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Entertainment, Food & Beverage

Sober solutions

Drinkers will try anything, from drinking tomato juice to eating oily food, to cure a hangover but do these remedies actually work?
The Straits Times - December 11, 2011
By: Huang Huifen
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Sober solutions Some hangover remedies that drinkers swear by include tomato juice, antacid, herbs, isotonic drinks, watermelon and, yes, even a cold beer. -- ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM

From drinking isotonic drinks to eating an oily breakfast to downing hangover pills, the marketing director of The Butter Factory nightclub, Celeste Chong, has tried them all.

But after over seven years in the nightlife industry and all that partying, Ms Chong, 32, reckons the cure for a hangover has yet to be found.

She says of the 'cures': 'They only make me feel slightly better and the keyword is 'slightly'.'

This may be worrying for those planning to make merry over the festive season and who may well drink more liquor than they intended. Cue the dreaded 'morning after' - piercing headaches, stomach- churning nausea and weariness. Remorseful revellers will try almost anything to ease the pain.

Personal assistant Tham Zhao Ru, 27, swears by a hangover remedy which she stumbled on two years ago: watermelon. She says: 'After a night of clubbing, I was so hungover, nothing looked appetising. I took a slice of watermelon to quench my thirst and within 15 minutes, my headache and nausea disappeared.'

Public relations consultant Andrew Ang, 30, drinks a can of ice-cold beer for his nausea. He says: 'My theory is that hangovers are caused by your body craving more alcohol. But since my hangover usually wears off after a few hours, I am not sure if the relief comes from the beer or just time.'

From watermelon to energy boosters to health supplements to coffee and tomato juice and even hangover pills, do any of these remedies work?

Associate Professor Malcolm Mahadevan, the head and senior consultant of the emergency medicine department at National University Hospital, says there is no proven medication or methods to prevent or treat a hangover.

Instead, most therapies are directed at symptom control and reversing dehydration and associate electrolyte loss, he says.

Hangover symptoms are a result of ethanol in alcohol being broken down by liver enzymes to form ethanal, a potent chemical compound that causes many of the unpleasant effects in a hangover, he says.

Symptoms such as dehydration may be made worse by the diuretic effect of alcohol, which causes a person to urinate a lot. This causes loss of body electrolytes, leading to dehydration.

In coloured alcoholic drinks such as wine and brandy, cogeners, which are byproducts of the fermentation process and found in great quantities in coloured alcohol, exert hangover effects as well.

Dr Bina Kurup, a consultant family physician at Raffles Medical Group, says the key to reducing some of the effects of a hangover is to simply drink water. 'I strongly advise drinking adequate amounts of water, before, during and after a drinking session to replace the fluids lost through frequent urination induced by the diuretic effect of alcohol,' she says.

Despite what doctors say, there are pills that can be bought from online shopping websites such as which claim to prevent hangovers. These pills claim to help the body metabolise alcohol better to prevent the nasty effects of a hangover.

In Singapore, the Health Sciences Authority (HSA) says there is currently no medicinal product approved specifically for hangovers. It warns people not to buy health products from the Internet. 'Products bought from dubious sources pose a high risk of being fake, or adulterated with undeclared substances that may cause serious harm to consumers,' says an HSA spokesman.

The medications to go for are those that soothe symptoms, such as aspirin for a headache and antacids such as Alka-Seltzer for nausea and vomiting.

As for Traditional Chinese Medicine, physician Luke Huang Chun Xiang of Eu Yan Sang TCM clinic prescribes herbs such as chrysanthemums, kudzuvine flower and black or smoked plum to be made into tea. These help remove heat from the body.

Still, Prof Malcolm says: 'The best advice is to avoid binge drinking so as to avoid a hangover.'



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