During the Volvo Ocean Race, Galway is called “the party stopover”. If you have been here you will understand why....with the clubs, the pubs, the restaurants, weekly festivals and sexy people! Unfortunately, one of the side effects of the craic agus ceol, Irish for good times and music, is the dreaded hangover. At this time of year in particular many of us are lying low and recovering but here are some ideas to reduce the unwanted side effects of excess booze. Large amounts of alcohol cause the obvious initial symptoms of merriment, impaired judgement, uncoordinated movement and memory loss, but what actually causes the hangover?
Causes of a hangover
A hangover is caused by a combination of the toxic by-product of alcohol metabolism (acetaldehyde), hypoglycemia dehydration, & Vitamin A, B (particularly B6) and C depletion. The symptoms are usually a dry mouth, nausea, fatigue, dizziness and headache and are caused by a combination of these factors. Excess alcohol irritates the stomach lining. It also shuts down the production of anti-diuretic hormone, which in turn causes the excessive urination that leads to dehydration. Almost 2/3rds of our body weight is water weight. In fact our brain is 74% water. The symptoms of a hangover are due to dehydration of the brain and an irritated stomach lining, causing nausea and headache. As alcohol is a diuretic, it also causes us to wee out our water-soluble nutrients, the main ones being vitamin B complex, zinc, chromium and vitamin C which leaves us with very low blood sugar, hence fatigue.
Apart from the obvious toxic effects, you should understand 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 for. This is why hangover symptoms often include disorientation and "the jitters". Well help is at hand. Read on to learn about some good old-fashioned hangover cures.
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. Unfortunately the congeners also give flavour, smell and appearance to alcohol. 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. I always make mine a G&T or V&T.
Prevention is the best cure
Well we all know that and in an ideal world that is easy, however we have good reason to celebrate or commiserate!!
Hair of the dog
The belief that consumption of further alcohol after the onset of a hangover will relieve symptoms, based upon the theory that hangover represents a form of withdrawal and that by satiating the body's need for alcohol the symptoms will be relieved. Favoured choices include Fernet Branca and Bloody Mary. Fernet is made from a number of herbs and spices which vary according to the brand, but may include myrrh, rhubarb, chamomile cardamom, aloe, and saffron, with a base of grape distilled spirits.
By 1938, the Ritz-Carlton Hotel provided a hangover remedy in the form of a mixture of Coca-Cola and milk! Alcoholic writer Ernest Hemingway relied on tomato juice and beer. Certain mixtures were developed specifically for the purpose. The "Black Velvet" consists of equal parts champagne and flat Guinness Stout, while the "Prairie Oyster" restorative, introduced at the 1878 Paris World Exposition, calls for raw egg yolk mixed with Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco sauce, salt and pepper.
A 1957 survey by a Wayne State University folklorist found widespread belief in the efficacy of heavy fried foods, tomato juice and sexual activity!
The Fry Up
Why is it that a good fry-up can alleviate a hangover? Alcohol is also high in sugar. This causes a sharp rise in blood sugar and then, unfortunately, a sharp fall. This is called reactive hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar) and produces a craving for food, particularly foods that raise the blood sugar quickly. The low blood sugar causes shakiness, tiredness and feeling like a bear with a sore head. Bacon and eggs raise blood sugar levels quickly to alleviate symptoms of lethargy. Fatty foods in particular, increase a hormone called cholecystokinin that slows down digestion and promotes a feeling of fullness and satiety. Consumption of foods such as eggs, which contain cysteine and water may be enough to replenish lost moisture and at least rehydrate the body, making a hangover shorter. A bacon egg and cheese sandwich has also been claimed to effectively relieve hangovers.
Globe artichoke (Cynara scolymus)
Cynarin an active chemical constituent in Cynara, causes an increased bile flow, aids digestion, strengthens liver function, gall bladder function, to prevent and treat the signs and symptoms of alcohol-induced hangover.
Kudzu root (Pueraria lobata)
The plant has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for over 2,500 years. Its name in Chinese Ge Gen, loosely translated, means "drunkenness dispeller." The tea is often used to sober up after drinking alcohol and to relieve hangovers. Pueraria lobata appears to be an inappropriate herb for use in herbal hangover remedies as it is an inhibitor of ALDH2. Compounds from kudzu root (daidzin and daidzein) significantly reduce alcohol cravings!
It is found that the side-effects of nausea and vomiting from general anaesthesia are diminished by giving patients a higher ratio of oxygen. In addition, there have been anecdotal reports from those with easy access to a breathing oxygen supply, medical staff, SCUBA divers and military pilots, that oxygen can also reduce the symptoms of hangovers sometimes caused by alcohol consumption. The theory is that the increased oxygen flow resulting from oxygen therapy improves the metabolic rate, & thus increases the speed at which toxins are broken down. At least go for a walk on the prom!
One of the best preventive measures is to drink water between every alcoholic drink and to drink 2-3 large glasses of water before you go to bed. Drinking alcohol is very dehydrating and hydrating your system helps counteract the effects of the alcohol.
