Ahhh the million dollar question... how do I drink and not feel like I've been run over by a truck the next day??
Age old remedies from the Ancient Greeks, Italians and Mongolians recommended the delightful consumption of sheep's lungs, owl eggs, dried bulls penis's and even tomato juice combined with pickled sheep's eyes as a cure (could this have been the old school version of a bloody mary?).... either way, my answer is no to all of the above.
Unfortunately the chances of a hangover post a night on the booze is highly likely... and so far, there isn't too much evidence out there on speeding up the process of alcohol metabolism, however there might some things you can do before, during and after your night of dancing, to help minimise the pain.
(Firstly, what is a hangover and why do we get them?
There are several reasons why we get hangovers. One of them is basically caused from the severe dehydration that happens when we drink. Alcohol is a diuretic (that means it makes us want to pee more often) and let's be honest, most of us forget to balance out the booze with a big glass of water in between drinks. This means we sweat more, we pee more, and we don't restore our tanks of H20 to compensate.
The second reason is due to the metabolism of ethanol (the type of alcohol in alcohol) by the liver. During phase I of our liver's detoxification process, an enzyme called alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) metabolises ethanol into something called acetaldehyde (which is even more toxic than ethanol itself). Phase II involves another enzyme (aldehyde dehydrogenase aka 'ALDH)) then metabolises it into acetate which is less toxic and breaks down into water and carbon dioxide ready to be excreted via our kidneys and sweat.
So, not only are we dehydrated, but the whole process of detoxification by our liver doesn't happen instantly - it actually takes time hence one of the reasons why the next day we feel so shit. In a 2000 study “The Role of Acetaldehyde in Actions of Alcohol,” which was published in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research study, researchers determined elevated acetaldehyde levels caused many classic hangover 'symptoms' inclusive of increased skin temperature, facial flushing, increased heart rate, lower blood pressure, dry mouth, nausea and headache. What's worse is that when we drink too much and/or if we lack enough of the enzyme ALDH, the toxic levels of acetaldehyde and/or acetate don't metabolise as quickly as they should and our symptoms feel so much worse (thank god for Netflix right??).
Lastly, the addition of 'congeners' in alcohol also add to the list of culprits for our headaches the next day. Congeners occur in alcoholic beverages as a result of the fermentation process and include acetaldehyde, methanol, esters, tannins, sulphur, and histamines. Usually the darker the drink and less expensive, the higher the amount of congeners it contains. With this in mind, congeners will be more present in drinks such as bourbon, red wine, brandy and whiskey (and might be the reason why I feel more hungover after a few wines versus if I stick to the vodka sodas all night).
You might be thinking "well I drink heaps and I never feel like shit the next day"...
And you know what? That's great - kudos to you. I wish I could say the same but unfortunately I, like most of the population aren't blessed with alcohol invisibility.
So why do some of us suffer and others not? Just like with anything when it comes to the human body there are many different factors which can worsen or lighten the impact. Sex, age, weight, height, genetics, disease, how toxic your body is in general, race and ethnicity... they all play a factor when it comes to how our bodies metabolise and process ethanol.
Drum roll please.... can we avoid the dreaded aftermath?
Unless you'd like to experiment with bull's penis's and pickled sheep's eyes, there isn't anything we can do to avoid a hangover all together.
A study conducted by Professor Michael Oshinsky (assistant professor of neurology at Thomas Jefferson University), found that in rats, it was the elevated levels of acetate which caused the severe hangover headache and that through a combination of coffee and aspirin, the symptoms could block the acetate and relief the symptoms.
But do we want to be drinking coffee and popping aspirin every weekend? Ideally not. For those of us who suffer from anxiety, the hangover combined with a coffee can actually increase our feelings of apprehension and emotional turmoil.
Like any responsible adult, we should technically be drinking water in between drinks to prevent the dehydration (duh)... also opting for alcohol which doesn't pack a heavy punch when it comes to congeners might lessen the blow - so opting for a vodka soda, as opposed to bottles of wine or sugar laden cocktails (the sugar in cocktails puts even more pressure on our liver and can worsen the severity of our hangovers even more!).
Eating a balanced meal prior to drinking can obviously slow down the absorption of alcohol meaning you don't get as drunk as fast.
Your liver needs protein (amino acids) to function at its optimal so instead of deep fried fries as your hangover cure, try getting a bit of protein into the mix too - perhaps a Mexican burrito bowl (kinda feels naughty and greasy, but also kinda not that bad for you?) - just a thought. Most Mexican foods also contain cabbage... and all cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cabbage etc) are wonderful for our liver health stimulating the production of one of our most needed antioxidants glutathione.
Personally, my hangovers tend to dissipate when I pull myself out of bed and sit in the sauna or get a massage. It could have some physiological merit to it whereby the toxins are being mobilised and released at a faster rate? Or it could all be in my head... either way it works for me. If I believe it's working, it usually works - the mind can be pretty powerful like that you know?