We know you are not a doctor, but what causes a hangover?
Alcohol in the bloodstream causes the pituitary gland to block production of a chemical called vasopressin, causing the kidneys to send water directly to the bladder instead of reabsorbing it back into the body. Ironically, the largest reservoir of water in the human body is the brain. Your body’s organs try to steal that water in order to replenish their own supply of liquid. This causes the brain to decrease in size and pull on the membranes connecting it to the skull. Headache.
What do you normally recommend to prevent hang-overs?
Before you go out, take a multivitamin. The diuretic effect of alcohol on your body will deplete available vitamins and minerals and a supplement will help build up your overall supply. While you are out, stay hydrated. Drink one full glass of water for every alcoholic beverage. And eat something — a full stomach slows down the absorption of alcohol which allows more time for your body to process the toxins.
OK, I did not follow your advice. What now?
Drink hydrating, electrolyte-rich drinks: Gatorade, Ensure, Vitamin Water, et cetera. Fizzing electrolyte drinks aren’t a good idea if your stomach is a little upset. Coconut water and ginger kombucha are my favorite rehydrators. And NAC (N-acetyl cysteine, available at most pharmacies) helps with liver repair; it helps the body build up antioxidants.
Christina Mueller is a long-time Bay Area food writer. She hails from the East Coast and has spent way too much time in South America and Europe. She discovered her talent as a wordsmith in college and her love of all things epicurean in grad school. She has written for Condé Nast Contract Publishing, Sunset, and the Marin Independent Journal, among others. She volunteers with California State Parks and at her child’s school, and supports the Marin Audubon Society, PEN America, and Planned Parenthood. When she is not drinking wine by a fire, she is known to spend time with her extended family.