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If you want to avoid splitting headaches, a stomach in agony and furry mouth “the day after” read on.

During special holidays, social gatherings induce excessive consumption of alcoholic beverages. Overindulging results in unfortunate behaviour, which may cause embarrassing situations, discomfort, accidents of all sorts and terrible hangovers.

     Hangovers existed the following day after humans started to consume alcohol. For most people moderation comes naturally, but some cannot control their urge to eat certain foods, others alcoholic beverages. Some nations tolerate alcohol more than others. Aboriginals tend to have a low tolerance for alcohol as do Orientals.

     Alcohol is an intoxicating and habit-forming beverage with particular characteristics in that if consumed in moderation (approximately 250 ml of wine, red wine in particular, or 60 ml of spirits at 40 percent ABV or two standard bottles of beer) it is beneficial to health; any amount over that and over time causes health problems. One of the major and incurable diseases it causes is the damage to the liver (cirrhosis), but on the other hand, when a hangover subsides the body recovers relatively quickly providing a false belief that repeated excess consumption would cause only temporary discomfort. Such is, unfortunately, not the case.

     Each excess drinking occurrence leaves its mark on the body. Alcohol occurs naturally even in the blood of tee totals. It is an organic colourless liquid consisting of oxygen, carbon and hydrogen atoms, which combined. Create a range of alcohols, the lowest quality of which is methyl alcohol, unfit for human consumption. Ethyl alcohol is purer than methyl alcohol and generally consumed. Higher alcohols serve industrial purposes.

     Alcohol is obtained by fermentation of sugar containing liquids by means of yeasts and concentrated by distillation. Alcohol consumed on an empty stomach enters the small intestines within minutes and is absorbed into the blood stream.

     Beverages that contain carbon dioxide precipitate increased stomach motility, which in turn causes quicker absorption. It is best to eat fatty foods i.e. sardines, cheese, meat, or fattened goose liver (foie gras d’oie, if you can afford it) to slow down absorption time. Alcohol must first break down the fat that lines the stomach and hence it will be absorbed much slower.

     Alcohol is diuretic and causes excessive urination dehydrating the body. This is also the cause of splitting headaches the following day. The brain tries to expand to fill the gap that the diminished water in the cranium creates.

     The best way of preventing hangovers is to control your alcohol consumption and restrict it to one standard drink per hour to give your liver a chance to break down the alcohol. (A healthy liver breaks down seven grams of pure alcohol per hour). Drink plenty of plain water between drinks. Avoid mixing sweet drinks (alcoholic and non-alcoholic). Stick to dry wines, enjoy spirits on their own, and consume carbonated beverages in moderation.

     The body has built in barriers to prevent excessive alcoholic consumption. Alcohol, particularly high-octane (proof) spirits, burns your throat and reminds you to go slow or stop, but people by-pass this mechanism by taking drinks on the rocks or mixing them with sweet fruit juices or soft drinks and often combine both in cocktails. Widely circulated conventional remedies generally fail to have desired results fast enough. Time is essentially the only element that cures a hangover; everything else may soothe the symptoms, but never cure the cause.

     Some suggest a stiff bloody Mary, but conveniently forget that you are prolonging your misery. Some suggest fried eggs and consomm√©, which help settle your upset stomach, if you can eat at all, but will not combat the other effects. Coffee has never helped an inebriated person, and should be avoided at all cost since it is also a diuretic and helps expel water.

     Be aware that drinking beer first and then switching to spirits will render you inebriated faster than when you reverse the order. Avoid mixing drinks is a better idea, but if you must mix, then start with spirits and then go to beer.

     Season’s greetings to all and remember to enjoy alcohol in moderation and never drink and drive.

Article contributed by Hrayr Berberoglu, a Professor Emeritus of Hospitality and Tourism Management specializing in Food and Beverage. Books by H. Berberoglu

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