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Hair of the Dog
by Staff
Magazine Issue: AUS/NZ Issue One
Parties start, friends fly in, you forget to eat dinner, there were more people at the table when you left to buy the shout, you were on antibiotics at the time ... blame what you like baby, you gotta hangover.

Hangover

What is it?

"Headache, tremulousness, nausea, diarrhoea and fatigue combined with decreased occupational, cognitive or visual-spatial performance..." Yeah yeah, what's the chase? Your head thumps from the inside out, your limbs shake so much you spill sugar on the table before it reaches your coffee which you don't think you can stomach any way 'cause all you wanna do is throw up. But you need it because you're so tired. As for facing up to work and actually using your head? Not a chance. Your head feels like a cabbage and the only thought you can muster up is that you will never, ever drink again. You promise.

According to our very own on-hand medico, Dr Shymal Dhar, the alcohol hangover is a real medical condition. The reason you feel all these things is because, well, you drank too much and your body is reacting. Whether alcohol is pleasurable or painful is all in the quantity you drink it in. Couple of glasses of whatever can enhance an occasion, drinking for the country will result in much woe.

What's the damage?

Despite the fact you do feel better over time and that usually, a hangover is not permanent, the physical and mental damage can be permanent.

Everything they told you about killing brain cells is true. When you're drunk, they drop like flies. For those wise arses who rebut with the reasoning that we use such a minute portion of our brain, I mean Einstein only used 10% of his, and we can afford to rid ourselves of the excess, there's an even stronger argument for drinking in moderation.

You see, our brains are already programmed to degenerate at a predisposed rate. Bollocking yourself silly with too much plonk only speeds up this process so that by the time you hit 80, you're left with only a portion of the brain cells that you were previously programmed to have. And you thought your Nana was a bumbling old fool when in fact she was just the party girl of her day.

It's not only your brain cells that diminish when you drink too much, your pride can take a battering too when you realise that dancing on the bar at the family wedding was probably not the most entertaining thing you could've done. Not to mention the damage it just caused between the two of you.

And if all that's not enough, there's the physical danger that comes with having poor judgement - hailing a cab and falling in front of it, crossing a road without looking. Potentially it's endless.

A recent British survey noted that Australians missing work because of a hangover cost the rest of us $AUS7.29 billion in lost wages in one year. Kiwis with a similar attitude cost their country $AUS635 million. It's worth noting here that the Brits, who have nearly three times as many people, lost $AUS6.33 billion. Says a lot for calling last orders at 11pm like they do in the UK or that Aussies have a fairly blase attitude to their jobs. That or we can't handle our grog.

What affects the severity of a hangover?

Lack of food consumption. Having food in your stomach doesn't make the alcohol any less potent, if you have too much you will still get a hangover but it prevents the stomach from getting agitated. This is one of the symptoms of a hangover.

Clear liquors such as rum, vodka and gin tend to cause hangovers less frequently. Drinks like brandy, wine, tequila, whisky and other dark liquors have some leftover nasties from the distilling process called congeners. These increase the frequency and severity of a hangover. Despite what they say about not mixing your drinks, there's no real evidence to suggest that having a few different types of drinks can make a hangover worse. The most likely scenario is that by the time someone had actually drunk a few different types of drink, they had consumed a lot anyway and it's the quantity of alcohol consumed, not the mix, that gave them a hangover. Variety is in fact very palatable.

While we're on variety in your drinks, try to vary your poison with a fair portion of water. Dehydration is one of the biggest causes of the symptoms of a hangover. Other factors that increase the severity of a hangover are things that make you feel pretty average at the best of times but are often branded as part of a hangover because they went with the drinking. These are, lack of sleep - often a big night is a late night, increased activity while drinking and if you have poor health anyway, getting boozy won't help your cause.

How to avoid a hangover

Pace yourself, eat, get sleep, drink lots of water, take a vitamin B tablet before bed, don't exert yourself physically while drunk - you're not 10 foot tall and bullet proof, don't have a late night and if you're gonna drink spirits, stick to the clear ones.

Hangover Remedies

Because hindsight's a beautiful thing and you can't undo what's already done, here's the low down on what might help ease the pain. And try to learn from last night's mistakes, will you. Only take in the recommended quantities.

Water
When you're drinking you urinate way out of proportion to the amount you're drinking. This excess expelling of fluid makes you very dehydrated. Drinking water helps to prevent a hangover, not by diluting the alcohol in your system (alcohol travels through your system at same rate as if you'd had a litre of water) but as a rehydrator against all that lost liquid. At this late stage, it'll still help.

Bloody Mary
Few can agree on why a Bloody Mary came to be the best drink for the morning after. Others would in fact argue it doesn't - all that tabasco and worcestershire - how's that gonna settle your stomach? Some are all for it because it's a fairly nutritional drink that you don't have to chew, while others just like it cause it's got vodka in it. Who in fact knows? Just find somewhere that does them well.

Panadol
Acts by killing the pain and lowering temperatures without causing stomach agitation. Important because you often get an upset stomach with a hangover.

Panadeine
This fella's got paracetamol like panadol but it's also teamed with codeine. This latter part provides pain relief by telling the brain that it's really not as bad as it seems. Kinda like your mum only much easier to take with a hangover.

Dispirin
From the aspirin school of drugs, it works the same as paracetamol but is also anti-inflammatory. Well known for having nasty affects on your gastrointestinal system - not good when battling a bout of booze induced nausea.

Nurofen
This shiny nugget is an anti-inflammatory that contains no aspirin. A good pain killer that has less nasty gastro-intestinal affects but should still be used with caution by those who have a history of asthma and or sensitive tummies.

Berocca
Yeah we all know what it gives you b-b-b-back, but what is it? Basically, a vitamin B complex in an effervescent tablet so it's readily absorbed. A night on the tear depletes many of your water-soluble vitamins, of which Vitamin B is a member. It's also involved in the metabolism of alcohol and helping to release energy from the cells. Prime time to drop? Right before bed with a big glass of water.

Alka Seltzer
Another of the bubbly tablets, this one contains aspirin and antacid. Quite a combo, it works as an anti-inflammatory, kills the pain, lowers temperature and the antacid bit neutralises the acid in your stomach that causes gastritis (sore guts).

Lucozade
A cocktail of glucose syrup, vitamin C and water that works as an immediate form of energy. Throwing back a bottle of this is like mainlining sugar.

Gastolyte
Know this first: your body is swarming with things called electrolytes. Upset the normal balance of these (which excessive drinking does) and your cells don't function properly. This beverage replenishes the lost electrolytes, gives energy in the form of glucose and helps reverse the dehydration. Yep, all in one drink.

Antioxidants
These little fellas mop up free radicals (no, not the S11 types) that float around your system and can cause cell damage. A useful cleaner to have as booze can increase the body's production of free radicals in the long term.

St Mary's Thistle (herbal)
The liver works to breakdown substances that can be harmful into substances that aren't. This milk thistle is thought to cleanse the liver and help rid it of the nasty stuff. Worth a shot.

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