excerpted from Hangover Cures by Ben Reed
Let’s face it. The occasional hangover, for those of us who enjoy a tipple, is a certainty in life. But why do we continue to punish ourselves? Surely, in this day and age you’d think we’d have developed the technology to counteract the tilt-a-whirl feelings, lethargy, cotton mouth, and throbbing headaches that are part and parcel of a hangover?
While the following “cures” may help ease your suffering (or, at least, attach a crooked smile to your pained expression), quite simply the only way to truly cure a hangover is not to drink too much the night before.
“Hangover Cures” From Around the World
Old wives’ tales are never more in their element than when applied to the hangover. You’ve heard them and you’ve probably tried a few of them out of sheer desperation. Here are a few from around the world.
- If you’re in France, drink thick, hot onion soup the morning after.
- In Switzerland they rely on a hot shot of brandy with a hint of peppermint. (Typical Swiss, always on hand with a brandy!)
- If you find yourself hungover in Russia, you’d probably be recommended heavily slated cucumber juice and black bread soaked in water.
- A glass of heavy cream would be the solution in Norway.
- If, by some strange twist of fate (or a bachelor party gone horribly wrong), you wake up the worse for wear in Outer Mongolia, you might wish for home when presented with a pickled sheep’s eye in a glass of tomato juice to cure your ills.
- For one of the least mettle-testing cures, when in Puerto Rico, rub a lemon into the armpit of your drinking arm.
Hangover “Cure” Myths
I am not going to beat around the bush—the following “cures” don’t work. Stop tormenting yourselves.
- A cup of coffee in the morning: This old villain may well help to wake you up, but it contains caffeine (a diuretic), which will increase dehydration and irritate your stomach further. If you are a regular coffee drinker, however, you may want to administer a small dose of caffeine—there’s no need to suffer from two drug withdrawals at the same time!
- The hair of the dog that bit you: Some more alcohol will take away your pain but will possibly return it two-fold the next day. For me, however, anything that will ease my suffering for even a second is worth a try.
- Sex: I really don’t enjoy being the killjoy here, but sex just isn’t the cure it really should be. Can you imagine if it were, though…?
Before, During, and After the “Cure”
The answer to the question “What causes a hangover?” is a complex one. There is more than one reason for all that pain. Most hangovers are caused by a combination of dehydration (lack of fluids in the body), the loss of sugars and salts, and poisoning of the system with alcohol—or, more precisely, the impurities in alcohol. You can never really know when a hangover is going to creep up on you and, once it’s there, how to deal with it. However, help is at hand. Here are some ways to avoid a hangover just by being a bit clever. (And let’s face it, none of us are particularly good at this while under the influence, so read carefully.)
- Have a glass of water after each alcoholic drink: Water keeps your body hydrated. When you drink alcohol, its diuretic qualities mean that your body expels more liquid than you drink. The body requires water to function and, if various organs within it are deprived, they will steal it from wherever they can, including the brain. (See where I’m going here?) The brain doesn’t actually feel pain, but when it starts shrinking due to loss of fluid, filaments connecting the outside membranes to the inner skull start to stretch and this is what gives you the gnawing pain in your head in the morning. Dehydration caused from increased alcohol intake makes your brain shrink. Now will you listen to me?
- If you mix it up, remember the rules: Beer before liquor, never sicker. Liquor before beer, no fear. Beer then wine, feel fine. Wine then beer, feel queer. Confused? Me, too.
- Remember, carbonated drinks affect you faster: The bubbles help the body absorb the alcohol at an increased rate.
- Avoid too many sweet drinks (this means nix the piña coladas): Not only do they make you act like a bit of a jerk, but the sweet flavors often hide the taste of alcohol, giving you an unrealistic view on how much you are drinking.
- Eat something sweet before bed: Alcohol attacks the glycogen that is stored in the body. It breaks it down to glucose, which is washed out of the body when you visit the restroom. When this energy source is depleted, you will feel heavily fatigued. Originally published January 1, 2011.