Disclaimer: Please ask a medical expert if you have any questions regarding alcohol, its effects and problems it may cause. The following article should not be taken as advice from a medical professional.
Most university students at one point in time--likely in the morning--wish they didn't drink that extra pint of beer. A pounding headache, nausea, bloodshot eyes and diarrhea are classic signs the upcoming day will not be a pleasant one.
So what causes these vicious reminders of last night's fun? There are three main theories, but keep in mind research into the nature of hangovers is still ongoing.
Theory No. 1: Yeast, a plant-like microorganism, is a major component of most distilled products. During fermentation, the actual production of alcohol, the yeast is happy when surrounded by lots of space, plenty of nutrients and frequent removal of waste materials. But when bad things happen like overcrowding, accumulation of waste and increased temperatures, the yeast produces fusel oil. It is reportedly the worst offender for causing hangovers. So keep that in mind when purchasing cheap hooch or strong drinks.
Theory No. 2: When alcohol is broken down in the liver, it becomes acetaldehyde. The acetaldehyde is further metabolized by aldehyde dehydrogenase, but the liver can only process so much per hour. This conversion requires a lot of energy, and this energy loss can contribute to hangovers.
Theory No. 3: Congeners are an impurity or toxin in the drink itself produced by fermentation or distillation, and are the reason drinks have flavour, aroma and colour. A good rule is the more transparent the alcohol, the less congeners. Vodka and gin when compared to scotch, brandy or rum will not cause the same level of suffering.
But what if you forgot all this the night before? One thing you can do is drink lots of water during your drinking binge. Alcohol is a diuretic, meaning it makes you pee a lot, and dehydration is often a factor in hangovers. Eating food will also slow down the absorption of the alcohol into your system. Before you hit the sack, a couple of aspirins might ward off any potential headaches. Avoid carbonated drinks like the plague. The carbon dioxide gas will increase alcohol absorption and, chances are, the next morning will be awful.
So now it's the next morning. Your breakfast should include yogurt or eggs. Both contain glutathione, which removes the waste from alcohol breakdown. Over the course of the night, it's probably been depleted. Guzzle some Gatorade to replenish sugars and lost electrolytes due to sweating and frequent visits to the washroom. Also don't forget to drink more water to replace lost liquids. A multivitamin is also a good idea.
Some people swear by hair of the dog or strong black coffee to cure hangovers. Hair of the dog (a drink of beer) does contain some truth; drinking beer will replenish some lost vitamins, or gently ease frazzled brain cells into the day but it's not a good idea to add more alcohol to your body. Caffeine only increases the amount of alcohol absorbed and the amount of water excreted--something your body can't afford to lose.
Another piece of advice often suggested is to exercise. You will excrete a minimal amount alcohol in your sweat but you'll be more dehydrated, worsening your situation. While sex releases endorphins, chemicals that make you feel good, it adds the problem of finding out your fling from closing time wasn't as cute as you thought. The Internet advertises special hangover pills, but be wary since it's the Internet and the pills might adversely affect your body's chemistry.
The best advice anyone can offer is don't drink. But then again we're university students, aren't we?
Additional information provided by the University of Calgary's Dr. Elke Lohmeier-ffogel and Rob Soffer.