As wonderful as the New Year's Eve party might have been, partygoers who overdid it at the bar will spend New Year's Day tormented by a hangover.
The typical symptoms are fatigue, headache, joint pain and an upset stomach that typically includes vomiting and pain. But a hangover with such severe symptoms isn't inevitable and can be avoided by following a few tips.
There are numerous tips and tricks to help people avoid having a hangover, but the reason they are effective can't always be scientifically proved.
"Headaches are caused on the one hand by the numerous additives in an alcoholic drink and because the body eliminates fluids more rapidly after the consumption of alcohol, leading to dehydration," said gastroenterologist Stephan Haas of a hospital in Aschaffenburg, Germany.
"Beyond that alcohol transforms into to the toxin acetaldehyde (ethanal), which causes vomiting, an upset stomach, headache and thirst the day after a drinking binge," he says.
Few bits of advice
First and foremost, don't drink different types of alcohol and have a non-alcoholic drink in between alcoholic drinks.
"You shouldn't drink on an empty stomach, rather always eat something substantial to create a good base," said Wolfgang Wesiack, president of the professional association of German internists. "Otherwise, you will get drunk faster because the alcohol will be absorbed faster."
The type of drinks a person chooses is also a decisive factor in avoiding a hangover. Drinks that are served warm, such as spiced wine, and drinks that are carbonated, such as sparkling wine or champagne, call for caution.
"These are absorbed faster through the stomach lining and make people drunk faster," said Haas, who is a member of a foundation at the University of Mannheim that conducts research into alcohol consumption.
The type of alcoholic drink has an influence on the severity of the hangover. "Grappa and fruit brandies have, for example, a higher methanol level and are therefore more toxic", said Haas.
To replace the fluids that are lost through the consumption of alcohol, experts recommend people drink water or a soft drink in between alcoholic drinks while they are at a party.
To the extent possible they should avoid drinking different types of alcoholic drinks. Starting with wine and then changing to beer or a drink containing whiskey or vodka, for example, is a no-no. As well known as that rule is, there has never been a scientific explanation for why, Haas said.
Many people swear by the trick of taking a few aspirin or other headache medicine before going to bed.
"While paracetamol in this case doesn't work so well, people who choose to take aspirin should consider the lining of their stomach," said Wesiack. "The alcohol is a toxin that attacks the stomach lining and can lead to inflammation." Aspirin can make it worse. Therefore, before taking aspirin, it's best to first eat something in order to protect the stomach.
Beyond these classic hangover remedies are others for which there are only partially rational explanations for why they work.
"Among them are drinking pickle juice or eating sour herring, eggs or mushrooms," said internist and nutritionist Thorsten Siegmund of Munich. Burned toast is another. The rationale behind it is that it attempts to imitate the cleansing effect of activated carbon to remove toxic substances from the intestinal tract.
"Unfortunately, this provides only limited help and for all these options, you have to say that their scientific basis is very thin," said Siegmund. The only really helpful advice therefore is to drink less.
(Sapa, December 2010)
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