Drinking too much can make one feel pretty sick the next day. But a small population will claim their “hangover” to be a little too exaggerated for the small amount of alcohol they actually consumed.
Holly Shaw, Nurse Advisor at Allergy UK, reports to Cosmopolitan that some may actually have an “allergy” to alcohol.
Not all hangovers are equal. Some complain of headache, some nausea, some feel achy. According to Shaw, those with an allergy to alcohol, “may also be accompanied by a red rash, swelling to the eyes, lips, face, breathing difficulties, stomach upset, feeling dizzy or faint due to low blood pressure.”
She also cites sulphites and their effects on those with asthma or sensitive lungs. “The amount of sulphites contained in alcohol will vary between products, but sulphur dioxide is one of the fourteen major food allergens that are required by law to be included on labels.” So some may have an exacerbation of their asthma or lung disease when they drink.
Does alcohol contain allergens?
Sure, it can. If one is allergic to grapes, yeast, rye, hops, wheat, barley, etc., they may have a reaction when they drink alcohol.
WebMD lists the following potential allergens in alcoholic beverages:
- Egg protein (usually in wine)
- Seafood proteins
- Sodium metabisulphite
What is alcohol intolerance?
Alcohol intolerance is not an allergy. It occurs in those who lack the enzymes needed to break down alcohol. Alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH), for example, converts alcohol to acetaldehyde, and this becomes converted to acetic acid by an enzyme, acetaldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH). Some populations, including East Asians, may lack ALDH, becoming flushed when drinking alcohol as they have difficulty converting acetaldehyde, the latter building up, causing hangover-type symptoms.
Image from oxfordpresents.com
So what is a hangover?
It’s a constellation of symptoms that occur post-partying…..and include headache, muscle ache, nausea, anxiety, moodiness, wanting to avoid light and loud sounds, eye redness, thirst and dizziness, though some hangovers may have many more symptoms.
They could be caused by a variety of factors:
- Dehydration – alcohol isn’t the best choice to replace lost fluids during a night of dancing, plus it causes increase in urination
- Low blood sugar – caused by lack of good nutrition over the last 12 hours and enhanced by drinking alcohol
- Poor sleep – let me guess, you didn’t get a good nice, cuddly, deep sleep for 9 hours once you came home
- Irritated stomach lining – alcohol tends to do that and ticks off the pancreas as well
- Acetaldehyde – a chemical converted from alcohol that has been postulated to make you feel nauseous and achy, either during its breakdown in the liver or after its metabolism
- Cytokine production and release – seen in inflammatory states and can make you achy
Other theories suggesting lactic acid build up, withdrawal from drinking the night before, and congeners that are compounds that vary in alcohol types (red wine vs vodka).
How you can you treat a hangover?
The following are the most popular ways to treat hangover.
Hydrate people, hydrate. Alcohol is a diuretic, which means it makes you urinate more and lose valuable fluid and salts. Water is the easiest, most tolerable, cheapest way to hydrate. Take it slow so you don’t vomit. And not scotch and water. Just water….
An empty stomach is an irritable one. While most sources say eat a “greasy breakfast”, I would recommend balanced breakfast with protein. Give the stomach acid something to chew on but make it easily digestible. Remember the alcohol irritated your gut so you need to go easy on it. Baby steps, but healthy baby steps.
Take a short, brisk walk. The adrenaline gets the blood pumping and can help with the headache. The cool air outside will feel good when you inhale and some endorphins will release. This may help with your headache.
Drink some Sprite/Sports Drinks
Chinese researchers back in 2013 found Sprite to be the best hangover cure and even though we don’t have many other studies to back it up, the sweet and bubbly it provides makes your head and tummy feel better.
Sport’s Drinks add the salts you lost from alcohol’s diuretic features. Though many of us don’t like the taste, those who do find it a nice way to hydrate.
What is “hair of the dog”?
Originally it was a treatment to ward off rabies. One would, after being bit by a dog, put a piece of dog hair on the wound. A treating fire-with-fire strategy. It later was used for hangovers. Treating a hangover with a chaser of alcohol was supposed to elevate moods and lessen the withdrawal. To date there is not enough scientific support to recommend hair of the dog.
For next time, how do you avoid the dreaded hangover?
Want to avoid a hangover? Here’s how:
Firstly, try to avoid getting drunk. Set your limits and stick to it.
Secondly, drink plenty of water throughout the night and once you get home.
Finally, don’t drink on an empty stomach to “speed up the buzz”. Your empty gut will absorb alcohol quicker so eat a good nutritious meal prior to partying.
Avoid popping antiinflammatories or Tylenol once you get home because your stomach and liver are already irritated from the alcohol and this may make matters worse. But if any of the above “cures” don’t help, you may need to use these as a last resort.