Health

Why you suffer from hangovers and how to avoid them this CNY

For some people, drinking alcohol is a staple of Chinese New Year celebrations.

But do not resign yourself to the fact that you are going to be suffering from a series of hangovers just yet - you can actually control the factors that contribute to those unpleasant effects.

For one, binge drinking and drinking on an empty stomach increase your odds of suffering those dreadful symptoms.

"Alcohol is also a diuretic and can lead to dehydration, which will worsen hangover symptoms such as headache and thirst," said Dr Lui Hock Foong, a gastroenterologist at Gleneagles Hospital.

Read on to find out why else you suffer from hangovers and how you can avoid them.

1. You are drinking dark-coloured alcohol

Congeners are toxic chemicals produced along with the alcohol during the fermentation process, and our bodies turn their attention to congeners after they have broken down the alcohol.

"Coloured alcohol contains high amounts of congeners, so consuming dark-coloured alcohol such as whiskey, brandy and tequila is more likely to result in a hangover than consuming clear spirits such as vodka, gin and rum," said Dr Lui.

"While alcohol tolerance has a genetic basis, the development of hangovers is more dependent on the type of alcohol consumed and the circumstances surrounding the way it is consumed."

2. You are drinking too much (worse if it is on an empty stomach)

We should drink plenty of water when having alcoholic drinks.

"A good guide is to consume one glass of water between every drink and to consume a big glass of water before going to sleep," Dr Lui said.

He also suggested having some food while drinking.

"This prevents the alcohol from being too rapidly absorbed into the body."

3. You are old

"While there is little scientific data to suggest that ageing increases the odds of hangovers, this phenomenon is widely reported," said Dr Lui.

"Some reasons put forth are the increase in body fat, which causes an individual to drink more before feeling the effects of alcohol and the consumption of concurrent medication."

How much should you drink?

Drinking may be enjoyable, but alcohol in excess is toxic and can damage the liver, brain, heart and nerves.

"Although some individuals have higher alcohol tolerance because of their genes, most of us have average alcohol tolerance. As such, everyone is advised to drink within safe limits, which is 14 units of alcohol a week," says Dr Lui.

"This translates to two units or two drinks a day. A drink comprises one glass of wine, one shot of hard liquor or half a pint of beer."

Dr Lui suggested taking these actions to reduce the symptoms:

  • Drink plenty of water to overcome dehydration and to flush the remaining alcohol and congeners out
  • Eat a good breakfast to boost low blood sugar levels
  • Avoid greasy foods as they might upset your digestive system
  • Consume ginger and red ginseng as there is evidence that they can diminish symptoms

This article was first published in Cleo Singapore (www.cleo.com.sg).

Food & Drink