"Have plenty of water, it washes away the alcohol" (Somewhat true, at the very least it does prevent dehydration.)
"Take a few Tylenol, and you'll be as good as new" (Bad idea. Your liver has already been through enough.)
"Try really greasy and salty food s. Like french fries, or something. They help you get rid of all of the toxins from the alcohol"
I've heard many pearls of wisdom over the past few years, and since then I've concluded that the best way to cure a hangover is to drink moderately or abstain altogether. Elin Roberts of the Centre for Life Education Center in Newcastle has her own idea, however: have a bacon sandwich.
According the the Telegraph, Ms. Roberts explained that "Food doesn't soak up the alcohol but it does increase your metabolism, helping you deal with the after-effects of indulgence. So food will often help you feel better".
If you break down a bacon sandwich into its component parts, it combines all three macromolecules- carbohydrates (bread) and protein and fat (bacon)- into one (delicious) breakfast sandwich, which, according to Ms. Elin makes it effective ammunition for combating a hangover. "Bread is high in carbohydrates and bacon is full of protein, which breaks down into amino acids. Your body needs those amino acids, so eating them makes you feel good... Binging on alcohol depletes neurotransmitters, too, but bacon contains a high level of aminos which tops these up, giving you a clearer head", according to Ms. Roberts.
Before I was convinced of the veracity of these claims, however, I had to do a little background research, as I have never heard of alcohol "depleting" neurotransmitters. For those of you unfamiliar with the lingo, let me explain: we feel the effects of alcohol almost immediately after consumption because it doesn't need to be digested; instead, it is readily absorbed into the bloodstream as soon as it enters the stomach, and is absorbed even quicker in the small intestine (the next stop after reaching the stomach). Upon entering the bloodstream, ethanol, which is what makes alcohol 'alcohol', is transported throughout the body, most notably to the liver and the brain. Once ethanol reaches the brain it begins wreaking havoc, causing the alcoholic stupor which accompanies drinking.
The brain is mostly made up of specialized cells known as neurons, which can communicate with each other to pass along messages to and from the brain. Neurons talk to each other by releasing neurotransmitters, which are small chemical messengers, into the space between two neurons. These neurotransmitters then relay the message to the next neuron by diffusing over and acting on receptors on the neighboring neuron.
Neurotransmitters can be either excitatory or inhibitory. When an excitatory neurotransmitter is released from one neuron and acts on the next neuron, it encourages the message being sent to or from the brain to be propagated and passed along to the next neuron. Inhibitory neurotransmitters have the opposite effect: when inhibitory neurotransmitters act on a neighboring neuron, they create a dead end and prevent the message from being passed on any further. When you throw alcohol into the equation, the ethanol passing through the brain can enhance the effects of certain inhibitory neurotransmitters and interfere with the activity of excitatory neurotransmitters. Alcohol effectively slows the movement of messages to and from the brain by obstructing communication between neurons, leading to the impaired mental processing we refer to as drunkenness; it acts as a nervous system depressant by reducing overall neural activity.
As far as I can tell, touting bacon sandwiches as a miracle cure for hangovers lacks scientific validity. While it is true that the carbohydrates in bread do trigger the release of the "feel good" neurotransmitter serotonin, the same can be said for most breakfast foods. Although alcohol does interfere with brain chemistry and the activity of certain chemical messengers, as described above, there is no evidence that it actually depletes the brain of neurotransmitters (a lack which is allegedly made up for by the protein in bacon).
The verdict: The science to support Ms. Roberts' claim just isn't there, but who needs a hangover to justify eating a bacon sandwich if the satisfaction we get from it is rewarding enough?
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