A hangover is a combination of symptoms that develop when one consumes too much alcohol. Generally, the risk of a hangover increases with each drink. The likelihood and severity of this condition vary among individuals; some people seem not to suffer at all, while others cannot function the day after imbibing. The only sure-fire way to prevent a hangover is to avoid overdrinking. Excess alcohol intake can affect the body in more ways than one, so treatment calls for a multifaceted approach.
Consuming alcohol in high quantities can incite inflammation throughout the body. Research strongly links inflammation to a plethora of physiological disorders. Studies show that foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants, such as salmon and dark leafy green vegetables, fight inflammation and help curb the impact of overdrinking. Eating foods that lower inflammation may ease hangover symptoms.
Alcohol is a diuretic that causes excessive urine production, which leads to dehydration. While sports drinks may offer quick hangover relief with a boost of fluids, electrolytes, and sugars, these beverages often come with questionable additives. Some research suggests that coconut water is easier on the stomach than plain water or sports beverages. Coconut water can restore electrolytes depleted by overdrinking.
The average American diet provides less than half the daily requirement of magnesium, a mineral that regulates hundreds of enzyme functions. Headaches are one symptom of magnesium deficiency that may be exacerbated by excessive alcohol. This nutrient inhibits thickening of blood and clots that can lead to blood vessel spasms and the well-known hangover headache. It also relaxes head and neck muscles and works with vitamin C to break down alcohol and expel it from the body. Some experts call magnesium the “anti-stress mineral” because it can counteract alcohol’s nutrient-depleting effects. Magnesium citrate powder is one of the most convenient and absorbable forms of this nutrient. Mix it with cold or hot water to help alleviate hangover symptoms.
People who have drunk too much may experience altered mood and impaired cognitive function. Growing research, such as a 2017 article in Nature, suggests alcohol disrupts the composition of the intestinal microbiome, causing inflammatory responses throughout the brain and the entire body. Many clinical investigations conclude that inflammation is largely responsible for psychological disorders such as cognitive dysfunction, anxiety, and alcohol craving.
Nausea and vomiting are common unpleasant side effects of alcohol overindulgence. Ginger root can help calm the stomach and normalize blood glucose levels impacted by alcohol. This spice has been a popular treatment for digestive dysfunction in traditional medicine since antiquity. Current clinical evidence suggests ginger’s anti-inflammatory compounds help reduce nausea and vomiting.
Alcohol lowers blood sugar levels in many people, leaving them fatigued and moody. Healthy complex carbohydrates may help mitigate this side effect of overconsumption. Sweet potatoes, bananas, spinach, white beans, and oatmeal are rich sources of complex carbs. They enhance the gut with fiber and are digested more slowly than simple carbs, so they do not typically cause sugar spikes and crashes. Eating these foods also delivers powerful antioxidants and anti-inflammatory nutrients that help restore balance.
As the liver breaks down alcohol, it produces acetaldehyde, a toxic group 1 carcinogen. This chemical triggers hangover symptoms such as nausea and increased heart rate. According to a 2019 research article published in PLoS One, acetaldehyde impairs blood fluidity. This study also found the amino acid L-cysteine can help increase blood flow adversely influenced by alcohol intake. Eggs, a generous source of l-cysteine, have been a folk remedy for hangovers for centuries. Other foods such as cottage cheese, yogurt, and meat contain the amino acid, too. Limited studies suggest eating high-protein foods can help slow down the absorption of alcohol and lessen the severity of a hangover.
While alcohol might make you feel tired, it ultimately inhibits deep sleep and often disturbs the lighter stages. Consequently, booze-induced sleep may be shorter and less effective. Sleep deprivation may lead to headache, brain fog, and elevated blood pressure. Low levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin may be responsible for insomnia. Foods such as fish, poultry, and cottage cheese are rich, lean sources of proteins and tryptophan that may enhance the production of serotonin. Foods that contain melatonin, including tart cherries, pineapples, and oranges, may promote deep, full sleep as well.
Alcohol affects the density of the blood, which impacts the fluid within the ear canal. Subsequent distortions within the inner ear lead to a loss of equilibrium and the feeling that the ground is moving. This sensation may develop at a blood alcohol concentration as low as 0.08, the legal cutoff for driving. Dehydration can also cause dizziness. The “spins” often subside on their own, but rest and hydration can speed their retreat. Eating foods rich in vitamin B12 can counteract dizziness as well. Sardines, cottage cheese, and eggs are great sources of this nutrient.
Many popular painkillers contain acetaminophen that interacts with alcohol and can lead to severe liver problems. Ibuprofen, another widely used medication, may cause stomach issues if consumed with high levels of alcohol. These and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs may also raise the risk of cardiovascular disease. It is best to avoid such medications for hangover relief, as they can aggravate symptoms and may cause more serious issues.
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