Add the juice of one lemon to a cup of black coffee and drink it unsweetened and without milk.
As soon as you wake up on the "morning after" add two teaspoons of fresh lime juice and a teaspoon of sugar to 8 ounces of water. Drink it slowly. This concoction will help stabilize your blood sugar, which will be low after imbibing.
A new study shows that the amino acids and minerals in asparagus extract may ease hangovers and protect liver cells against the toxins in alcohol.
Prickly pear cactus (Opuntia ficus indica)
Pricxkly pear extract has been found to relieve hangover nausea and dry mouth according to researchers at Tulane University and the University of California, San Francisco. Prickly pear is known to reduce inflammation, and hangover symptoms are due to an increase in inflammation. Researchers found that C-reactive protein, a marker for inflammation, was 40% higher in the group that took a placebo. The extract was taken five hours before alcohol consumption.
Better known as milk thistle, protects liver cells from alcohol by preventing toxins from entering them and helps to remove existing toxins. Milk thistle called the trophorestorative of the liver meaning that it the best herb to heal the liver. Take two 70 mg capsules with a meal or before or while drinking.
Stimulates the liver to break down the alcohol. Take 2-10 gm per day in divided doses. Start at 1,000 mg an hour and built up to bowel tolerance. An excess of vitamin C can cause diarrhoea, and since you probably have stomach distress already too much C may cause a problem.
Put a teaspoon of bifidus powder in a glass of water and drink before going to bed. Bifidus is the "friendly" bacteria that detoxifies acetaldehyde, a digestive byproduct of alcohol that is a major cause of hangovers.
Some studies have found large doses of Vitamin B6 can help to reduce hangovers.
There are claims that N-acetylcysteine can relieve or prevent symptoms of hangover through scavenging of acetylaldehyde, particularly when taken concurrently with alcohol. Additional reduction in acetaldehyde toxicity can be achieved if NAC is taken in conjunction with vitamin B1 (thiamine)
The pigment that gives beetroot their rich, colour is betacyanin. Betacyanin increases the activity of two antioxidant enzymes in the liver, glutathione peroxidase and glutathione-S-transferase. The liver is the body's primary detoxification organ where toxic substances such as alcohol are broken down and eliminated, a process that generates a lot of free radicals. Glutathione peroxidase and glutathione-S-transferase are the bodyguards for liver cells, protecting them from free radical attack.
Here's a juice recipe to flush out the liver. Juice fresh beetroot, carrot, apple (equal parts) and a thumbnail of ginger. This juice can also be used to treat pre-menstrual tension and indeed any "liverish" condition such as anger or melancholy.
In addition to being a prevention remedy, tomato juice contains fructose, a type of sugar that helps your body metabolise alcohol more quickly. This is probably why the morning-after Bloody Mary seems to work.
Homeopathic - Nux vomica
“The Hangover cure” will help relieve nausea and vomiting. Take the 6c potency in 4 drops or pellets every hour.
See also Carahealth Liver
Containing both milk thistle & globe artichoke, that regenerate liver cells, promote the flow of bile, assist liver functions in particular, digestion & detoxification. It is recommended for liverish conditions such as irritably, melancholia, nausea, feeling sluggish and particular disorders of the liver. The tincture treats liver diseases such as hepatitis, cirrhosis, alcoholism, haemochromatosis, cancer of the liver, & assists detoxification, especially of heavy metals.
Bitter foods stimulate digestion and promote bile flow. In this way they assist with detoxification. Include these in the diet and soon you will be feeling fresher. Bitter greens include radicchio, chicory, endive, cos lettuce, mustard greens and dandelion leaves. Ask your green grocer to supply these. They are also rich in vitamins A, E, K and iron.
Nutrients to Improve Liver Function
Lipotropic agents including choline, inositol, taurine, methionine and carnitine help the liver breakdown fatty foods by promoting the flow of bile.
Specific nutrients for each phase of detoxification are;
* Phase I: vitamins A,C,E, B1, B2, B3, Zinc, Calcium, Magnesium, Iron and amino acids
* Phase II: Selenium, Zinc, Chromium, vitamin B2, B3, and amino acids, cysteine and methionine A good multivitamin can supply these nutrients.
Lifestyle Remember to drink 6-8 glasses of filtered water a day to flush out the toxins and get at least 20 minutes of exercise daily to promote health. Dance and eat when you drink. Drink a pint of water for every pint.
Carina is available to lecture for your group or institution on this subject.
Carina Harkin BHSc.Nat.BHSc.Hom.BHSc.Acu. is a practitioner of 11 years, complementary medicine lecturer of 4 years and mother of six in Galway, Ireland who practices what she teaches.
For an appointment call Carina directly on 083 34 66 333.
All products are available through www.carahealth.ie. Remember, we are here for a good time not a long time, enjoy your food life!
Carahealth Galway Ireland. Acupuncture, Naturopathy, Homeopathy, Herbal Medicine, Nutrition, Nutritional Therapy, Flower Essences, Iridology, Short Courses, Cosmetic Acupuncture