A hangover is caused by a combination of the toxic by-product of alcohol metabolism (acetaldehyde), dehydration, and Vitamin A, B (particularly B6) and C depletion caused by the chemical action of alcohol on your system. The symptoms are usually a dry mouth, nausea, fatigue, dizziness and headache and are caused by a combination of these factors.
Apart from the obvious toxic effects, you should realise you're suffering the effects of a mild overdose of a depressant drug and your nerves are reacting accordingly, and you have also flushed a signifnicant quantity of vitamins and nutrients from your system causing a degree of metabolic shock that your body is struggling to compensate against. This is why hangover symptoms often include disorientation and "the jitters".
Some drinks give you worse hangovers than others due to the actions of impurities called Congeners. While it's the ethyl alcohol (ethanol) that gets you drunk, amyl alcohol, butyl alcohol, methyl alcohol, propyl alcohol, and isopropyl alcohol is also found in most drinks to varying degrees, and the concentration of these Congeners will go a long way to determining the severity of the hangover.
Vodka and gin (clear liquors) are generally lower in congeners than whisky, rum and bourbon, due to the filtering process involved, and hence usually give a less intense hangover. Unfortunately the congeners also give flavor, smell and appearance to alcohol.
Another contributor to the hangover is the "freshness" of the alcohol since the natural oxidation product of ethanol is also acetaldehyde. Finishing off an already open bottle of red, or drinking beer that's been in the boot of your car for a week, will provide you with a ready made supply of acetaldehyde so you don't have to wait for your liver to make it in order to have a really good hangover.
Most hangover "remedies" simply attend to one or more of the symptoms and don't really provide a cure as such. The hangover won't stop until the alcohol is out of your system, but here's a few things that will ease the suffering a bit:
Berocca - Puts the vitamin B back in, as well as the big glass of water it's mixed with. It's probably best to do this before you go out.
Coke - Fizz for the nausea, liquid for the dehydration, and a caffeine and sugar hit to make you feel a bit more lively.
Coffee - Same as Coke but without the bubbles to help ease the nausea. Try it with honey instead of sugar since the fructose is absorbed quicker than the sucrose in normal sugar, and it's better for you.
Ginseng - It's been noted that since caffeine is a diuretic like alcohol, it can actually make the dehydration worse, so try the herbal equivalent instead.
Vegemite On Toast - Something in your stomach is good, and salty is even better. Plus you get a Vitamin B top up. The same reasons also make peanut butter a good choice, but the oily nature might make some sensitive stomachs feel a bit yucky. If you do try try this one, skip the butter and just have dry toast.
Cold Pizza - Who knows, but it seems to work.
Asprin - Simply attends to the headache and does nothing for the level of alcohol in your system. Don't take them before you go to bed.
Bananas - Sugar in the form of fructose, and potassium, which is one of the things you lose lots of when you drink. Bananas are also a natural antacid to help with the nausea, and are high in magnesium which can help relax those pounding blood vessels causing that hangover headache. For a variety of reasons try a peanut butter, honey and banana sandwich on white bread.
Vitamin C - Another thing the alcohol takes out that you're advised to put back in as soon as possible. Orange juice, tomato, a 600mg Vitamin C tablet - doesn't matter, just do it.
A Hot Bath - The heat will sweat out the toxins that are causing all the problems. You'll feel a bit woozy at first but go with it and you'll feel better afterwards.
Chocolate Milk - This one was sent in by Michael and sounds like it's worth a try - "Regarding your hangover remedies, I would like to suggest chocolate milk. The store bought kind seems to work best, due to ease of attainment (unless you blew all your money at the bar hoping to get lucky), quietness (no loud banging of the teaspoon trying to mix the homemade stuff), and ease of use (the opening is the perfect fit when you have the jitters and no messy clean up). The suggested minimum dosage is the pint ( 1/2 litre) size, though the new quart (litre) can be used for extreme episodes. Other than the rehydration factor, I find that chocolate milk offers the tummy a soothing coating for the nausea. It also repletes some of the vitamins your body is now woefully lacking. The sugars (lactose & sucrose) and salt seem to be the perfect balance of the carb/salt fix. Many women can attest to the beneficial, relatively inexpensive, and legal effects of chocolate against depression, whether physiological or psychological. Last, the flavor seems to do wonders for that ghastly "did I try to mop the floor with my tongue?" taste in your mouth. So, on your way home, stop by your convenient convenience store, head on over to the cooler, grab one more "cold one" (chocolate milk, that is), and bring it home for the morning. Your mother shall compliment you on at least one healthy drinking habit."
