March 29, 2009

Prevent That Hangover

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Being the drunk and stupid college students that we are, the dreaded hangover is no stranger to our weekend routine. Dazed and confused after a long night romping around in college town, I wake up to a huge slap in the face by Mother Nature. She’s apparently pissed that I put so much crap into my body. I guess warm beer after warm beer isn’t exactly her definition of natural. So I suffer her angry wrath: a splitting headache, a sandpaper tongue, a rolling stomach, and some weird ache in my legs from my abnormal urge to run around when I drink.

Now I have to admit, this situation isn’t usually something I let happen. As much as I get mocked for carrying my Sigg bottle full of water around with me to parties, I’m always the one raring to go in the morning while everyone else is groaning in pain under the covers. But is there more to the hangover besides dehydration? To understand what causes a hangover, it’s important to first address the getting drunk part. Essentially, the acetaldehyde found in alcohol attacks the frontal lobe of your brain and causes that tipsy feeling we all know and love.

The hangover makes its debut during your body’s attempt at getting the poison out of the bloodstream. In this valiant attempt (Warning: PDF), the body increases urine and electrolyte output, which in turn causes dehydration. Alcohol is also responsible for causing inflammation in the stomach and intestines, which can result in nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. Recent studies have shown that bioactive molecules called congeners are also a huge contributing factor to the alcohol hangover. The acetaldehyde molecules floating around in the body prevents these congeners from being properly metabolized, which causes the residual hangover lasting far longer than it ever should. Congeners are found in the sweeter, flavored alcohols and in wine. In my personal experience, I always have a terrible morning after drinking a night full of red wine.

Hangovers suck. We all know how it happens but in the college culture we live in, we will still pick up the beer bottle every weekend. With the inevitability of the routine being a well-known fact, there must be something we can do to have our drink and enjoy it too. This being said, I’ve created a list of feasible mediators to help you survive the typical college weekend.

1. Moderation is always key. In most cases, the amount of alcohol is proportional to the intensity of the hangover. Get ready for a big “duh”… Drink less.

2. As nerdy and girly as it may be, carrying a water bottle and sipping throughout the night keeps the body relatively hydrated. With dehydration as a huge contributor to the hangover, drinking water is crucial for its prevention.

3. Drink sports drinks to replace lost electrolytes.

4. Eat bananas. They act as a natural anti-diuretic and prevent dehydration.

5. I can’t believe I am actually recommending this, the caffeine addict that I am, but don’t drink coffee. Although it may temporarily ease the headache pain, it only adds to the dehydration.

6. If you can handle putting food into your body, eggs are the best choice. They are a natural source of cysteine. Cysteine speeds up the body’s process of getting rid of the toxins in alcohol.

7. Lie in bed all day. Really. If you feel run down and exhausted, nothing is going to cure it except for the obvious.

So drink up! Following these tips will be the best shot at surviving the morning.