During the Christmas holidays triple the amount of alcohol consumed during the rest of the year, and folk remedies against hangovers lack scientific basis, although some improve symptoms. Therefore, if you do not want to suffer from a hangover, experts recommend you drink in moderation, and drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration.
There is never a lack of advice when looking for ways to fight against the discomfort associated with excessive alcohol. Some of the tricks that circulate as "eating before bedtime", "drinking a coffee" or even "taking anti-inflammatories" have no scientific basis. Doctors agree that the only way to avoid a hangover is to refrain from drinking, or ingest small amounts.
It is true that at this time, plagued by family and social commitments, in which alcohol intake is very common, it is difficult to be aware of abstinence. According to data from the Spanish Federation of Spirits, in our country 62 million liters of distillates are consumed annually (equivalent to 1.4 liters per inhabitant). If you add to this figure the rest of alcoholic beverages, such as wine or cider, you would exceed 100 liters.
With rapid or slow metabolism, alcohol is responsible for the subsequent discomfort that occurs with vasodilation (explaining the increase in skin temperature and redness of the face), stomach upset, increased heart rate, dry mouth, headache ...
How the hangover occurs
When alcohol is ingested, the stomach absorbs a fraction that corresponds approximately to 20% of the total, while the rest passes to the small intestine. From the bloodstream, a small part is excreted in the urine and the rest is metabolized in the liver by an enzyme called alcohol dehydrogenase.
The amount that the liver metabolizes is always the same and ranges between seven and ten grams per hour (which is equivalent to a beer), regardless of what has been drunk, as explained by the Alcoholism Program coordinator of the Mental Health Services of the Retiro district of Madrid, Gabriel Rubio.
As the body only has the capacity to metabolize a small amount every hour, if the volume of alcohol that has been ingested exceeds this capacity, intoxication occurs, which we know as drunkenness, which manifests itself initially with a comfortable euphoria that gets worse. As it increases the level of alcohol in the blood.
Alcohol (ethyl) among other functions inhibits the action of vasopressin, a hormone that causes the kidneys to save water to increase the amount of urine. When absent, the body excretes 10% more than usual, and the meninges (three thin wrappings that cover the brain) are one of the tissues most affected by this dehydration, which causes a headache.
Antoni Gual, of the Alcohology Unit of Hospital Clinic of Barcelona, points out that although many people think that alcohol is an exciting substance, in reality it is a central nervous system depressant.
Rubio warns that vomiting, drinking coffee, or using drugs such as cocaine do not relieve alcohol poisoning.
To prevent hangover, Gual recommends drinking moderately and slowly, not forgetting that drinking on an empty stomach, increasing physical activity and being dehydrated are factors that can contribute to worsening symptoms the next morning.
The Catalan specialist says that the determining factor is dehydration, since the headache and other signs, such as muscle cramps, are due to the lack of water in the body.
Gabriel Rubio says that to improve symptoms it is necessary to drink plenty of fluids, get enough sleep and, the next day, eat and exercise.