Hangovers are a headache, literally speaking. Here are expert tips on how to nip them in the bud. By Foo Jie Ying
The darker the shade of your choice of poison, the more likely it is going to cause a hangover the morning after.
This is because alcohol which are darker in colour denotes a higher level of congeners, said Dr Desmond Wai. Congeners are products of alcohol fermentation. Studies have shown that bourbon, for instance, has 37 times more congeners than vodka, a clear liquor.
Dr Wai, a gastroenterologist with Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital, suggests opting for light-coloured drinks – white wine over red wine, or gin over whiskey.
Not that you can avoid a hangover altogether unless you keep to an average of one drink an hour, he cautioned. This is because the liver is only able to break down half an ounce of alcohol (about one drink) per hour. Any excess alcohol is circulated within the body until the liver has the ability to process it.
According to the Health Promotion Board, a standard alcoholic drink is a 330ml can of regular beer, a 175ml glass of wine or a 35ml nip of spirit.
A hangover peaks only after the alcohol is totally eliminated from the blood.
This is when you start feeling the symptoms – the usual combination of a splitting headache, nausea, food aversion and that general feeling of wretchedness.
Experts who study hangovers cannot agree on many details of how they happen, said Dr Wai. One possibility, he said, is dehydration. Alcohol interferes with the secretion of the hormone that inhibits urination, which explains long queues at the loos in clubs.
If you feel like you are losing focus the morning after, it is because alcohol increases the inflammation markers, which affect brain function and concentration, said Dr Wai.
The only way to cure a hangover is to prevent it.
Dr Wai suggested loading up on water in between drinks helps to dilute the alcohol in your blood. Munching on bar snacks like peanuts or cheese in between drinks also help to line the stomach and reduce the absorption of alcohol.
Otherwise, Dr Wai suggested ways to minimise the symptoms the next day. Paracetamol and antacids will work for headaches and gastric pain respectively. Load up on fluids for your dehydrated body, and eat to avoid low blood sugar.
As alcohol affects your quality of sleep, you may wake up feeling groggy. “In that case, if you can, just take a day off and don’t go to work. Go back to sleep,” said Dr Wai.
A version of this story first appeared in the online edition of The New Paper on December 19, 2016, with the headline, ‘The dark secret behind your hangover’.