Sauerkraut - Casey reckons "I know only a few people who will try this hangover remedy but those who do it swear by it, sauerkraut. It makes some sense - the acid/nadh balance and the nutritional value - but from first hand experience it works rediculously well. I've seen it work in the most extreme cases." If you can't bring yourself to eat the actually chunky bits, try sauerkraut juice (out of the sauerkraut bottle) mixed with tomato juice, or a good helping of Sauerkraut Hangover Soup (recipe below). Actually while doing a bit of poking around checking out the vailidity of this claim, it appears that eating raw cabbage has been used right through history for preventing as well as curing hangovers, so Casey could well be onto something here.
Don't drink. (doh!)
Take a Berocca before you start drinking. This gets a reserve of Vitamin B into you.
Alternate fruit juice or water in amongst your drinks to avoid dehydration later on. Avoid fizzy or sugary stuff. The purists reckon that about 200ml of water is needed to effectively counteract each 30ml of alcohol.
The alcohol in carbonated drinks is absorbed more quickly than in non-carbonated drinks.
Reduce the amount of sugar you consume with your alcohol. The forced metabolism of sugar AND alcohol by your body will accelerate the depletion of B vitamins and make the hangover worse.
The 2am pig-out. Pizza or pasta is usually best since cheese and carbohydrates are a good source of amino acids. Actually food is a good idea all round - before, during and immediately after drinking. Food doesn't absorb alcohol, but it does increase metabolism, activates alcohol absorption, and increases the speed with which the body processes alcohol.
Hangover Remedy Cocktails
And here are a few remedy cocktails. At least they won't make you feel any worse:
Poor Man's Bloody Mary
5oz Tomato Juice
3oz Light Beer
Lots and lots of lime juice
Dash of Tabasco sauce
Mix and scull.
1.5 oz vodka
Dash of lemon (or lime) juice
2 or 3 drops Tabasco sauce
Pepper, salt and celery salt
5 oz tomato juice
Over ice in a tall glass add spices, then vodka. Fill with tomato juice and stir. Garnish with celery stick and lime wedge.
Bloody Mary Variations
Deadly Mary - Use gold tequila instead
Bloody Maria - Use tequila instead
Red Snapper - Use gin instead
Danish Mary - Use aquavit instead
Bloody Bull - Add chilli pepper and beef stock
Vege Mary - Use V8 juice instead of tomato juice
Virgin Mary - No Alcohol
Fruit And Stuff
1 small can V-8
6 large strawberries
2 tablespoons honey
1 cup orange juice
1-2 cups milk (or soy milk), to desired consistency
¼ tsp. salt
dash of nutmeg
Mix together in a blender and drink.
Aunt Emma's Hangover Cocktail
1 large can of tomato juice
3 Tablespoons vinegar
4 slices of onion
3 Tablespoons of sugar
4 stalks of celery
2 teaspoons of Tabasco sauce
salt and pepper to taste
Mix ingredients in a container, let stand overnight. Strain and serve.
1 crushed ripe banana
2 level tablespoons powdered sugar
3 oz milk
1 1/2 oz rum
Plenty of cracked ice
Mix together in a blender and drink.
Tablespoon tomato ketchup
1 egg yolk
Salt and pepper
Vinegar or lemon juice
Rinse a cocktail glass with the olive oil and discard oil. Mix all ingredients except egg yolk, and add to glass. Place the egg yolk in carefully. Serve with a small spoon and a glass of ice water.
2 cups of Ovaltine
2 cups of castor sugar
3 tblsp of golden syrup
1 pkt of pineapple jelly crystals
2 cups of hot water
2-3 cups of milk (full-cream)
Combine Ovaltine, sugar, topping, 3/4 milk, hot water and golden syrup. Microwave on high for 2 minutes, adding rest of milk and stirring after 1 minute. Add 1/2 of jelly crystals and microwave on high for 30 secs. Add rest of jelly and a bit more hot water. Microwave for 1 minute. Pour into cups. Refigerate. Serve with custard.
Sauerkraut Hangover Soup
3 slices bacon
1 small onion chopped
1 teaspoon paprika
4 cups water
1 ham hock
1 green pepper seeded, deribbed, and sliced
1 tomato sliced
16 ounces sauerkraut
1 tablespoon flour
1 cup sour cream, plus sour cream for accompaniment
1/2 pound spicy smoked sausage thinly sliced
In a Dutch oven over medium-high heat, brown bacon until fat is rendered. Remove bacon with a slotted utensil and reserve for another use. Add onion to bacon drippings and saute until translucent (about 5 minutes). Add paprika, the water, ham hock, pepper, and tomato. Cover, bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until meat is tender (about 1 1/2 hours).
Drain sauerkraut and turn into a colander. Briefly under cold water and drain again. sauerkraut to Dutch oven and simmer 20 minutes; do not overcook.
Remove ham hockfrom pot; pull meat from bones and return meat to pot. In a small bowl stir together flour and the 1 cup sour cream. Add to soup mixture along with sausage. Reheat to serving temperature, stirring; do not boil.
To serve, ladle into soup bowls and serve immediately. Pass a bowl of sour cream.
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