Everyone who has ever had one too many knows the misery of waking up the morning
after the night before with a thumping hangover. That combination of headache,
nausea, hypersensitivity and gastric upset that we call a hangover is, of course,
caused by drinking alcohol.
When you drink alcohol, you take poison into your body. Having a hangover after
drinking is nothing more than the after-effects of poisoning. Alcohol poisons
people in two ways physically and psychologically. The physical effects
include the familiar headaches, vomiting and nausea.
The psychological effects are subtler and vary from person to person. Alcohol
is a depressant drug. Drinking too much is overdosing on a depressant. Your
body responds the next day by bouncing back from the depression, becoming hypersensitive.
This explains why many people with a hangover are cranky, irritable and easily
The physical effects are the result of the havoc that alcohol causes in bodily
- Alcohol dehydrates the body. Your liver needs water to dissolve and expel
the toxins it receives from alcohol. When the bodys reserves run out,
the liver borrows water from other organs, including the brain.
- Boozing can cause a mild dose of malnutrition, since it strips your body
of its storage of vitamins and minerals, and depletes blood sugar. The loss
of some of these trace elements can make a bad headache much worse.
- Some alcoholic drinks contain complex organic poisons, such as methanol
and acetone, which many researchers believe could be the instigators of a
- In a bad harvest year, wine may contain more impure elements than in other
- Nearly all red wines, and Chardonnay white wines, are matured in wooden
barrels. During the first three or so years of a wines maturing, many
poisonous substances present at bottling are neutralised in the barrel. If
these wines are drunk too young, they will have a higher level of toxins and
may contribute to a bad hangover.
drink is most likely to cause a hangover?
The rule of thumb is that the paler the spirit, the less painful the subsequent
hangover. This is due in no small part to tiny toxins called cogeners that are
present in alcoholic drinks. The darker the drink, the more cogeners it contains.
A glass of Bourbon whiskey, for example, contains eight times as many cogeners
as the equivalent amount of vodka. Tests published in the British Medical Journal
discovered that Bourbon was twice as likely as vodka to cause a hangover. It
is generally accepted that cheap red wine will cause the worst hangover, followed
by brandy, dark rum, whisky, white wine, gin and vodka.
However, drinking too much beer is likely to cause a hangover by dehydrating
the body through urination, while drinking alcopops or sweet liqueurs can lead
to a hangover by causing nausea.
Mixing your drinks is the most surefire way to procure a hangover.
is the best way to treat a hangover?
Alcohol can affect different people in many different ways. Some people have
a high tolerance level for alcohol, and may feel compelled to drink heavily
in order to feel the effect of drinking. Others may react very severely to alcohol,
with flushes, rashes or violent vomiting, and may never be able to enjoy a drink.
The only guaranteed way to avoid a hangover is to avoid drinking alcohol, but
given the central role of the pub in Irish social life, this advice may be more
pious than practical. For those who prefer not to abstain from drinking, alcohol
must be treated with respect - and this means moderation.
There are as many hangover cures as there are drinkers, but the best way to
treat a hangover is as if it was a severe cold. Rest as much as possible, and
rehydrate the body by drinking water. Sweet drinks may help in replacing blood
sugar, but may also cause nausea.
Some people always make a point of drinking at least two or three glasses of
water just before going to sleep, and swear by this as an effective method of
either reducing or even eliminating a hangover after drinking. The effectiveness
of this method is that it combats dehydration. It certainly can't do much harm,
if you've already drunk quite a lot of alcohol.
Avoid tea and coffee, as they will only dehydrate
the body further. Dont have a "hair
of the dog"
it only works by delaying the hangover till later. You simply remain
drunk, harm your body further, and will still have to face that hangover eventually!
to top of page