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Managing hangovers

Rohini Diniz

A hangover is a group of unpleasant symptoms that can develop after drinking too much alcohol and typically occurs when the blood alcohol content drops significantly and is at or near zero in the morning after a night of heavy drinking. The symptoms of a hangover depend on what and how much is drunk and include fatigue and weakness; excessive thirst and dry mouth; headaches and muscle aches; rapid heartbeat; nausea, vomiting or stomach pain; poor sleep; increased sensitivity to light and sound; dizziness; shakiness; decreased ability to concentrate; mood disturbances such as depression, anxiety and irritability.

There are no cures for a hangover and those who do enjoy drinking alcoholic beverages, need to be wise with their choice of foods prior to, with and after drinking so as to minimize them. Here are some golden do’s and don’ts of social drinking to prevent hangovers

Dilute drinks properly and avoid neat helpings. Diluting drinks with fizzy drinks such as soda or soft drinks, increases stomach motility which in turn increases the absorption of alcohol making one get drunk faster. Soft drinks also increase the calorie content of the drink thereby contributing to an increase in the overall calorie content of the diet. To keep calories in check, dilute drinks with plain water or unsweetened fruit juices.

Do not mix different kinds of alcoholic beverages.

Sip you drink slowly rather than gulping it down.

Eat a substantial meal before drinking. Alcohol is rapidly absorbed on an empty stomach and the presence of protein and fat delays its absorption. Alcohol is also a known stomach irritant and increases the production of hydrochloric acid in the stomach leading to a nauseated and sick feeling of a hangover. Consumption of deep fried preparations like potato wafers, French fries, batter coated nuts or chicken lollipops further add to the gastric irritation. Some good snack choices include grilled fish or chicken or paneer, kebabs, momos, dimsums, unsalted roasted nuts. Ask for snacks to be served with green salads tossed with curd-based dressings.

Eat well to metabolise alcohol better. Vitamin B, vitamin C, magnesium, zinc and selenium are some of the nutrients which help metabolise alcohol better. Studies have shown that the levels of cytokines are relatively high during hangovers and consumption of fruits and vegetables with high antioxidant potential such as green leafy vegetables, pomegranate, jambul, guava and apple is useful.

Alcohol depresses the amount of anti-diuretic hormone (ADH) in circulation causing the kidneys to excrete of large volumes of urine leading to dryness of the mouth and mucus membranes throughout the body. The most important concern in a hangover is to prevent dehydration by drinking adequate amount of water and beverages such as coconut water, unsweetened fruit juices, buttermilk and fresh lime juice (nimbu pani). Avoid coffee and tea as they act as diuretics increasing water loss from the body worsening dehydration.

Women should not compete with men when it comes to drinking as men can tolerate more alcohol than women of the same height and weight.


(Writer is a consultant nutritionist with 19 years of experience, practicing at Panaji and can be contacted on


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