It’s the new year and having to cope with the hangover from last night’s party is not the best way to begin it. Here’s what you can do
The new year holds tremendous promise. There are resolutions to keep (of course, you’re going to lose those 20 kilos you’ve been meaning to for five years!); career choices to make; relationships to build on and, in the short-term, training for those marathons you will be running this month.
The only problem is, last night’s New Year’s Eve party is still making its presence felt, and not in very pleasant ways. There are pills in the market that promise to protect you from hangovers, but you forgot to ask your doctor about them, and never got round to buying a pack.
You’ve been told that ‘hair of the dog’ is the best antidote. What’s that? Well, it means curing a hangover by drinking more alcohol; the phrase comes from ancient times when it was said that if a dog were to bite you, putting its hair into the wound would heal it. The idea was that the best cure for something that ails you is to have more of it. It’s a surprisingly common solution worldwide; in German, they refer to it as "having a counter-beer" (ein Konterbier trinken) and in Austria, it’s called a repair-beer (Reparatur-Seidl) and the Portuguese speak of "a hit" (uma rebatida). China and Korea have their nomenclature too. In theory, it sounds like a superb solution, but the reality is that you just can’t bear the thought of more booze. Besides, really, there are better ways.
How do you know you have a hangover? You body is making very sure you know. Just for the record, anyway, depending on how much you drank, you would be feeling fatigue and weakness, excessive thirst and dry mouth; nausea, sensitivity to light and sound; an inability to focus; dizziness; anxiety, irritability or depression, and in some cases, which you must not ignore, a rapid heartbeat.
All this happens because your immune system is protesting with an inflammatory response; the alcohol increases production of stomach acid and irritates the lining; and your blood sugar falls. Also, though it makes you sleepy, alcohol interferes with the deeper stages of sleep, leaving you exhausted.
“Hangover symptoms typically begin when your blood alcohol content drops and is almost near zero in the morning after drinking heavily a night before,” explains Dr. Shalini Joshi, Senior Consultant, Internal Medicine, Fortis Hospital, Bannerghatta road. “One can experience fatigue, headaches, nausea, vomiting, palpitations, dizziness and decreased ability to concentrate depending on what and how much you drank.” Dr Joshi points out that while hangovers usually go away on their own, medical attention is urgently required if you notice vomiting, breathing slowly and not waking up, seizure or low body temperature.
“If you choose to drink alcohol, doing so responsibly can help you avoid future hangovers,” she says, “but there is no magic formula to tell you how much you can safely drink.”
Dr Joshi also says that some people are more susceptible to hangovers due to some genetic variation that affects the way alcohol is metabolised and make people flush, sweat or become ill after drinking even a small amount. “Drinking on an empty stomach, using nicotine and other drugs with alcohol can increase your next day’s misery.
Hetal Chheda, Holistic Nutritionist at YOUR HEALTH - Nutrition Clinic adds: “Headaches, nausea and discomfort are the classic signs of a hangover. It generally happens because of dehydration and the body’s adjustment to cope with blood alcohol levels. And when Christmas or festivals are around the corner we indulge in heavy drinking and go overboard. When your body processes alcohol, it produces a chemical byproduct called acetaldehyde, which is responsible for those awful feelings that come with hangovers. Also when one pukes our body gets depleted of starch, sugar, sodium, and potassium. No wonder we feel the discomfort.”
Ms Chheda offers some simple and effective remedies for coping with a hangover (See box on Page 15). Try them, and you get your new year off to a flying start!
The world prefers coffee as a hangover remedy but that can be a mistake. Coffee further dehydrates the body and can backfire at times. It does dilate our blood vessels and perks up brain function, which helps you get rid of your headache quicker but that’s temporary.
Here are some ways in which we can balance the body’s electrolytes, rehydrate the body and turn the fun nights into good mornings;
- Freshly cut apples are our saviours. Chop some in a bowl and sprinkle a pinch of salt. This will take care of the electrolyte balance.
- A banana smoothie using a pinch of salt and a teaspoon of honey is what helps you recover the fastest. It balances the blood sugar and potassium which is lost after alcohol consumption.
- A ginger concoction works the best. This hot ginger tea can be made in minutes, Just take a cup of water. Add grated ginger and let it simmer for five to seven minutes. Add a dash of lime and honey. This refreshing ginger tea can be had throughout the day to undo the effects of dehydration.
- Lemon is a natural liver detoxifier. Alcohol sits in the liver. A spoon of lemon juice or lime in warm water assimilates alcohol, detoxifies the liver naturally and provides instant relief.
- l Watermelon is rich in L-citrulline, a nutrient that may increase blood flow. Watermelon is also high in its water content, which eventually helps rehydrate.
- Nuts are rich in magnesium. Eating nuts like almonds and pistachios work well to balance magnesium which gets depleted from cells.
- A simple call would be to drink coconut water. Coconut water is naturally rich in electrolytes, which makes it incredibly hydrating.
- The one which is very much doable is to drink lots and lots of water.