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Saturday, February 24, 2024

Column: Nourish the hangover

Just like any reasonable student, experiencing the aftermath of binge drinking probably didn’t stop you from trying it again. Sure, alcohol damages many things. One is your body. But what many of us care about is curing that dreaded hangover, after the fact.

The problem here is that alcohol overdose causes many things to happen, meaning one remedy won’t always do the trick. The solution? Learn why you are getting the hangover to combat the symptoms.

If you know that alcohol affects your nutrition, you are on the right track. One simple but important example is dehydration. Urination and diarrhea caused by alcohol can thicken your blood, reducing its flow to your brain and contributing to a throbbing headache. Naturally, drinking water in between beverages and in the morning should do the trick.

But with your fluid you also lose vitamins and electrolytes needed for energy, making it difficult to concentrate and get out of bed the next day. Alcohol also disrupts vitamin absorption, worsening the same dilemma. Key nutrients you lose include B vitamins, potassium, sodium and chloride, contributing to exhaustion and dizziness. So while you are out, eat foods rich in these nutrients, like a whole wheat sandwich with lean red meat or tofu and leafy greens. Salted nuts work, too.

Food and fiber in your gut is also good because it slows alcohol absorption, decreasing your chances of having a nasty hangover. In the morning, have something you can stomach that is still rich in B vitamins and electrolytes, like a banana with salted almond butter, an electrolyte beverage or vegetable juice.

Alcohol also causes headache and nausea by lowering your brain’s fuel and raising your blood acidity. Luckily, this can be mitigated if you provide a constant flow of sugar to your brain with a fibrous meal as mentioned above, or a few tablespoons of cornstarch before bedtime, which will digest slowly. When you wake up, reaching for alkaline-producing foods like fresh fruits, vegetables and almonds can lower your stomach’s acidity. Keep in mind that a traditional American breakfast with milk, coffee, bread, eggs and meat further acidifies your gut, making food more difficult to keep down.

Unfortunately, alcohol intoxication not only acidifies your stomach but it also increases its permeability, leaking gut bacteria throughout your body and resulting in an inflammatory response. Yet again, you can be left with nausea and headache, along with sweating.

With inflammation in mind, there are several things you can do. If you are having food, know that omega-3 oils, rich in soy, spinach, salmon and walnuts, can reduce this immune response. Before you hit the sack, there are also a few things you can pop.

The first is a multivitamin, which, rich in antioxidants, can help against the inflammation by preventing cell damage. Second, for something stronger, you can also take a painkiller. However, if this is your solution, I suggest you continue reading to consider the effects.

While it is dangerous to couple any drug with alcohol, a painkiller can indeed take care of your headache and other pains. The problem is that every pill is different, meaning they vary in consequences and toxicity. Acetaminophen, for example, does not prevent inflammation and is more potent than other common painkillers, bringing more damage to your liver. Unlike acetaminophen, aspirin and ibuprofen reduce inflammation, but they also prevent blood clotting, provoking more stomach bleeding as you drink. Of the three, ibuprofen can be especially harmful to your kidneys, while aspirin, with appropriate dosage, is typically the least toxic.

The key is to remember that alcohol affects your nutrition and body in many ways, dehydration and inflammation included. So to remedy what you are feeling, I suggest you keep these things in mind as you choose to consume or avoid certain foods, liquids and supplements. Of course, if all this advice still leaves you with an awful morning, do remember the only honest solution to avoiding a hangover: stay drunk.

THERESA RICHARDSON posts all of her sources and articles on Facebook. Just google The Freshman Fifteen and her e-mail, terichardson@ucdavis.edu.

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