The head hurts, the stomach turns, the mouth dries up, the eyes and ears become sensitive and, sometimes, regret hits. These are the most common symptoms of a hangover, generally felt after heavy consumption of alcohol. And to deal with the consequences, many people resort to popular traditions and knowledge, which do not always work.
Before unraveling which “tricks” make scientific sense in curing — or at least improving — the effects of a hangover, it is important to understand how alcohol is absorbed by the body. The path is simple: it enters through the mouth, goes down to the stomach, passes through the intestine and, finally, finds the liver. It is there that that beer or caipirinha is metabolized and divided into ethanol molecules, in a process that demands a lot of energy from the organ’s cells. Some even die, releasing liver enzymes, responsible for alcohol sickness, among other things.
— A hangover is the price that the body pays for this toxic, excessive, intense energy expenditure metabolism, caused by alcohol consumption — highlights psychiatrist Arthur Guerra, president of the Health and Alcohol Information Center (Cisa).
The specialist explains that, when ingested, ethanol reaches all parts of the body through the blood. In the brain, it initially causes pleasure, but can cause alcoholic amnesia and drunkenness, in addition to taking a similar toll as in the liver. So, if you’ve had more whiskey than you should or just want to prepare yourself in case something like this happens, see what may or may not be useful in dealing with the effects of drinking.
It is important to remember that each person responds differently. Therefore, there are items that may work better with some than with others, and as a general rule for hangovers, in addition to prevention: the more liquid, the better, as water acts as “gasoline” for metabolism. The only exception, of course, is alcohol itself.
Neither the strong nor the weak. The liquid has no pharmacological relationship with the effects of a hangover. In a belly that is already sensitive from alcohol, coffee can make the person’s situation worse. But caffeine can help reduce headaches for some people who are already used to the drink as medicine. Despite the tip, “no doctor prescribes coffee for a hangover”, jokes the psychiatrist.
There are those who say that the medicine to cure the effects of cachaça is… more cachaça. “It’s an absurd error from a medical point of view”, assesses the president of Cisa, as the addition of alcohol to the body that is already suffering the effects of drinking can delay the consequences, but the bill arrives anyway.
Commonly given at large celebrations, the items found in the “hangover kit”, such as Engov, Epocler and fruit salt, act, at most, as a placebo, says the expert. Some of these medications are even contraindicated for use with alcoholic beverages, as is the case with Engov.
To help with pain, medications with ibuprofen or dipyrone are recommended, as aspirin can further irritate the stomach and other painkillers, combined with alcohol, can overload the liver.
Can raw and/or boiled eggs cure hangovers? The “scientific basis” is usually the presence of the amino acid cysteine, which “plays a role in alcohol metabolism.” However, there are no studies to support the hypothesis, in addition to the risk of poisoning with salmonella bacteria in the case of raw eggs.
Baths are common during drunkenness, a state prior to a hangover, and can help with possible vomiting, bad odor and other conditions characteristic of those who are “high”. But in the “after”, the practical result is null, and has no effect on the metabolization of alcohol. The same goes for dunking your head in ice water.
Types and brands of drinks
It is also common to associate beverage brands — and their respective prices — with stronger or weaker hangovers. In general, it doesn’t matter to the liver whether the bottle was expensive or cheap. The same goes for the type of drink, as the volume consumed usually compensates for the difference in alcohol content.
There are, however, drinks made by hand, which may contain substances that are more harmful to the human body. According to Guerra, only in these cases will the body differentiate between drinks.
— I know people who say they run and feel the alcohol evaporate through their skin — mentions the Cisa representative.
Physical exercise helps with hangovers, but in another way. And, like hydration, it is almost always advisable, as it speeds up metabolism and, consequently, contributes to the performance of the cells responsible for eliminating ethanol from the body. Light walks help.
And the moral hangover?
The research “Young people and drinking in moderation in Brazil”, carried out by Ipec at the request of Cisa, revealed that social concerns, such as the fear of “embarrassment”, being judged or harming oneself at work are determining factors for adults aged 18 and over. and 24 years moderate their alcohol consumption, more than the potential effects on the body. In the event of inappropriate speeches, calls to an ex or betrayal, psychologist Isabella Oliveira, who works with harm reduction and risks related to the harmful use of alcohol, believes that the best way is to deal with the consequences:
— Many people use alcohol as an excuse to do things that are subject to moral judgment. There are no tips, the person has to make the choices — he adds.
In moral and physical hangovers, there are no formulas or miracle recipes to cure them. The experts’ recommendation is always the moderate use of alcohol (as there are no safe levels of alcohol intake), hydration and consumption of foods that are especially slow to digest, such as brown rice, fish and chicken, before the “binge”.