Tis’ the season to be jolly, which probably also means you’re going to be more drink-y. But don’t resign to the fact that you’re going to be suffering from a series of hangovers just yet—you can actually control the factors that play a role in why you suffer from those unpleasant effects. For one, and you probably know this already, binge drinking and drinking on an empty stomach increases your odds of suffering from those dreadful symptoms.
“Alcohol is also a diuretic and can lead to dehydration, which will worsen hangover symptoms such as headache and thirst,” says Dr Lui Hock Foong, a gastroenterologist at Gleneagles Hospital.
This is just the tip of the iceberg, of course. Read on to find out why else you suffer from hangovers, and how you can avoid them.
Reason #1: You’re drinking dark-coloured alcohol
Congeners are toxic chemicals that are produced along with the alcohol during the fermentation process and our bodies turn their attention to congeners after they have broken down the alcohol.
“Coloured alcohol contains high amounts of congeners, so consuming dark-coloured alcohol such as whiskey, brandy and tequila is more likely to result in a hangover than consuming clear spirits such as vodka, gin and rum,” says Dr Lai.
“While alcohol tolerance has a genetic basis, the development of hangovers is more dependent on the type of alcohol consumed, and the circumstances surrounding the way it is consumed.”
Reason #2: You’re drinking too much (worse if it’s on an empty stomach)
Dr Lui says that, aside from avoiding dark-coloured alcohol, we should drink plenty of water when having alcoholic drinks.
“A good guide is to consume one glass of water between every drink, and to consume a big glass of water before going to sleep,” he says. He also suggests having some food while drinking.
“This prevents the alcohol from being too rapidly absorbed into the body.”
Reason #3: You’re old (sort of)
You may have also heard that the older we get, the more likely we are to suffer from hangovers, and the worse they can be. Although unproven, there might be some truth to these claims.
‘While there is little scientific data to suggest that ageing increases the odds of hangovers, this phenomenon is widely reported,” says Dr Lui. “Some reasons put forth are the increase in body fat, which causes an individual to drink more before feeling the effects of alcohol, and the consumption of concurrent medication.”
How to drink responsibly without feeling like death the next morning
Drinking may be enjoyable, but alcohol in excess is toxic and can damage the liver, brain, heart and nerves. So how much should we be consuming really?
“Although some individuals have higher alcohol tolerance because of their genes, most of us have average alcohol tolerance. As such, everyone is advised to drink within safe limits, which is 14 units of alcohol a week,” says Dr Lui. “This translates to two units or two drinks a day. A drink comprises one glass of wine, one shot of hard liquor or half a pint of beer.”
OK, we may have a couple more drinks on a Friday night—but it’s not like most of us consume alcohol every day anyway. And as long as we make the effort to reduce the unpleasant symptoms that will follow, we’ll be able to wake up the next day without feeling like death.
Hangover cures worth trying
Got a nasty hangover? Dr Lui suggests doing these things to reduce the symptoms.
1. Drink plenty of water to overcome dehydration and to flush the remaining alcohol and congeners out of your system
2. Eat a good breakfast to boost low blood sugar levels
3. Take medications such as paracetamol
4. Consume prickly pear, red ginseng and ginger as there is evidence that these supplements can also diminish symptoms