Hangovers: not just for alcoholics anymore

by Laura Dillavou

When most college students hear the word ‘hangover’, images of a drunken, fun-filled, night come to mind, perhaps even ending with a trip to the porcelain throne.

However, nutritionists and dietitians are finding that hangovers can result from things other than alcohol (Cosmopolitan, Aug. 2003).

Although your body may not feel intoxicated, your blood sugar levels and digestive systems are working just as hard as compared to a wild night out.

Sometimes, we all just want candy. It’s like an urge that overcomes a person, and though I say this with respect, it most often hits females. The female body loves sugar, salt, and, need I say, chocolate.

The most practical conscience says to snack in portion, maybe a small amount after dinner, or a little treat in the mid-afternoon. But too often, the tendency is to have a candy blowout.

Once in your hands, sweets, whether it’s a Kit-Kat or Hot Tamales, seem to go down all too easily. And although that sugary snack will skyrocket your blood sugar, it doesn’t last more than a few hours since it’s refined sugar and a simple carbohydrate.

But even though the energy fades, what doesn’t fade is ‘gut-rot’ feeling of eating too much sugar. In this type of situation, getting your diet back on track is the most important (and first) step in order to feel better.

When the sick feeling starts to sink in, eat foods with substance and protein. A bagel with a slice of cheese and a slice of turkey or ham is a good example of food that gets the blood sugar levels, as well as the stomach, back in order.

Just remember that while those sweets taste so good going down, there will be payback for it…that’s why it’s meant to be eaten in portions, and not as a meal.

Another example of a common ‘food hangover’ is the huge blowout, loosen-the-belt meal late at night. While it is fun to indulge yourself after a hard week or on a date, the five course meal that tastes so delicious will catch up to you all too soon in the form of bloating, slight nausea, and bowel problems.

The body is so concentrated on sending blood and energy to the stomach in order to digest everything that has been eaten, that other body functions, like normal blood flow to the brain, the intestines, liver and kidneys will slow down dramatically.

Most often, this hits in the form of a wave of sleepiness, but in certain situations, like a meal high in fat, grease, or one that is extra spicy, the digestive system will react against the body.

When this happens, like with a sugar binge, it is important to keep eating on track and normal. Granted, a lighter meal is probably the best option and drinking ginger ale or ginger tea will help to settle a turbulent stomach.

The important thing to remember is that eating in huge quantities is not healthy for the body, and while an occasional spree won’t hurt, daily dining like a king will. It not only stretches the stomach, but it also slows metabolism, leading to weight gain.

So keep the sweets and the big meals in moderation and your stomach will thank you!