St. Patricks Day: holiday of the drink. If you plan on hitting the bars to celebrate with some green beer, plan your vigorous imbibing responsibly to respect your body. Alcohol is, after all, a toxin and that's how your body treats it.
What is a hangover?
According to Discovery Health, more than 75-percent of those who have consumed alcohol have experienced a hangover at least once. Known as veisalgia, from a Norwegian word for ‘uneasiness following debauchery,’ a hangover is a cluster of symptoms including nausea, headache, and more. Why is this happening to me?
The basic answer is alcohol’s resulting changes in hydration status and blood alcohol level. Since alcohol is a diuretic, you lose an immense amount of water between pub-crawling and crashing on the couch. Each drink adds to the amount of water that your body loses, and unless you’re consciously drinking water, the entire night makes you drier than the Sahara. No water means major malfunction. The worst of the hangover comes when your blood alcohol level drops to zero, with symptoms lingering for up to 24 hours after that point.
But what about those crazy cures you hear from friends? Or some ridiculous ways you think will prevent a hangover? No problem; I'm your myth buster!
1. An AM mimosa eases a hangover. The truth: It’s a quick fix that will kick you later. A hangover creeps up when your blood alcohol content (BAC) zooms down to zero. When you booze after snoozing, you’re only delaying the point when the BAC hits zero. Another concern is that this could form into an ugly habit where after a night of drinking, you crawl out of bed for the next fix! Skip the morning drink.
2. Acetaminophen before bed keeps headaches at bay. The truth: This is a highly dangerous myth. Acetaminophen paired with alcohol reroutes the way the drug is metabolized, leading it through a pathway where the compounds can become toxic. Instead, take Ibuprofen.
3. Wine has fewer hangover effects than beer.
The truth: While wine always gets the health halo, studies cited by Web MD are showing that beer in moderation does have some health benefits. In terms of the morning after, beer may actually be the better choice! For some, tannins present in wine can cause headaches.
4. Sober up with Coffee. The truth: The only thing that will completely cure a hangover is time. The caffeine in coffee is a stimulant so it helps you feel alert, but the alcohol isn’t removed any faster with that cup of joe. According to Discovery Health, caffeine, like alcohol is a diuretic which means you’re even more dehydrated than before.
5. OTC pills are a quick fix for symptoms. The truth: So-called hangover-pills like Chaser are often touted as “filters,” which use carbon to reduce the impurities entering the body after drinking. The first red flag is the fact that they are supplements and therefore are not regulated by the FDA. Many hangover pills are actually multivitamins in disguise and even then, any benefits you may feel aren’t from the pill—the benefits are from the water!
Prevent your next hangover- a step-by-step guide:
Before going out
- 7:00 p.m.: Eat before drinking! Foods containing fats, like nuts can give you a head start on beating the hangover. If eaten before you start your night, the alcohol takes longer for the body to absorb.
- 9:00 p.m.: Cocktail one is long gone. Have you started drinking water? Drink water in between each alcoholic drink. Repeat after me: “Hydration is key.”
- 9:45 p.m.: Quick snack! Keep something in your stomach so the alcohol isn’t being absorbed so quickly.
- 10:30 p.m.: Drink in moderation. A single drink is equal to a 12-ounce bottle of beer, a 4-ounce glass of wine, or a 1 1/2-ounce shot of liquor.
- Midnight: Have some more water!
The morning after...Okay, so last night didn’t go quite as planned. Here’s what to do:
- Good morning! (10:00 a.m.): Hydrate to start the day off right. That splitting headache and achy body mean you’re dehydrated.
- Take some ibuprofen: 800 mg, 1 hour before you need to be functional.
- 10:30 a.m.: Eat something. A chicken bouillon soup is perfect for replacing electrolytes (like salt and potassium) that you lost the night before. An alternative source could also be sports drinks if you just can’t stomach anything else.
- 11:00 a.m.: Drink more water.
- Rest: Most hangovers are gone in 24 hours.
Note: There are times when a hangover turns into something very serious. Be on the look out if you or any of your friends have irregular breathing, blue tinged skin, hypothermia, or become unconscious. If you recognize any of these signs, it’s time to call 911.
Safe enthusiastic celebrations,
Dietitian Nutritionist and cookbook author sharing flavor-forward recipes and simplified science-driven wellness.