Monday, December 31, 2007

Anatomy of a Hangover

Some of you might be able to use this information tomorrow morning.

The best solution, obviously, is not to drink too much. If you are drinking, eat first, then alternate each drink with an 8 oz glass of water. And eat again before going to bed, if you aren't too drunk, preferably some protein and healthy fat. Also drink water before going to bed, and have some water beside the bed for when you wake up to pee in the middle of the night. Beating the dehydration is half the battle.

Anatomy of a Hangover

With New Year’s in the offing, the Health Blog figured it was time to consider the hangover.

For such a common malady, the hangover still has a bit of mystery about it. As an M.D. wrote in an NIH publication wrote a few years back, “Despite the prevalence of hangovers … this condition is not well understood scientifically.”

Still, it is possible to piece a few things out. Alcohol interferes with a hormone that regulates urination, leaving drinkers dehydrated, according to a hangover review in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Booze irritates the stomach and intestines, which can contribute to the gut pain and nausea associated with hangover. It also interacts with several neurotransmitters and hormones that have been associated with headaches, though the hangover-headache connection isn’t entirely clear.

But a hangover does seem to mess with your mind, according to the Annals piece. Patients with hangover have “a diffuse slowing on” an EEG test, a measurement of electrical activity in the brain, according to the review. And motor skills associated with mental processes have also been found wanting in the hung over.

So what is to be done? There’s the obvious: Don’t drink so much. Perhaps more useful: The old claim that dark-colored liquors such as whiskey are more likely to cause hangovers than clear liquors such as vodka does seem to be true. One study found that 33% of patients given bourbon had a severe hangover compared with 3% given a comparable amount of vodka.

Drinking water both during and after drinking can help reduce dehydration. And painkillers can help the morning after (though alcohol can enhance Tylenol’s toxicity to the liver, while aspirin or Advil may cause stomach distress). Taking vitamin B6 may help for unknown reasons, according to the Annals piece. The Health Blog always finds an egg breakfast useful.

But if you’re looking for solid scientific evidence, you may be in trouble. In 2005, a team of researchers reported in the British Medical Journal that they’d combed the medical literature for studies of hangover remedies. “No compelling evidence exists to suggest that any conventional or complementary intervention is effective for preventing or treating alcohol hangover,” they concluded.


1 comment:

Kensho said...

Or you could just smoke pot, and have no hangover whatsoever. :)

Man, am I so glad I gave up drinking.