Volume 96, Issue 82
Thursday, March 6, 2003

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Cheers to beers but be prepared

By Lori Mastronardi
Gazette Staff

The Germans call it "katzenjammer" – the wailing of cats. The Norwegians call it "jeg har tommermenn" – workmen in my head. The Italians call it "stonato" – out of tune. The Swedes call it "hont i haret" – pain of the roots of my hair.

Despite the various translations of the word "hangover," the feelings associated are universal. Whatever you end up calling it, some Sunday mornings, you can't help but wish you were dead.

Perhaps you've collected bruises, hickeys, phone numbers or are lying next to an unfamiliar person in your bed. None of this matters now – you feel like crap, you curse yourself for drinking so much and you just want to sleep until the pounding stops. However, before you reach for a handful of Aspirin, or gulp down a cup of coffee, there are a few myths and misconceptions that require some clarification.

According to Western sociology professor Paul Whitehead, drinking water will decrease the risk of a hangover, or, at the very least, ease the seemingly evil effects of one. "Drink a considerable amount of water before going to bed – it will prevent severe dehydration, which is what occurs, and can potentially cause, a hangover. However, the amount of alcohol consumed makes more of a difference than how you consume it."

Jenna Allen, a health education co-ordinator at Student Health Services, also emphasized the importance of hydration, asserting that 16oz of water is the desirable amount to drink before bed.

"Drinking water prior to, during and after drinking alcohol, is critical to maintaining adequate fluid balance in your body," Allen explained.

To reduce the risk of a hangover, alternating between glasses of alcohol and water will reduce total alcohol intake and help ensure hydration.

"Sleep is the best medicine," said Western psychiatry professor Leslie Janes. "[Attempting to stay awake to avoid a hangover] will make you feel worse."

The next day, caffeine cravings can be dangerous. "Caffeine is a diuretic, [meaning it dehydrates the body,] and people are already dehydrated when hungover," Janes explained. "Coffee may help a headache, but if you do drink coffee, have at least a glass or two of water for every coffee."

The emergence of seemingly "miracle" hangover pills seem enticing, yet they lack conclusive evidence regarding their effectiveness. According to Simon Chiu, a Western psychiatry professor, some of these pills contain antioxidants, which attempt to counteract the abnormal forms of fatty acids produced by people who have been drinking.

Herbal remedies, such as ginseng, appear to speed one's recovery from hangover symptoms. Aspirin is another viable alternative, as it alleviates the pain associated with headaches and dilates blood vessels, which may potentially speed one's recovery. However, Chiu revealed that, if a person exceeds the required dosage while drinking, they threaten damage to their liver and stomach.

According to Chiu, physical activity, such as aerobics, can effectively treat a mild hangover. "The aerobic impact on the body's chemistry releases endorphins, which induce a positive effect." However, if feelings of nausea or a throbbing headache invade your thoughts, perhaps exercise should be avoided.

Ever wonder why you crave a greasy breakfast the morning after riding the booze train? "The lining of the stomach is irritated due to alcohol, and food relines the stomach to temporarily produce a feeling of well-being," Whitehead explained. So, unless you're feeling queasy, it's a good idea to succumb to hunger.

Unfortunately, despite the aforementioned suggestions, the most effective method of treating a hangover is prevention. There is no immediate cure, and Chiu recommended being lazy and indulging in lethargy. If the pains of Sunday morning are worth the fun of Saturday, then in the words of the Russian, Irish, and British – Za vashe zdorovye! Slainte! And, Cheers to that!

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2002 THE GAZETTE