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Hangovers explained

Woken up with a blinder behind the eyes? If you can make it to the bottom of this fact file without throwing up or passing out, we might just have the solution.

Why do I feel so lousy?

Anything you sink down your throat, be it food or drink, has to be broken down by your body. The reason you feel so bad the morning after a boozing session is largely down to the by products left in your system. Darker drinks such as beer, red wine, port and brandy are most likely to leave you feeling worse off because they contain more congeners - elements that give the drink its character but which the body regards as impurities and punishes you for it accordingly.

So take me through the symptoms, quietly.

  • Headaches
    Dehydration is the main reason why you're left with such a sensitive head. Alcohol has diuretic properties, which means it makes the body lose water (and explains why you're constantly going to the loo). Waking up with a thick head and a raging thirst is basically your body's way of telling you that it lacks sufficient fluids to perform normally.

  • Nausea and trembling
    Your blood sugar levels drop in the wake of an alcohol onslaught, which can contribute to the reason why you feel so sick and deeply delicate. Alcohol is also considered to be an irritant, which is why drinking can leave your stomach in a bad way, and can contribute to ulcers down there if you're boozing heavily on a regular basis.

  • Irritability
    Triggered by the fact that alcohol is a depressant drug and you're suffering from the comedown. It doesn't help that people will have little sympathy for the way you feel.

I've been punished enough. Just gimme the cure!

Sadly there is no guaranteed way. A great deal depends on the drink you put away, as well as factors like your body size/height/metabolism. Still, everyone has their own idea about how to deal with a hangover. Some people take precautionary measures before they hit the bottle. Others have a morning after strategy that works wonders for them. So before you check out's own favourite techniques, here are some basic tips:

  • Drink plenty of water, preferably during your boozing session. Pacing yourself in this way should ensure your body doesn't dry out too badly. A pint of water before you head horizontal can also see off any headaches, but it may mean waking up with a full bladder. Or a wet bed.

  • Eat well before you drink and your body will be better equipped to soak up the stuff. Go for food that takes a long time to digest, such as bread, cheese, potato and pasta, as this will line your stomach. A pint of milk is also thought to have the same effect. If it's all too late and you're already in hangover hell, then try to eat small amounts frequently. Just thinking about food may be enough to make you want to hurl, but you're not going to feel any better until you restore your glucose levels.

  • Try not to mix your drinks, because you're only adding to the number of toxins that your body has to deal with. If you're planning on a session then stick to one kind of falling-down juice. That way you won't crash out so badly.

  • Respect the power of alcohol. If you can pace your drinking, and know when enough is enough, your system won't floor you the next day. The big fancy drinking games might seem like a laugh, but it's not so funny when you wake up in the morning with sick all down your jimmy jams.

  • Ditch 'the dog'. A hair of the dog drink might help blunt your headache, basically by making you drunk again, but all you're doing is delaying the inevitable alcohol comedown.

Updated: 13/04/2010

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