Alcohol and hangovers

You may have noticed in my last blog that I'm a Simpson's fan. One of the greatest quotes I've heard about the hard stuff has come from Homer himself, "Alcohol, the cause of and solution to, all of life's problems". It's hard to disagree.

Alcohol and students go together like Robert De Niro and Martin Scorsese. At this time of year especially with Freshers Week it's hard to avoid it.

The clear health advice is to avoid binge drinking and keep at least 2 days alcohol free days in the week. Binge drinking is defined as 8 units or more for men and 6 or more for women. When we consider that 1 pint of cider is 2-3 points and 1 large glass of wine is 3 points, how many people can hold their hands up and say they have never binge drank? Not me.

Most of us will overdo it from time to time. One definition of a hangover is 'a group of unpleasant signs and symptoms that can develop after drinking too much alcohol'. However anyone who has experienced The Fear may argue that this is somewhat of an understatement. There are varying degrees of hangover, nicely illustrated by PG Wodehouse's six varieties of hangover- well worth a read.

Dehydration is one of the biggest contributors to the hangover effect. Trying to keep your fluids (of the non alcoholic type) up will help to ease symptoms. This can be achieved by alternating alcoholic drinks with water or having a large glass of water before going to bed. With the loss of fluids, come the loss of electrolytes, salts and sugars. Rehydrating using sports drinks or dehydration sachets can be useful. Orange juice can prove too acidic on a delicate stomach so vary your fluids to find one that suits you, for example apple juice.

Contrary to belief, eating is not cheating! Although substituting your dinner for a bottle of wine may result in a cheaper night out, it will also result in a much worse hangover. Choosing a meal with a good mix of carbs, protein and fat before drinking helps slow the rate of alcohol absorption. On the morning after the night before, choosing a greasy fry up isn't always the best option. If you can eat, try to have a banana, for example in a smoothie, as it will replace some of the lost potassium from the night before. Ginger tea or biscuits and peppermint tea or biscuits can help settle an upset stomach.

Hangover Food

While these can help reduce the effect of a hangover, they do not protect the liver from damage. Although our liver does have the ability to regenerate, we still need to safeguard it's health. Keeping alcohol consumption within the advised limits will achieve this. Ladies also need to be wary, as we have a different body composition to men, meaning we are more susceptible to the effects of alcohol. Men can suffer fertility problems due to excessive alcohol consumption in the long run.

In summary aiming to keep the frequency of binge drinking to a minimum and trying to avoid drinking to get hangovers altogether is desirable. Because although you may not feel them too bad now, the damage is still being done to your body. And believe me, like death and taxes, they catch up with everyone eventually.

Marie Hannon