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Well ... you probably drink more alcohol than people who don’t get a hangover, and you drink more than you can handle at the time - to state the obvious.
(Why 'at the time'? Because when you're tired or stressed your body's reaction to alcohol may differ from when you're in good energy and relaxed. The same applies as you get older.)
Alcohol is classified as a poison in Chinese medicine, (which doesn’t mean that a very little doesn't do you good) and too much of it overwhelms your system.
The ability of your liver to metabolise the alcohol is related to your health which relates to your lifestyle, history of disease (including drinking alcohol) and inherited (genetic) makeup.
The result of over-stretching your liver’s ability to metabolise the poison is usually diagnosed in Chinese medicine as a form of heat.
'Heat' as a kind of disease is common and may become more so if global warming affects you. Click here to find out more.
This causes what is called ‘Liver qi stagnation’, the symptoms of which include irritability, moodiness, and tension in the head or shoulders, and ‘Liver Yang rising’ (opens in a new window) - thumping headache, tinnitus, sensitivity to light and strong odours.
The Liver is said to ‘invade’ the Stomach giving ‘rebellious Stomach Qi’ - symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, burning, bowel disturbances and abdominal distension.
Long-term heat in the liver causes cirrhosis – destruction of the liver. The liver has regenerative powers but heavy drinkers overwhelm them. Abstinence and ‘healthy’ living for long periods might be necessary to give even mild damage time to heal.
Gross damage is hard to heal.
Any constitution can be overwhelmed by excess alcohol taken too often, but previously very healthy people (good lifestyle, good genes) have to work harder at it: it helps if they develop poor self-discipline and poor self-awareness. It can also help if they have narcissistic tendencies and self-image problems, or if their judgement is clouded by taking other drugs.
People with poorer genes and lifestyle either get ill and succumb faster or learn not to indulge so much by controlling their intake. If they learn this they may easily outlive their healthier but rasher colleagues!
It is a mistake to presume that continued bouts of alcohol-drinking that lead to what seem to be milder hangover symptoms are a sign of increasing resilience. Healthy people and people unaccustomed to alcohol usually produce strong symptoms: years of determined drinking weaken the liver’s ability to react.
The depth of the disease: to be a bit technical for a moment ...
At this point (to get a bit technical) the depth in the body where the disease process manifests has gone deeper, is more serious and will take longer to cure.
A similar situation occurs with some asthmatics who take inhalers but don’t appear to catch colds suffered by their non-asthmatic colleagues. With these asthmatics, the disease process has ceased to be available at the exterior level of the nose, the throat, cough, sneeze etc and has lodged deeper: harder to cure and requires continued medication to palliate.
Alcoholics often don't have hangovers, because they keep drinking: it's when they stop that their problems begin.
For more click on Disease Process.
OK Relax again ...
However, of course as you grow up, your liver organ increases in size so can tolerate more alcohol than that of a child. But a child's liver is comparatively innocent and fresh and reacts vigorously with the poison.That's actually a healthy reaction!
Symptoms vary from person to person but if the diagnosis of ‘heat’ causing Liver Qi stagnation, Liver Yang excess and rebellious Stomach Qi fits, then because these are all signs of what is called ‘excess’ in Chinese medicine, (ie a kind of 'Yang Excess’), anything which reduces Yang, or makes it move around and, to a lesser extent balances it with ‘Yin’ will help.
(If all this Yin and Yang stuff is a bit perplexing, try reading the page on Yin and Yang.)
For rebellious Stomach Qi, anything swallowed (including food, painkillers and herbs) should normally not be taken with cold or iced water, but with warm water with a slice of ginger in it.
If you've followed the explanation of what happens, in terms of Chinese medicine, when you get a hangover, you'll realise that, depending on the syndrome in Chinese medicine, (and you can have any one of the following, or two of them, or all of them together) the following apply:
Avoid coffee and caffeine, because they tend to send energy upwards, further draining your Yin reserves. So coffee is particularly bad for Liver Yang rising headaches. (For very short periods, it may make you feel more positive, but this nearly always fools you, because it doesn't last. Then you feel worse, and probably nauseous too, as it stimulates your Liver to 'attack' your Stomach, producing nausea. Sorry.)
Avoid strong spices because they make you sweat; also they heat you up temporarily. Although alcohol has made you hot, sweating heavily cools you too fast. Spices are particular examples of hot foods, already mentioned as usually better avoided.
People who often gets hangovers (and some people who have a constitutional tendency to them) may suffer from what in Chinese Medicine is called ‘Damp-Heat’: breath and stools smell foul, pain is burning, secretions are yellow or dark, athlete’s foot is worse, tongue has dirty yellow coating, head feels heavy: you feel weary and stiff.
You could also have a urinary infection or damp sores in ‘concealed’ areas. To treat this requires rather specialised treatment if using herbs. (Such herbs are commonly bitter, astringent and cold in nature. They don’t take nice!) Acupuncture is often good too.
Some herbs that can be bought over the counter may be tried, but often self-treatment is not pursued for long enough for the herb to work. (We’ve been spoiled by fast-acting painkillers.)
Just an aside on acupuncture ...
Why does acupuncture work?
Well, let's be straight! Nobody knows for certain, though I can assure you that it's a question people are racing to find an answer for.
Traditional acupuncture relies on a knowledge of acupuncture pathways, channels or meridians. Understanding where these go, both on the surface of your body and inside it, and how each pathway reacts with the other pathways, gives an experienced acupuncturist what can seem like miraculous powers.
Well they aren't miraculous nor is there a special power. There is, however, knowledge of theory and practice and the ability to discover which channels are active and where to find the active points on the channel in question.
The active point may or may not be a traditional acupuncture point, described in textbooks. And it may need to be treated in a very particular way to get the best effect.
For research purposes this can make it hard to replicate over hundreds of cases, when even if the acupuncture point is the same for all of them (extremely unlikely) how you needle it, the direction, depth and stimulus may be different for everyone participating.
In other words, needling the point in the 'ordinary' way, might have little effect, or at least much less effect than if needled right - for that patient.
If you have sensitivity to foods containing tyramine or phenylalanine, don’t take them. These include
In addition, if you read the ideas above about Heat, avoid Heating foods, such as spicy food, fat food, rich food, and roasted food. Many forms of meat are also heating, including beef and lamb. Chicken is less heating, as is fish.
Perhaps you should read my book on Qi Stagnation which talks about better ways to deal with stress and how to manage your life.
Alternatively, ring him on 07950 012501 or freephone (only free to telephone within the UK) 0800 298 7015.
All the books in the 'Chinese Medicine in English' series should be fully accessible on Kindles and Kindle apps. (Or you can buy the softback print editions, of course.)
('Western Astrology and Chinese Medicine' published 1986, was never available in a Kindle version.)
If, having read one of my books you can write a review - preferably positive - that would help others decide whether to read it.
You can put your review on Amazon or, on this site, here.
And if you think it was terrible?
Well, let me know so I can improve it for the next person. (Ideally let me know before cursing it in public!)
Here are some of the books I (Jonathan) have written.
Subscribers to Kindle Unlimited can borrow the first four for 'free'.
Published 1986 and, amazingly, still selling. Was apparently used back then by at least one acupuncture college to help students understand Chinese medicine!
Three Reviews so far. (Despite the lurid cover, it explains the five main types of phlegm and what works best for each type. I hope it's easy to read and will be much more useful than all the websites on the subject.)
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