Hangovers happen so easily. You had the best of intentions, but your host kept filling your glass and you lost track of exactly how much you had.  Picture it - everyone was drinking champagne and you had a few sips despite the fact that the last time you did that you threw up over the bridesmaid’s shoes at your cousin’s wedding.

Now it is morning and the whirring of the fridge sounds like a jackhammer in your head. The chink of light peering through between the curtains makes you feel as if you are being interrogated under a neon spotlight. Your mouth is as dry as a riverbed in the Sahara.

Why do we get hangovers?

“Hangovers are linked to high levels of alcohol in the bloodstream,” says Christina Dye in her book titled Hangovers: An Ounce of Prevention. “About 95 percent of the alcohol content of a drink is broken down in the liver. What’s left is excreted in sweat, breath and urine. But when intake outpaces output, blood alcohol level remains higher longer and the likelihood of a hangover increases.”

“The average healthy liver metabolises alcohol at a rate of a 30ml per hour – a full glass of wine or a large glass of beer. Obviously age, sex and body weight also play a role. Hangover symptoms are felt as quickly as one hour after the last drink was consumed, but the worst symptoms strike 8 – 10 hours later and can last up to 24 hours. The body is basically responding as if it has been mildly poisoned – that accounts for the dizziness, headaches, dehydration and heartburn.”

Alcohol is a diuretic: a substance which dehydrates you. This can also account for the hangover symptoms... proper hydration is critical for your body to function correctly. Too much alcohol also depletes the body of vitamins and minerals and plays havoc with the blood sugar levels. Methanol and acetone are found in some drinks and many believe these cause hangovers rather than ethanol (alcohol). Brandy seems to be worst for hangovers, test results in the British Medical Journal have shown.

How to prevent hangovers

There are things you can do, Dye says, apart from swearing never to drink a single drop again:

    • Don’t drink on an empty stomach, as food slows the rate at which alcohol is absorbed.

    • Drink slowly – sip rather than gulp. Never drink alcohol because you are thirsty, as it will only dehydrate you further.

    • Space your drinks – drink soda water in between your alcoholic beverages

    • Set a drinking limit for yourself and stick to it.

What you can do if you have a hangover

    • Drink lots of water as this will rehydrate you and every time you urinate, you will be getting rid of some of the alcohol from the night before. Stay away from coffee.

    • Do a bit of exercise, like a walk in the fresh air.

    • Eat lots of food. If you are feeling nauseous, nibble on some dry toast.

    • Lie down and get some rest. Your body needs it. Take an aspirin or two to sort out the headache.

    • Be patient. This too shall pass.

The only real cure for a hangover is prevention. “There are no true hangover remedies available,” said a spokesman for the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States. “The only real cure for a hangover is sobriety.” A sobering thought indeed.

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