How to Beat Hangover with Hydration
Pounding headache, overwhelming fatigue, debilitating nausea — anyone who's ever had a hangover knows the all-too-familiar symptoms. Ranging from mild to severe, a hangover can make you pay for those happy hour cocktails the next day and make you swear off the drink (until next time).
Whether you've had a few trendy sugar cocktails with your friends or you woke up surrounded by bottles from the minibar and a wedding ring from a drive-through chapel in Vegas, one of the best ways to beat those hangover symptoms is with hydration and a few secrets.
Beat that Hangover with Hydration
Understanding a Hangover
Everyone knows that a hangover is a result of drinking too much, but what actually happens when we have one? Hangovers are a result of many reactions that take place when the body ingests alcohol, as well as indirect effects of withdrawal, alcohol metabolites, personal physiology and history, and behaviors associated with drinking. Alcohol directly contributes to hangover symptoms in a number of ways:
Acetaldehyde is a naturally occurring, colorless, and flammable liquid that's produced in several plants, vegetables, cigarette smoke, gasoline, diesel exhaust and, you guessed it, alcohol metabolism. Acetaldehyde is linked to the most unpleasant clinical effects of alcohol, including cirrhosis and alcoholism in severe cases.
On the mild end, acetaldehyde is responsible for nausea, vomiting, drowsiness, and headache — all the things that occur during a hangover. Under normal conditions, our bodies are capable of processing acetaldehyde with the enzyme acetaldehyde dehydrogenase. When we drink to excess, however, we don't have enough enzymes to process the acetaldehyde efficiently. If this happens, it takes a while for the acetaldehyde to build up in the system, causing a delayed onset of hangover symptoms.
To make matters worse, some people have genetic issues or take prescription drugs that lead to a lack of acetaldehyde dehydrogenase, causing a rapid onset of hangover symptoms from even one drink.
Congeners are a byproduct of the fermentation or distillation process of producing alcohol. During production, the manufacturer converts sugars into alcohol using different yeast strains, which convert amino acids into ethyl alcohol, or ethanol. The amount of congeners depends on the original sugar sources used to make the alcohol, such as cereal grains, grapes, or other naturally occurring carbohydrates. These give the alcohol its distinctive taste profile. Some examples of congeners include:
- Aldehydes, include acetaldehyde
Though the type and amount can vary, the more distillation, the lower the congeners. This is why many people prefer "top shelf" booze, which is reputed to cause less of a hangover the next day. Congeners aren't the only factor in a hangover, but a recent medical theory from 2013 suggests that the body has to break down congeners, which competes with breaking down the ethanol. As a result, alcohol byproducts reach a higher concentration, leading to more severe hangover symptoms. This is a possible explanation for why top-shelf liquors are less likely to cause a hangover because they have fewer congeners. Congeners are also believed to stimulate the production of hormones such as norepinephrine and epinephrine that cause inflammation in the body.
Another effect of alcohol is on the brain's production of vasopressin, a hormone that tells your body to retain water. Decreased vasopressin means your body releases fluid and sends it straight to your bladder, eliminating a lot of your body's water stores. As you drink more, your vasopressin production is more depressed, causing more water to be eliminated from your system. "Breaking the seal" has nothing to do with it because your body is going to keep ditching its water.
As you become dehydrated, your body rations the remaining fluids for the most vital organs, such as the heart and lungs. Your brain and muscles are on the cut list, leading to contractions and unpleasant symptoms like headaches, muscle soreness, and fatigue. But that's not all. All the water you're peeing out is taking electrolytes with it, including sodium, calcium, magnesium, and potassium, all of which are vital to maintaining proper balance within the body and many bodily functions.
Sugar isn't an issue for all drinks, but drinking sugar-laden cocktails or wine can impact your hangover symptoms. Sugary drinks lead to a blood sugar spike and subsequent crash, so you wake up feeling like death from low blood sugar. Drinking sugary drinks also masks the alcohol itself, so you're more likely to overconsume and pass that "tipping point" for acetaldehyde dehydrogenase.
Alcohol disrupts the body's natural rhythms, causing sleep disturbances. Though you may be tired and ready for bed after drinking excessively, the sleep you get is usually shorter and poor, so you wake feeling anything but rested. Over time, drinking can disrupt your sleep patterns on a regular basis.
A lack of sleep doesn't cause a hangover, but it can make the symptoms worse. Fatigue, headaches, and irritability are all worsened by a lack of a good night's sleep.
