How to beat the New Year’s hangover before it starts


Raising a toast to the birth of the new year is an age-old ritual, and for many, so is the dreaded morning aftermath – the hangover.

What seemed great fun at the time now has your hands shaking, your head pounding, and your heart pounding, not to mention other nasty symptoms like dizziness, nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light, and excruciating thirst. .

Why do you suffer? Because the alcohol that gently passed over your lips is now wreaking havoc on your body, causing dehydration, stomach pain and inflammation. These ailments peak when all the alcohol leaves your body.

There’s no scientifically proven way to cure a hangover, but experts say you can prevent one — or at least minimize the misery the next morning. Here’s how.

Forget a late-night meal after a night of drinking — it’s way too late, experts say. Instead, eat before your first drink and keep snacking as the night progresses.

« Food in the stomach slows gastric emptying and may reduce hangover symptoms, » said Dr. Robert Swift, professor of psychiatry and human behavior. at Brown University’s Warren Alpert School of Medicine in Providence, Rhode Island.

Why does food help? Because alcohol is not metabolized by the stomach but via the intestinal tract just below, Swift said.

« If someone is injecting on an empty stomach, for example, all that pure alcohol is not diluted through the stomach and goes through the gut very quickly, » said Swift, who has been studying alcohol abuse for a long time. the 1990s.

« If the stomach contains food, however, there are gastric juices and enzymes that mix food and alcohol, and only small amounts of food are passed through the intestine, » he said. declared. « Now the alcohol is diluted in the stomach, and only a small amount of alcohol is taken at any time.

The same principle applies to water and other soft drinks, Swift said. « If alcohol is mixed with liquid, it is diluted, so when it enters your intestines, it’s not as irritating. You are less likely to have inflamed intestines or an inflamed stomach lining.

Drinking water can help reduce the dehydration that occurs from drinking too many alcoholic beverages.

There’s another benefit to drinking water between drinks, said John Brick, former head of research at Center for Alcohol Studies, Division of Education and Training at Rutgers University in New Jersey.

« The main cause of hangovers is dehydration and loss of fluids, as well as vitamins and minerals, » said Brick, who is the author of « The Doctor’s Hangover Handbook » and has published scientific papers on the biobehavioral effects of alcohol and other drugs.

Drinking just 3½ alcoholic beverages can cause a liter of water to be wasted for several hours, Brick added. « That’s a fair amount of water that needs to be replenished. »

Dehydration from alcohol can affect a woman even more, and she’s more likely to suffer from a hangover, even if she drinks less than a man, Swift said. This is because a man has a higher percentage of body water than a woman of the same height and weight, so the same amount of alcohol will be more diluted in a man, he said. .

“The woman will have a higher blood alcohol concentration because there is less water in her body to dilute it,” he said. « Women are much more susceptible to the deleterious effects of alcohol (and they) become more intoxicated and develop alcohol-related liver disease earlier in life than men.

The alcohol we drink, called ethyl alcohol or ethanol, is the by-product of the fermentation of carbohydrates and starches, usually some kind of grain, grape or berry. We use fermentation by-products in other ways: ethanol is added to the gasoline in our cars, and methyl alcohol or methanol – a toxic substance – is used as a solvent, pesticide and fuel source. alternative. Also called wood alcohol, methyl alcohol made by bootleggers blinded or killed thousands of people during Prohibition.

That’s not all – the list of by-products or chemicals added by manufacturers for flavor and taste can read like a list of supplies in an industrial warehouse: ethyl formate, ethyl acetate, n-propanol, isobutanol, n-butanol, isopentanol and isoamyl alcohols. Although these congeners, as they are called, are added in small, non-toxic amounts, some people are overly sensitive to their effects.

Overall, dark colored beer and spirits tend to contain more congeners and therefore may be more likely to cause a hangover, experts say. A 2010 study investigated the intensity of hangovers in people who drank bourbon, a darker-colored liquor, compared to clear vodka.

« The bourbon congeners…significantly increased hangover intensity, which isn’t too surprising since bourbon contains about 37 times more congeners than vodka, » Brick said.

Chemical preservatives called sulphites, known to cause allergic reactions in sensitive people, are also a natural byproduct of fermentation in small amounts. However, many beer and wine makers add sulfites to their products to extend shelf life. (Sulfites are also added to sodas, cereals, sweeteners, canned and ultra-processed foods, medicines, etc.)

Sweet and white wines tend to contain more sulfites than reds, but red wines contain more tannins, which are bitter or astringent compounds found in the skin and seeds of grapes. Like sulphites, tannins can trigger allergic reactions in sensitive individuals.

Consequently, limit your intake of light beers, clear liquors, and white wine can help stave off hangovers.

Ultimately, though, experts say there’s only one true preventative — or cure — for a hangover: don’t drink.

« There’s no simple cure because there are so many complex factors that produce the multiple symptoms of a hangover, » Swift said. « And that’s why the only real cure for a hangover is to not drink alcohol or to drink such a small amount of alcohol that it won’t trigger a hangover. »

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