed to recover from alcohol consumption. Extra immune support from B complex vitamins and multivitamins before a night of indulgence can reduce stress and make for an easier recovery.
Don’t pop a painkiller
Taking ibuprofen before you binge might seem like a smart idea, but the pain reducing effect wears off long before your hangover starts. And in no way should you take painkillers like ibuprofen or acetaminophen while consuming alcohol. Not only do painkillers erode the lining of the stomach, which makes for quicker alcohol absorption, but it causes inflammation of the liver, making it more difficult for your liver to purify your blood from the toxins from alcohol.
A spoon full
While it may not make the medicine go down, in many Mediterranean countries, a spoon full of olive oil is the recipe to prevent hangovers. It stands to reason if fatty food slows down the absorption of alcohol, so would a dollop of olive oil. Don’t hold your nose to the idea. If you can stomach it, just swallow.
Because alcohol dehydrates your body, it’s important to hydrate through the night.
“Dehydration causes the blood vessels in your head to constrict, which can cause headaches associated with hangovers,” says Scott.
A good rule is one glass of water per alcoholic drink. To lessen the effects of a hangover, drink water before bed and when you get up the next day.
One hit wonder
Stick to one type of alcoholic drink. Mixing drinks such as wine and cocktails increases the stress on your organs due to the different alcohol and ingredients. If you must drink a fruity cocktail, limit it to one or two, since these mixtures usually contain at least two different types of liquor with other mystery sugar and salt ingredients.
“The less sugar, the better,” says Scott. “People think sweeter drinks contain less alcohol, but that’s not true.” In fact, the sweeter the drink, the more liquor you may consume because the alcohol taste is masked by the sugar.
Light may be right
Darker liquor like bourbon, brandy, and whiskey have higher concentrations of toxins that contribute to the severity of a hangover, so it’s best to stick to a light color alcohol like gin and vodka if you’re boozing it up. The exception avoid champagne and sparkling wine because the bubbles increase the absorption of alcohol, making you tipsy faster and leaving you with an especially ugly hangover.
Set your glass down
Whether you’re on the dance floor or playing a game of pool or life-size Jenga, it’s hard to hold a drink while you’re engaged in other activities. Being active while drinking slows down your consumption and allows you to enjoy the people you’re with instead of staring at the bottom of your glass all night long.
While eating greasy food before bed may be comforting, it won’t reduce your hangover. In fact, it could cause other symptoms like acid reflux, which can make recovering from a hangover worse. However, snacking on a banana (high in potassium) or drinking electrolytes like Gatorade can rehydrate your body so your vessels allow more blood flow where it’s needed.
Bowing to the porcelain god
Puking may make you feel better for the moment, but it’s not a guarantee you won’t wake up with a pounding headache.
“If you throw up one drink, you technically consumed one less drink,” says Scott.
Vomiting only guarantees the alcohol that hasn’t been absorbed yet never makes it to your bloodstream and won’t contribute to your hangover.
Liquor before beer, in the clear
You may have heard the expression “beer before liquor, never been sicker; liquor before beer, you’re in the clear,” but there’s no proof that works. Drinking too much of one type of liquor can make you sicker as well. No matter what your poison is, pacing and moderation offer the best chance to remain hangover free.
Splurge on booze
Many people swear drinking the high-end booze prevents a hangover. Top-shelf alcohol is the most filtered, which removes impurities and toxins. While drinking the good stuff can’t prevent a hangover if you overdo it, it can make your hangover less severe. It stands to reason the pricier a drink, the slower you consume it and the less you drink throughout the evening, making the morning after bearable.
Break your fast
You may not feel like eating in the morning, but breakfast with complex carbs, some protein, and a banana can help your body recover from a night of partying. Though coffee may be comforting, it’s a diuretic and should be kept to one cup alongside water and juices that restore electrolytes and give you energy.
Hair of the dog
Drinking more alcohol to cure a hangover is one of those mythical cures that carries no weight. While a shot of alcohol or bloody mary may dull your hangover, it only prolongs the inevitable recovery time.
Skip the hair of the dog and take him out for a walk instead. Even though you may not feel like working out, it will get your blood pumping. Exercise opens up the blood vessels, which can help you feel better quicker.
Kill the pain
Your body needs to focus on eliminating toxins from the alcohol not metabolizing painkillers, but if you really need it, stick to anti-inflammatory medication like ibuprofen. Acetaminophen and aspirin can cause liver damage and upset your stomach. If at all possible, try other remedies first since you need to let your body focus on purging the alcohol.
Nothing makes hangovers worse than waiting for them to go away. Instead of focusing on the pain, get busy. Taking a shower and getting dressed may make you feel human again, but so can reading a book or calling a friend.
Sleep it off
When all else fails, good rest can do the trick. After all, you probably stayed up late partying, got a few hours of sleep, and woke up foggy and out of sorts. Who knows, you might just feel better when you wake up.
Or you could just not drink the night before, and viola, hangover problem solved.
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