In today’s society, alcohol consumption has become a part of life at varying degrees. Some people, drink every night of the week, whilst others rarely consume alcohol, but when they do it turns into an epic night of binge drinking. Whatever the amount of alcohol that you consume, inevitably, there is always the question of the hangover that follows on. There are a few factors that affect how hung over you are going to be. Firstly, and most obviously, how much alcohol you drink. Also, your body type and build can affect the level to which you feel the after effects of a big night out. A smaller body type may actually suffer a more severe hangover, as their bodies are more quickly depleted of nutrients and dehydration sets in sooner1. But what is it exactly that causes a hangover and what can you do to assist in this process not being so drawn out and painful?
Firstly, the hangover itself is a result of total dehydration and nutrient depletion within your body. Every bodily function and organ becomes stressed and actually begins a shut-down process as a last attempt to heal from the over-time that they’ve been doing to deal with the chemicals, high sugar and ethanol levels that it has been processing2. So, one thing that can be done, as a preventative measure, is to make sure that you are consuming water at various intervals during any drinking session. This allow the body to rehydrate and will not completely stop you getting a hangover, but it will alleviate some of the discomfort that comes from the body being dehydrated.
Secondly, make sure that you do not allow the nutrient levels in your body to get too low. Dehydration results in the blood not being able to actually absorb the nutrients and vitamins from food that you may have eaten earlier in the day3. So make sure that along with drinking plenty of water, you have a nutritious meal both before you go out for a drink and, if you can manage it, even try to have some veggie sticks with mashed avocado before you crawl into bed. That way, whilst you sleep, you have replenished some of the macro and micro nutrients that have been lost.
But overall the best thing to avoid a hangover is drink less!!
Cho, E., Lee, J.E., Rimm, E.B., Fuchs, C.S., Giovanucci, E.L. (2012). Alcohol consumption and the risk of colon cancer by family history of colorectal cancer. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 95(2), pp.413-419.
Kempton, M.J., Ettinger, U., Foster, R., Williams, S.C.R., Calvert, G.A., Hampshire, A., Zelaya, F.O., O’Gorman, R.L., McMorris, T., Owen, A.M., Smith, M.S. (2011). Dehydration affects brain structure and function in healthy adolescents.Human Brain Mapping, 32(1), pp.71-79.
Ronis, M.J.J., Hennings, L., Stweart, B., Basnakian, A.G., Aposolov, E.O., Albano, E., Badger, T.M., Peterson, D.R. (2010). Effects of long-term ethanol administration in a rat enteral nutrition model of alcoholic liver disease. American Journal of Physiology, 300(1), pp.109-119.