An unfortunately common occurrence throughout summer but what exactly is a hangover and can it be cured by ‘sweating it out’ with a workout or vegemite toast? (yes my first boyfriend told me it would cure a hangover if I had it while I was drunk. I’m not sure whether he was teasing me or just as gullible as me).
The hangover, known also as veisalgia (the norwegian word for ‘unpleasant side effects of debauchery) is usually caused by a few things;
1. Dehydration - Alcohol has a diuretic effect because it inhibits the pituitary section that secrets Vasopressin or ADH (anti-diuretic hormone). This hormone usually acts on the kidney to reabsorb water and helps the body to retain water. Obviously in the case of alcohol with this being inhibited we let go of A LOT of water. Symptoms of dehydration include; headaches, dry skin, sunken eyes, low blood pressure, bad breath, muscle cramps, fuzzy brain, poor concentration, irritability, food cravings - sound familiar? It can equate to a big portion of what you experience when you’re hungover.
2. Acetaldehyde levels - This is the poisonous stuff that, on top of dehydration just makes you feel really, really, really shit. After alcohol is swallowed, it is absorbed primarily from the small intestine into the veins that collect blood from the stomach and bowels and from the portal vein, which leads to the liver. From there it is carried to the liver, where it is exposed to enzymes and metabolized. The rate of the rise of BAC is influenced by how quickly alcohol is emptied from the stomach and the extent of metabolism during this first pass through the stomach and liver* Acetaldehyde is the result of the liver breaking down the alcohol with an enzyme called dehydrogenase. Eventually friendly glutathione comes to help attack nausea and headache inducing, toxic Acetaldehyde, converting it into Acetic Acid which is non toxic to the body. However, the liver only has so much glutathione and when you massively binge, it struggles to keep up with the overload. So basically you’re destined to feel shit until the poison is cleared.
3. Fatigue - this depends on the quality of your sleep, how long for and most importantly, in who’s bed (if it was your ex’s, it’s more than likely the hangover will be much worse). While fatigue is a pretty self explanatory factor in feeling shit, for some reason we seem to overlook it. I’ve even read articles in health magazines promoting a workout during a hangover because it will help you get over it. The only way to get over fatigue is to sleep and let your circadian rhythm fall back into it’s natural state. Barbells are an OH&S hazard at the best of times, we don’t need to increase the risk of a poor lift by adding fatigue into the mix.
I’m going to be really frank here scientifically speaking there is no cure for a hangover and nothing angers me more than when I hear of people going to hot yoga or for a cardio class to try to cure a hangover.
Let’s not forget why you feel like shit, you’re dehydrated - so hot yoga or more sweating is only going to make things worse. Please lets together acknowledge that it’s not the best way to care for our bodies. They don’t need to be punished, we’ve already done that by poisoning them with alcohol, now we need to rest and follow these steps of self care and love;
- Rehydrate - with water and some coconut water. I like to use 500ml coconut water, a pinch of chia seeds, 500ml filtered water and a pinch of sea salt to help rehydrate me, then I will just smash water for the rest of the day. Slowly but consistently.
- Bananas - potassium to again help with the mineral loss from dehydration.
- Sleep. Yep, that’s an obvious one.
What about L-cysteine that helps to produce glutathione you ask?
Well, there’s just no scientific evidence to suggest that post dietary consumption of that amino acid can actually ‘cure’ a hangover. So by all means give it a go, but I can’t guarantee that it will work. But hey, I’m into crystals so I say if a placebo works, then it’s a win win situation.