A shot of alcohol on an empty stomach

DOSSIERS
Hangover cures and science  Introduction
Water
Sport drinks
Amino acid
Conclusion

Source: New Scientist Conclusion

To recap: a magic potion against the hangover does not yet exist. Different people react in such very different ways, so there are surely many factors that influence individual behaviour. In eager expectation of the panacea, we’ll just have to muddle along with the traditional cures: water before bedtime, a bit of sugar, food packed with cysteine. An aspirin or the like will ease the throbbing, but watch out with the painkiller paracetamol! This will only aggravate the harmful effect of alcohol on the liver. And for those who fancy their chances with ‘sport drinks’, NAC and, when push comes to shove, a shot of vodka: effect is not guaranteed, but any old port in a storm.

The best way of not ending up with a hangover was, is and forever shall be: nice and easy does it!

Simply drinking water was the first remedy. Ethanol is hydrophobic, which means that you lose more water than you take in when you drink alcohol. It affects the pituitary gland in the brain. It also stops the production of vasopressin, the antidiuretic hormone that causes the kidneys to absorb water instead of sending it on to the bladder. Once the hormonal key is unlocked, the normal trickle of urine becomes a flood, resulting in dehydration. Now the body still needs water, so it fetches that water from elsewhere in the body, including the brain. The brain shrinks temporarily. The brain itself is insensitive to pain, but researchers are forming the opinion that the dura mater, i.e., the tough fibrous membrane enveloping the brain, shrinks. And this same reshaping touches the pain-sensitive filaments connecting the cerebral membranes with the cranium. Water-loss can therefore cause pain in other parts of the body.

However, the volunteers found that drinking water alone did not help all that much, except for the dry mouth. And that was all.

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