How to Prevent Hangovers - and What to Do When You Already Have One

| by Toni Brayer MD

You know what it feels like and you know you never want to feel that way again. But what is going on in your body when you experience a hangover...and how can you prevent them?

Your body makes a remarkable set of enzymes called alcohol dehydrogenase for the sole purpose of breaking down the alcohol in your bloodstream to be metabolized by the liver. Alcohol itself is toxic and it is broken down into aldehydes, ketones and sugar for the body's use. The amount and activity of alcohol dehydrogenase is genetically determined and young women have less than young men,  and older people and different populations (think: American Indians) also express different levels. When a person drinks too much or too fast, the alcohol dehydrogenase is overwhelmed and cannot metabolize the toxic alcohol.

If you failed to drink in moderation or to hydrate and eat while drinking, you've already blown it.  Here are some proven hangover helpers:

  • Drink water. Drink it between alcohol beverages and before you go to bed. Dehydration is one cause of pounding headaches and dry mouth. You cannot overhydrate, so drink a lot of water.
  • Don't drink more alcohol in the morning. That myth of the "Hair of the Dog" only adds to the toxicity that your body is dealing with. A virgin Bloody Mary is good for the tomato juice and the salt.
  • Sleep. Rest your body so it can repair the damage you have done.
  • After you have rested, exercise. Make sure you hydrate and then try to work up a sweat by walking, cycling or just about anything that makes you sweat.
  • Take Ibuprofen with some food on your stomach. It will help with the symptoms.
  • Take a vitamin containing Vitamin B complex and Vitamin C. There is no proof that this will help, but alcohol depletes these vitamins from the body. If you can get to a health food store and drink a wheatgrass shake, that is a good way to get healthier.
  • Try this recipe: 
    • 2 liters water (about 8 ½ cups)
    • 1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
    • 1 medium cucumber, peeled and thinly sliced
    • 1 medium lemon, thinly sliced
    • 12 small spearmint leaves.  

Dude, you have poisoned yourself.  A hangover is the Divine Universe telling you that you overindulged. You are getting a clear message from every cell in your body. Listen and learn.