Obviously, the best way to prevent hangovers is to avoid drinking to excess. Despite your best efforts, however, how much you drink and how drunk you get is impacted by many factors, such as your stomach contents, tolerance, mood, and more, so it's easy to go overboard with the best of intentions. Other than swearing off alcohol forever, here are some ways you can prevent a hangover or lessen the severity of the symptoms:
Vasopressin reduction is a considerable factor in dehydration and subsequent hangover symptoms. Fortunately, potassium has been shown to increase vasopressin production. If you consume potassium, you can stimulate your vasopressin production to counteract the effects of drinking. Potassium is readily available in foods like leafy greens, avocados, beans, and potatoes, as well as in some electrolyte supplements.
Even if the potassium fuels your vasopressin production, drinking alcohol all night will still limit the production and your body will start dumping its water and electrolytes. If you stay hydrated, you may experience less fluid loss and the unpleasant effects of your body's fluid rationing and dehydration. Be sure to drink water before you go out, in between cocktails, and before you go to bed. You don't need to overdo it by slamming a gallon, but just drinking a few glasses over the course of the night will help your body stay hydrated.
Better, better yet, you can infuse your alcoholic beverages with an electrolyte supplement so that you can replenish those key electrolytes while you drink. Buoy is the only hydration supplement designed to be added into drinks other than water. Take it with you on your night out and squeeze into at least 75% of your drinks (the more the better) to help minimize the hangover symptoms the next day.
Drink From the Top Shelf
You get what you pay for, even with alcohol. Single, clear, top-shelf liquor has fewer congeners, giving your body room to focus on metabolizing the alcohol byproduct acetaldehyde. You're going to get congeners anyway, but you'll have a better time if you stick to one high-quality booze, rather than beer, dark liquors, red wine, or sugary cocktail mixers on special.
Acetaldehyde is the biggest factor in ruining your day after drinking. You're going to deal with acetaldehyde no matter what, but you can limit the amount and do your part to help your body process it efficiently.
Ideally, drink in moderation to avoid overloading your system. If you overdo it — or go out knowing you're going to overdo it — the amino acid L-cysteine goes a long way. L-cysteine has been shown to decrease acetaldehyde concentration, and it's found in many high-protein foods, such as poultry, beef, lamb, cheese, yogurt, eggs, and sunflower seeds. So, have some delicious bar food or convince your friends to go out for the after-drinking steak and eggs breakfast at a 24-hour diner. They'll thank you in the morning.
Get Enough Rest
If you head out for the night when you have work the next day, you'll feel even worse with only a few hours' sleep. If you can, plan your nights out when you know you can sleep in the next day so your body has a chance to recover and you can sleep off any ill effects, such as fatigue and headaches.
Avoid the Myths
A quick search on the internet will reveal a million hangover home remedies and emergency hangover cure options, few of which are backed by science. Before you try crazy concoctions that some internet dude's drunk uncle swears by and end up in worse shape, stick with the methods backed by science and take steps to prevent your hangover before, during, and after you start drinking.
Also, no "hair of the dog." In addition to limited research proving its efficacy, drinking first thing in the morning to cure your hangover can potentially lead to unhealthy habits and alcohol dependence.
Beat Your Hangover with Buoy
Preventing a hangover means attacking the effects of alcohol on all fronts, including hydration and electrolytes. Armed with potassium, sodium, and other vital electrolytes, B vitamins, and antioxidants, the easy-squeezy Buoy bottle helps you maintain your electrolyte balance and combat the loss of potassium from drinking.
Squeeze into both your water AND your alcoholic drinks for a quick and easy electrolyte boost that will curb the severity of your impending hangover!
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- Park, S., Oh, M., Lee, B., Kim, H., Lee, W., Lee, J., . . . Kim, J. (2015, November). The Effects of Alcohol on Quality of Sleep. Retrieved May 30, 2020, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4666864/
- Stein, M., & Friedmann, P. (2005, March). Disturbed sleep and its relationship to alcohol use. Retrieved May 30, 2020, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2775419/
- Acetaldehyde. (n.d.). Retrieved May 30, 2020, from https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/Acetaldehyde
- Linderborg K;Marvola T;Marvola M;Salaspuro M;Färkkilä M;Väkeväinen S;. (n.d.). Reducing Carcinogenic Acetaldehyde Exposure in the Achlorhydric Stomach With Cysteine. Retrieved May 30, 2020, from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21143248/
- Drummer, O. (n.d.). Alcohol congener analysis and the source of alcohol: A review. Retrieved May 30, 2020, from https://www.academia.edu/12160223/Alcohol_congener_analysis_and_the_source_of_alcohol_a_review