Drinking Water to Prevent a Hangover
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  • Drinking Water to Prevent a Hangover

    One of the easiest and most effective ways of avoiding a hangover after a night out is simply to drink water before going to bed. There are several reasons why this is so effective, more so than other supposed cures or even medication designed to combat hangovers.

    The reason that drinking water prevents hangovers is that most of the effects of hangovers are essentially caused by dehydration and toxins created as bi-products of the breakdown of alcohol being present in the body. Alcohol has a diuretic effect on the body, meaning that it expels fluids more quickly than they are consumed. Water helps to combat these effects in three distinct ways.

    Firstly water simply dilutes these chemicals in your system and thus quickly reduces their effects. Secondly water is used by the body in almost all of its processes, including the processing of waste. Increasing hydration levels will help the body to process alcohol and expel if from the body faster, once again reducing both its potency and the length of its effects.

    Most of the ill effects experienced through hangovers such as headaches, light sensitivity, feelings of weakness and the like are actually caused by dehydration, a side effect of the alcohol rather than the alcohol itself. Dehydration causes the brain tissue which is largely made up of water to contract, causing pressure and pain symptoms.

    The nausea feeling often associated with hangovers is usually caused primarily by the alcohol irritating the stomach lining. Water dilutes this effect, although won’t stop it from happening entirely. Eating before drinking alcohol, particularly something fatty, will help to coat the stomach lining, limiting exposure to irritation and slowing down the absorption of alcohol into the bloodstream. Unless you are drinking with the sole aim of achieving a certain level of intoxication, this will also mean that you are will tend to get less drunk overall, lessening any effects the next day.

    Redressing the balance of this then reduces pressure before it can build up and stops the hangover from happening. Incidentally the reason that traditional headache medication isn’t usually effective in curing hangover headaches is that they simply cause the blood vessels in the brain to expand, allowing blood to flow more easily. While dehydrated however this won’t make a huge difference since the blood thickens and won’t flow as easily regardless of how dilated the blood vessels are.

    One problem that people tend to encounter is forgetting to drink water before going to sleep, being drunk of course not being particularly conducive to remembering to do things. An effective method of combating this, and of regulating how drunk you get on a night out is to follow the rule of having one alcoholic beverage followed by one glass of water.

    A common misconception about drinking water to cure hangovers is that it is best in the morning, when the hangover is already in full swing. While this is still effective it does have downsides compared to drinking the water before sleeping. Firstly, depending on the type of alcohol consumed, drinking large amounts of water the morning after an often seem to stir up the alcohol and increase its potency, making you essentially feel drunk again as well as hungover, not a nice combination.

    Secondly drinking water in the morning is rather analogous to closing the stable door after the horse has bolted in that prevention is always better than cure. Drinking water in the morning while effective in removing a hangover will take time to work, meaning that essentially you will likely still have to go through the hangover for several hours.

    Of course in addition to drinking water, there are plenty of other simple methods of combating hangovers that alongside water can ensure hangovers are a thing of the past. Drinking on a full stomach rather than an empty one for example, or avoiding heavily carbonated drinks such as champagne known to cause worse hangovers than non carbonated drinks. Similarly some people tend to experience worse hangovers with certain kinds of superficially similar drinks than others. Knowing which kinds of alcohol affects you and avoiding them is similarly effective in reducing next day hangovers.