Friday, June 10, 2011

Alcohol Hangover Headache

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Researchers at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia suggest aspirin and coffee are actually the best cure for veisalgia cephalgia or hangover headache.

Before this, caffeinated drinks were nor recommended because they may cause further dehydration through diuresis; and aspirin and other anti inflammatory painkillers were advised against because they irritate the stomach lining and could cause further stomach upsets after a night when you have already over indulged.

Professor Michael Oshinsky and colleagues at the Thomas Jefferson University found that the combination of caffeine and anti-inflammatory ingredients found in most pain relievers react “against the chemical compounds of ethanol, or pure alcohol.” They tested tested the effect of low doses of ethanol – about the equivalent of a single drink – on rats prone to migraines. Because low doses of alcohol typically cause headaches in migraine sufferers, this allowed them to study an alcohol-induced headache without the complication of intoxication.

Sure enough, 4 to 6 hours after imbibing, the skin around the rats' eyes became sensitive to touch, a sign they had a headache.

None of the commonly cited causes of hangovers - congeners, dehydration, or the ethanol metabolite acetaldehyde - could have caused this response, says Oshinsky. The rats were not dehydrated and they received pure ethanol. Nor did they get a headache from acetaldehyde build-up, which has been blamed for causing hangover headaches because the rats were given drugs to block conversion of acetaldehyde into acetate. In contrast, rats given acetate directly developed signs of a headache.

Caffeine and over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs, block some of the effects of acetate, and this may be one reason they give relief. If so, says Oshinsky, the best time to take them would be about 4 hours after drinking, when acetate levels begin to spike.

You will be further pleased to know that Lieberman HR et al had, in 1987, demonstrated that the addition of caffeine to aspirin, in a dose commonly employed in over-the-counter drugs, has significant beneficial consequences with respect to mood and performance.

If you are suffering from gastrointestinal disease including gastritis and peptic ulceration, forget caffeine and aspirin or any other NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) for hangover headache. In fact you should not indulge in heavy drinking in the first place. And this applies to all of us, really!

Over indulgence can seriously affect your health, judgment and can get you into a lot of trouble. Drink in moderation if you have to, it may be even good for your health! In fact, two Spanish doctors, Ramon Estruch and Rosa Lamuela, after having tested twelve hundred and fifty males and females aged of fifty and above, claimed that drinking up to a pint of beer a day is good for your health and can diminish the threat of type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure.

A final word: If you drink, do it in healthy moderation and with responsibility!*


Maxwell CR, Spangenberg RJ, Hoek JB, Silberstein SD, Oshinsky ML. Acetate causes alcohol hangover headache in rats. PLoS One. 2010 Dec 31;5(12):e15963.

Estruch R, Lamuela-Raventós RM. Alcohol, wine and cardiovascular disease, two sides of the same coin. Intern Emerg Med. 2010 Aug;5(4):277-9. CLICK HERE for further discussions with on the rats.

Lieberman HR, Wurtman RJ, Emde GG, Coviella IL. The effects of caffeine and aspirin on mood and performance. J Clin Psychopharmacol. 1987 Oct;7(5):315-20.

Congeners: byproducts of fermentation in some alcohol.

* See our previous video and write up on Drink-Driving

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