You headed to the hottest new bar in the West End with your best friends, there was good food, cocktails, dancing, flirting and shooters to end out a fabulous night out.
However this morning you have woken up to a pounding head, mouth like the bottom of a bird cage and a stomach that won’t stop churning. Your mind is foggy, movements slow and you promise to yourself that you will never drink again – again!
But just what caused your body to have such a harsh reaction and just why does it get worse with age not better with experience?
“The critical enzymes for breaking down booze are somewhat diminished in efficiency as we age,” explains cultural anthropologist, research Professor James M Schaefer.
“It has been suggested that acetaldehyde is one of the key toxic chemicals that influences the severity of a hangover,” Dr Schaefer says. “So any deterioration in ADH levels would contribute to worse hangovers.”
So what is it about alcohol that causes a hangover exactly?
“Ethanol itself, and the by-products of alcohol metabolism by the liver, especially acetaldehyde, which is thought to be highly toxic, are typical culprits,” says Dr Schaefer. “Our bodies produce enzymes to attack these agents but they only work at set rates, thus the accumulation – the excess – we have the next day makes us feel ill.”
And while most of us will have a lie-in and head for a big fry up to soak up the alcohol the next morning, medical professionals recommend three simple steps for eliminating a hangover:
- take aspirin or ibuprofen for the headache;
- drink fluids to counter the dehydration, especially before going to bed;
- and eat light foods high in carbohydrates and natural sugars to calm nausea.
And is there anything we can do prevent getting a hangover while still enjoying a tipple – particularly as we get older?
“As we age, we may be unable to avoid chemical changes that could be wrecking the efficiency of our liver, and we should avoid lousy intoxicants, as they are guaranteed to cause digestive or metabolic discomfort,” says Dr Schaefer.
“The more expensive liquors are often filtered and triple or more distilled — thus, cleaner alcohol, less junk,” he said.
So aim for quality and not quantity to have a fabulous night out and a great morning the next day too.