LET’S face it, whether you’re out with your mates having a beer or at home relaxing with a glass of wine, most of us enjoy a tipple.
Some people can wake up feeling as fresh as a daisy after a night on the booze, but many of us struggle to make it out of bed before midday.
If you fall into the latter camp, it can feel like you have wasted countless hours hugging the toilet bowl.
You might also curse your pals who are seemingly fine.
So why do some people get worse hangovers than others?
Nutritionist Lara Hughes says you need to understand what a hangover actually is.
Alcohol is a diuretic and therefore increases how often you urinate – making it a potent dehydrator.
Lara, founder of Wholistic Health by Lara said while being dehydrated is a major part of having a hangover, the whole picture is a lot more complex…
Lara said our genes are partly to blame for frequency and hangover severity.
The guru cited a 1972 study on 14,000 twins that found a 50 per cent correlation between how likely they were to drink, how severe the hangover was and other factors such as health, nutrition, medications and drug use.
“Another study on nearly 5,000 twins found a 40-45 per cent genetic influence over hangover frequency and hangover resistance,” she added.
You might roll your eyes when people say drinking too much will give you alcohol poisoning, but Lara says this is actually true.
It’s because of the way your liver breaks booze down.
“The liver breaks down alcohol through the enzyme alcohol dehydrogenase into acetaldehyde – a compound (and carcinogen!) that is thought to be between ten to 30 times more toxic than alcohol itself,” Lara explained.
Then, this is further metabolised into non-toxic acetic – which is a clear colourless liquid which in some forms, can be harmful to humans.
Some people, she explained, mostly those of East Asian descent, have genetic variations which increase how much of an effect booze has on them.
This usually goes hand in hand with other mutations which slow down the breakdown of other toxins.
“This results in much higher accumulation, and slower clearance, of the toxic compound – leading to immediate ‘flushing’ (in the East-Asian population, known as the ‘Asian glow’) and the collection of symptoms we know all-too-well – nausea, vomiting, headache, irritability, lethargy, flushing, sweating, depression.
“Of course, the reverse also applies. If you know someone who seemingly always ‘dodges the bullet’, it might mean they have less efficient metabolism of alcohol into acetaldehyde – and quicker clearance.”
Lara explained that booze also contains other compounds like histamine, which is why some people get a rash – especially if they already suffer from hayfever.
And headaches can be down to acetone and methanol, which are produced during fermentation.
Lara adds: “They’re highest in darker spirits (especially whiskey and red wine) and least in clear spirits (gin, vodka), alongside sulphites, all of which worsen headaches.
“Alcohol dehydrogenase is also quite inefficient at metabolising methanol, so it’s prone to linger in the body anyway – but this is especially the case for those who are genetically slow clearers, prolonging the dreaded hangover!”
DO THE DRUGS WORK?
Sometimes the booze just gets the best of you.
We tried so-called remedies to see if they can really help you step away from the toilet bowl and have a hangover-free day.
NoDaysWasted: Powered by plants and backed by science, DHM Detox was created to help the casual drinker bounce back the next day.
Does it work? I tried the supplements twice. You need to take them during your evening or before you go to bed. The first time, I had been drinking cider all day at Knebworth. I hadn’t been drunk but I knew I had consumed a lot. I took them before and sadly the next day, I was still vomiting for hours. The second time I tried them, I had a bottle of white wine and around three or four glasses of prosecco, a heavy night. I felt a little tipsy when I got home so I took the pills before bed. To my surprise the next day I didn’t have the usual symptoms of sickness. I did feel quite tired though, but that might have been more to do with the fact I didn’t get in until 3am. It seems that these pills might work for some beverages over others.
AGuulp: A blend of electrolytes and nutrients which claims to help to revive and replenish, ensuring peak performance all day, every day.
Does it work? These aren’t marketed solely as a hangover cure but do claim to aid your ‘post party’ feeling. I found that these were too hard to stomach when I felt hungover and I couldn’t keep them down. However, they did help after exercise, which I think may have partly been down to the electrolytes.
Brite: These are drinks designed to create alertness – not something most people have when they are hungover.
Does it work? I think these might help people who don’t have sickness, I personally struggled to stomach them for the first few hours. However, once I had stopped running to the bathroom, I did feel as though they gave me the pick-up I needed. But this is because they are VERY high in caffeine. So I wouldn’t recommend if you are overly sensitive to caffeine and if you are going to drink one, slowly sip over time rather than gulping them down.
Yeti & The Fox, Great Day:
Researchers from the University of Helsinki and the University of Eastern Finland found that the amino acid L-cysteine relieved alcohol-reduced ailments such as nausea, headache and stress and anxiety. With these, you take one 30 minutes before food and then two before you go to bed.
Does it work? I can’t actually believe what I’m saying, but yes. I drank ¾ of a bottle of French rose and felt fresh in the morning. When I say fresh, I actually mean fresh, not only did I not experience any sickness or headaches, but I didn’t have any of the tiredness that also usually comes with over consumption.
HUX hydration: HUX hydration has electrolytes and minerals to help your body absorb more water, reduce inflammation, improve muscle function, bolster your immune system and protect cells from damage.
Does it work? This does work – but only for mild hangovers. I had this after having a couple of drinks with not enough food and it really seemed to do the trick. I’ve also been using as an additional daily supplement as I feel like it really puts a spring in my step!
IT’S IN YOUR HEAD
Sometimes how we are feeling physically can have an impact on how our brain works.
Lara explained that two of the most important neurotransmitters (chemical messengers in your brain and central nervous system) are GABA (calming, slowing) and Glutamate (excitatory, activating).
Most of the time they are balanced – but a night on the booze can increase GABA, and dampen areas of the brain that you use for good judgement and consciousness – with all those bad decisions now making sense.
The process also blocks glutamate, which makes it difficult to form new memories.
“Again, if you’re especially prone to the cognitive impact of alcohol, you could have variations in your genetics which impact how long toxic compounds linger in your system – including your brain,” she added.
HOW CAN MY DIET HELP
Despite a recent rise in popularity of hangover medications, Lara said that when it comes to hangovers, there is no magic pill.
However, good nutritional practices can help.
This is because booze depletes nutrients including vitamin B.
Considering a good multi-vitamin, such as Evity multivitamins, which contains B Vitamins alongside vitamin C and D, selenium, zinc – helpful across the spectrum.
“Rich food sources of B-vitamins, anti-inflammatory antioxidants (and other nutrients!) can also be found in avocados and beans (red, black, pinto), so including these in your diet can support cognition and reduce post-binge blues.”
Lara added that Omega-3 is also a key nutrient for reducing inflammation.
Using an EPA-rich supplement (potent anti-inflammatory) such as Norsan’s Omega-3 Total Capsules can be greatly supportive in reducing hangover severity and promoting overall health. Good food sources include salmon, mackerel, walnuts, chia and flaxseed, she added.
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