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In the News

Avoiding Hangovers

By Dr. Victor Gong, Medical Director of 75th St. & 126th St. Medical, Ocean Pines Medical & Doctors Weight Control & Wellness centers, Ocean City, MD.

The infamous morning-after hangover – upset stomach, shakiness, headache, thirst, aches and pains, and that general terrible feeling that follows a night of heavy drinking.... The chances of experiencing a hangover significantly increase with five or more drinks, especially when consumed in a short period of time. Research supports that concept that the major cause of a hangover is simply drinking too much. Most likely, the alcohol and the lactic acid that builds up as the alcohol is metabolized are responsible for the nausea, headache, and irritability. The thirst is a result of alcohol's diuretic effect, increasing one's need to urinate. Other possible contributors to the hangover may be the congeners in the alcohol consumed. Congeners are by-products of distillation and fermentation, and it seems that the more congeners a liquor has, the worse the hangover. Vodka and gin have the least amount of congeners, while bourbon and red wine have more. Lastly uptight drinking, where heavy consumption is the name of the game, tends to increase the incidence of hangovers.

Some people take aspirin before going to bed, or upon waking. The aspirin may help to relieve headache and other aches and pains, but it does not decrease the amount of alcohol still in your body, so you will still have other hangover symptoms. Another "cure" is eating a meal, or putting something else in your stomach besides alcohol, to help to "absorb" some of the alcohol. The food does not actually absorb the alcohol – the alcohol will remain in your system for as long as it takes your body to metabolize it (approximately l/3 ounce per hour). Coffee and/or a cold shower – what have you got? A wide awake drunk. Exercise (sweating it out) may make you feel better because you are getting your mind off of how miserable you feel, but it doesn't speed up the metabolism of the alcohol.

Contrary to popular myths of coffee, vitamin B, and physical activity, time is the only way to cure a hangover. However, there are numerous ways to avoid a hangover. Try: drinking slowly – sipping rather than gulping, diluting drinks, avoiding shots, alternating alchollic with non-alcoholic beverages, eating a substantial meal before drinking, drinking for positive rather than negative reasons, limiting yourself to one drink an hour, or not drinking at all. (One drink is equivalent to a l2-ounce can of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or a standard mixed drink made with l ounce of liquor). One warning – the fact that someone may be consuming a lot of alcohol, yet not experiencing a hangover, may be a warning sign of a serious alcohol problem.

Enough said. Cheers to healthy drinking, but in moderation, and know your limits!

Notes

Symptoms of Alcohol Abuse:

The following symptoms are associated with abuse of alcohol:

  • Temporary blackouts or memory loss.
  • Recurrent arguments or fights with family members or friends.
  • Continuing use of alcohol to relax, to cheer up, to sleep, to deal with problems, or to feel "normal."
  • Headache, anxiety, insomnia, nausea, or other unpleasant symptoms when you stop drinking.
  • Flushed skin and broken capillaries on the face; a husky voice; trembling hands; chronic diarrhea; and drinking alone, in the mornings, or in secret. These symptoms are specifically associated with chronic alcoholism.

Nearly 100,000 Americans die each year as a result of alcohol abuse, and alcohol is a factor in more than half of the country's homicides, suicides, and traffic accidents. Alcohol abuse also plays a role in many social and domestic problems, from job absenteeism and crimes against property to spousal and child abuse.

Hangover Symptoms:

  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Irritability
  • Thirst
  • Fatigue

Symptoms usually occur on awakening after drinking excessive amounts of alcohol. In some cases, tension, paleness, tremor, vomiting, heartburn, unsteady gait, and loss of appetite.

Hangover Causes:

Alcohol by-products called congeners seem to increase the severity of a hangover. Gin and vodka have few congeners and are thus least likely to produce a hangover, whereas brandy, champagne, and whiskey have the potential to cause the worst hangovers. Red wine can also bring on a hangover because it contains tyramine, a substance that can cause severe headaches.

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