How can we prevent a hangover? Most people enjoy drinking alcoholic beverages, at least occasionally. But no one wants the pain and discomfort of a hangover the next morning if they drink too much.
II. Useful Hints
How do you know if you have a hangover? In short, you will know it. The severity varies among people, but it’s always very unpleasant. You’ll feel terrible. Symptoms may include these.
- Dry mouth and thirst
- Increased blood pressure
- Muscle ache
- Rapid heart rate
- Sensitivity to light and sound
Terms for Hangover
People in different countries often have descriptive terms for hangover. The French call it “wood mouth.” Germans refer to it as “wailing of the cats.” Italians call it “out of tune.” Norwegians identify it as “carpenters in the head.” Spaniards call it “backlash.” Swedes refer to it as “pain in the hair roots.” Obviously, all of these terms suggest misery.1
Understandably, people have long sought cures for hangover relief. The ancient Greeks thought that eating cabbage would cure a hangover. Ancient Romans thought that eating fried canaries would do the same.
Today, some Germans eat a breakfast of red meat and bananas. Some French drink strong coffee with salt. Many Chinese drink spinach tea. Some Puerto Ricans rub half a lemon under their drinking arm. Haitians sometimes stick 13 black-headed needles into the cork of the bottle from which they drank. And some Russians drink vodka in an effort to cure hangovers.
People may deeply believe in their “cures.” Yet none are effective in preventing or even relieving a hangover.2
Veisalgia is the medical term for hangover. It’s from the Norwegian “kveis,” meaning “uneasiness following debauchery,” and the Greek “algos,” meaning “pain.”
II. Useful Hints to Prevent a Hangover
1. Don’t Drink.
First, you could choose not to drink any alcohol. If so, politely declining drinks gets easier over time. Or say something clever.
“I don’t need any more hair on my chest.”
“I’m performing neurosurgery in the morning.”
“It sloshes too much when I jog.”
Or just “No thank you.”
Here’s another option. If someone offers a drink, say “Thanks. I’ll have a cola.” There are also a number of other beverages that look like alcoholic drinks. They include tomato juice, lemonade, iced tea, and water and ice cubes. Also club soda with orange juice, and tonic water with a twist or wedge of lime. And don’t forget either orange juice or 7-Up with grenadine. Clearly, not drinking alcohol is the surest way to prevent a hangover.
2. Drink in Moderation.
The biphasic curve explains how high your breath alcohol concentration (BAC) can go without negative results.
Here are some suggestions for drinking in moderation.
a) Remember that standard servings of beer, wine and spirits (liquor) have the same amount of pure alcohol. It’s 0.6 ounce p.
b) Eat before and while drinking.
c) Pace your alcoholic drinks. A good rule of thumb is one drink per hour.
d) Alternate alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. That is, two drinks in total per hour.
e) Accept an alcoholic drink only when it fits your drinking schedule.
f) Stick with standard drink sizes. That makes it easier to keep track of your intake of pure alcohol.
g.) Avoid punches. They vary widely in alcohol content. So it’s hard to judge how much alcohol you’re consuming.
g) Follow medical advice about drinking with any meds.
3. Stay Hydrated
Drink lots of water both before and while drinking. Alternating alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks is very helpful. Alcohol causes the body to rid itself of water. This is a major cause of hangovers. Very good are coconut water or a sports drinks like Gatorade. They replace electrolytes. Drinking heavily causes these nutrients to leave the body.3
4. Choose Clear Alcoholic Beverages
Choose lighter color or clear alcoholic beverages beverages. Examples include vodka and gin. They contain fewer congeners. These are substances that make a hangover worse. Darker beverages have more congeners. Examples include dark beer and red wine.4
The very best choice would be a high-end vodka. That’s because their producers re-distill and filter them many times. Thus, they have virtually no congeners.
5, Avoid Carbonated Beverages
Effervescent drinks cause more rapid absorption of alcohol. This, in turn, makes hangovers worse.5
6. Avoid Diet Beverages
Artificial sweeteners speed alcohol absorption. Avoid artificially sweetened beverages to reduce the severity of hangovers.6 Choose ones sweetened with sugar to maintain a good blood-sugar level. Or choose water instead if you’re trying to avoid sugats.
7. Don’t Smoke
Don’t smoke tobacco. It makes hangovers worse. If that’s impossible, then smoke as little as possible. Smoking while drinking makes it harder to sleep well. That can contribute to the severity of a hangover.7
8. Get Plenty of Sleep
Heavy drinking can reduce the quality of your sleep. Especially if you also smoked while drinking. So it’s important to get enough sleep. This can also reduce the fatigue and irritability of the hangover.8
9. Eat a Good Breakfast
Low levels of blood sugar are often accompany hangovers and make them worse. Eating a good breakfast (or late-night meal) can restore proper levels. In turn, that can reduce weakness and headache. Avoiding greasy foods can help reduce stomach upset.9
10. Treat Your Symptoms
For a headache and muscular aches, take ibuprofen. But avoid meds that contain acetaminophen. For upset stomach, take Pepto-Bismol.10
11. Have a “Hair of the Dog”
Having some alcohol will reduce the symptoms of a hangover. But it comes at a price. The hangover will last longer.
To prevent a hangover, don’t drink alcohol or consume it in moderation. But these added tips might help you either avoid a hangover or reduce its severity.
How Long Does Alcohol Stay in Your Body?
How Alcohol Effects Us: The Biphasic Curve Shows the Pleasure vs Pain Relationship.
III. Resources for How to Prevent a Hangover
1. Roueche, B. The Neutral Spirit. Boston: Little, Brown, p. 77. O’Hara, C. The Bloody Mary. NY: Lyons, p. 18.
2. Cottom, A. Personal communication. Nov 30, 2008. O’Hara, ibid, p. 11. Hangover remedies. Top Health, 2000 (Dec), p. 262.
3. Wiese, J., et al. The alcohol hangover. Ann Inter Med, 2000, 132(11), 897-902.
4. Verster J. Congeners and alcohol hangover. Differences in severity among Dutch college students after consuming beer, wine or liquor. Alco Clin Exper Res , 2006, v. 30 Suppl. 6pg. 53A.
5. Ridout, F., et al. The effects of carbon dioxide in champagne on psychometric performance and blood-alcohol concentration. Alco Alco, 2003, 38(4), 381-385.
6. Stamates, A., et al. Effects of artificial sweeteners on breath alcohol concentrations in male and female social drinkers. Drug Alco Depend, 2015, 157, 197-199.
7. Jackson, K., et al. Role of tobacco smoking in hangover symptoms among university students. J Stud Alco Drugs, 2013, 74(1), 41-49.
8. Verster, J. and Roehrs, T. Sleep after an evening of heavy drinking and hangover severity. Sleep Bio Rhythms, 2007, v. 5 Suppl. 1pg. A18.
9. Wiese, op cit..
10. Swift, R. and Davidson, D. Alcohol hangover mechanisms and mediators. Alco Health Res World, 1998, 22(1), 54-60.
This site gives no advice. Please see a doctor for that.