You went to the family meal at about noon, and popped a beer because the game was just starting. Then another, because dinner was not going to be done for another hour or two (and the Matt Stafford was killing your fantasy team). You had another one during dinner, and then left to go hang out with your friends at the local watering hole, where all of the serious drinking was going to take place. That is when the shots came out, the whiskey flowed, and great times were had by all. And of course, the designated driver was able to get everyone home safe. You have the day off today…why not have a good time on Thanksgiving? Well, because Black Friday may be named for all of the shopping that is going to be done today, but it would best describe how you are feeling. It may be better for your head to explode, because it would at least stop the pounding that is going on right now. You are not entirely sure what is causing your stomach to squirm all over like it is doing, but you would love for it to stop. And your tongue feels like someone dried it out, and then wiped their feet on it. Your Black Friday is the hangover you earned from the night before.
Hangovers, as we all well know, are caused by drinking too much alcohol, flooding your well balanced system with impurities. “Too much” in a moderate drinker is four to seven cocktails over an evening out. So we are all on the same page, a drink is considered as 1.5 ounces of liquor, 6 ounces of wine, or 12 ounces of beer. That is not saying you get drunk after that many drinks. That is saying your body chemistry starts to do bad things after that many drinks. Some people are so sensitive to alcohol that one drink could trigger hangover-like symptoms. Those symptoms include nausea, headaches, dehydration, fatigue, diarrhea, sensitivity to light and sound, aversions to smells and tastes, trouble sleeping, and difficulty concentrating. All of these things you may (unfortunately) be familiar with.
Ethanol is the chemical impurity that is a major culprit in you feeling like this. The most damaging thing it does is dehydrate you by causing you to produce more urine. It also makes you a little more lightheaded and thirsty, which makes you want another drink. While you are going to the bathroom, not only are you depleting the water in you, you are getting rid of vital salts, potassium, and other nutrients you body needs to function. This vicious circle keeps going all night long, draining your body of things it really needs. Where does all of this water you have to expel come from? Your organs have to start pulling out sources of water from anywhere they can get it, and that includes the brain. Cue the headache that is going to hit you the next morning. To make room for the alcohol it has to break down later, the liver tosses out stores of sugar (through potty breaks) making you hungry and a little weak. Meanwhile, the stomach is also having some issues with all the alcohol you have consumed. It is irritated, and to get rid of the irritant, it makes more stomach acid. If it gets irritated enough, it decides that breaking down the alcohol is not the best way to clean up this mess; vomiting is.
Other chemistry is also going on in a glass of alcohol. Congeners are byproducts in the creation of alcohol, which give most alcohols their distinct flavors. Vodka is distilled so many times to try and get rid of all the congeners, while rum and whiskey are distilled in such a way to keep the appropriate congeners in. Red wines and whiskeys tend to have the most, while gin and vodka have the least. It is also an impurity, another one the body had to break down and deal with. The cheaper the liquor you are drinking, the more impurities you are going to have to eventually break down. That does not mean if you drink better liquor you can drink more of it. But, it may mollify the level of hangover you have the next day. Studies have also been done that the severity of the hangover may be linked to the purity of the alcohol (fewer congeners) in your drink. There is also a quite complicated dance that your enzymes do to break down and clean up the alcohol in your system, which may be the worst part. The “Beer before liquor, never sicker” wives tale? It turns out it may not be that much of a tale. Carbonation in beer helps the body absorb alcohol faster, which makes it harder for the body to process it. That hard work to keep up may give you a worse hangover.
However, all this may be cold comfort. There are plenty of ways to make sure you can avoid the serious effects of a hangover, either through preparation or damage control. If you want to do some prep work, make sure you eat a good meal before you go out drinking. You may not want to go all out Thanksgiving each time, but put something in your stomach. Greasy food may mix poorly with alcohol, so don’t go too crazy on it. You want a buffer for the lining of the stomach, not another sparring partner. Drink lots of water, since dehydration is going to be your biggest enemy. This is also a good strategy to stick with while you drink, mixing in a glass of water for every drink or two you have. This may also have the added side bonus of filling your stomach a little and causing you to drink less, or at least slower. You also want to take some vitamins or load up with sports drinks. Again, adding a few more vitamins and minerals than you usually have in you will help when your chemistry goes haywire. While you are drinking, try to limit yourself to one drink an hour. If you do this, your liver can keep up with your alcohol consumption, possibly avoiding the hangover all together.
If you are in damage control mode, drinking water is still going to help. Your body is craving water, and the best thing you can do is provide as much of it as you can. Make yourself a nice plate of eggs, have a glass of orange juice, and peel a few bananas. The bananas will replenish the potassium your body has been stripped of, and the eggs have chemicals that can help break down the toxins that are making you feel so awful. Orange juice has vitamin C in it, which will give you a boost of energy. You can wash a multivitamin down with that juice or water, to replenish the B vitamins you may have lost as well. Do not drink coffee! Coffee will make you a more awake drunk, but it will not make you feel better. Coffee, like alcohol, is a diuretic. It will also have to make you go to the bathroom more, pulling more water from the body. If you are going to take something for the headache in the morning, stick to aspirin or ibuprofen. Do not take acetaminophen, which is found in Tylenol, because it may mix poorly with the alcohol in your system. Hair of the dog also does not help; while it may push off some of the symptoms, it is just delaying the pain. And possibly making it worse. If you are not feeling too delicate, take a walk. Increasing your metabolism will help the body process the toxins faster, and some studies show that an increased oxygen flow can also help.
Any hangover remedies you may encounter are just ways to reduce the symptoms. The only real way the hangover goes away is through time. Giving the body time to recover and taking care of it is the best way to get over all the shots, beers, and wines you consumed the night before. Remember, if you take some preventative measures before, watch what and how much you drink, and know your limits, you may be able to avoid a hangover completely! Unfortunately, the drunken texts and pictures on Facebook will take a little longer to go away. Cheers!