Booze: Yay! Hangovers: Boo!
A formula: Margarita + gin and tonic + pint of Yuengling + margarita + Jag Bomb + Jag Bomb + Jag Bomb + pitcher of Yuengling – a good meal – water – sleep – good sense = hangover and/or wish for swift death. Uggghhh.
Unless you have superhuman powers of self-control, or, I don’t know, care about your health or some other sort of crap like that; chances are, you’ve probably found yourself victim to the above equation at some point in your life. But, alas, in the morning you have things to do that require you to perform such difficult tasks as moving and acting like a human being. How to deal?
According to a recent article written by Joan Acocella for The New Yorker, hangovers peak when the last of the alcohol that has been ingested has finally been eliminated from the body and your blood alcohol level returns to zero, leaving you experiencing such bodily issues as thirst, lethargy, light-headedness, muscle weakness, nausea, and general aches and pains. These maladies can also be accompanied by slow reaction times, an inability to focus, and feelings of depression, sadness, regret, shame, and anxiety.
Woo hoo, I’ll drink to that!
But, as we all know, hangovers are tricky things. On a few occasions I’ve had no more than a few glasses of wine and woken up feeling like a pile of garbage; other days, I can take part in something similar to said Equation and leap out of my bed in the morning, ready and raring to go. According to Acocella, how your body processes alcohol can be affected in many ways. For instance, food and water consumption in the hours before drinking can, of course, ease the severity of the effects of alcohol on your body. Also, darker booze can pack more of a hangover punch, as the darker color is an indication of high levels of cogeners, an impurity leftover from the brewing process.
Additionally, your own personal levels of dehydrogenase, an enzyme that breaks down alcohol, can change how well you process it. Women, Asians, and people of Jewish descent all typically have lower levels of dehydrogenase, but some people are just genetically predisposed to lower levels, regardless of gender or ethnic background. And sometimes, you and what you’re drinking just plain aren’t friends.
Really, though, who gives a sh*t what causes it? We just want it fixed. NOW. The most common and often easiest cure is the Hair of the Dog, which can take the form of a special concoction (see: Bloody Mary) or may just be a nip more of what you had the night before. As Acocella explains in her article, scientists are unsure exactly why this works, but one theory is that by imbibing booze, you’re giving your body more ethanol (pure alcohol) to digest, therefore distracting yourself from your body’s methanol (hangover-causing alcohol toxin) digestion. Layman’s terms? You’re drowning your hangover in a redrunkening.
I myself have never been a big fan of Hair of the Dog: chances are, if I’m hungover, I don’t even want to talk about booze for at least 24 hours. Luckily, the Sober Sailor remedies for a hangover number in the thousands – here’s a little sampling:
Denny’s breakfast, McDonalds burger and fries, Coke, WATER, milkshakes and/or smoothies, spicy Mexican food, pickled herring, pickled plums, pickle juice, prairie oysters (vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, one raw egg), tea, black coffee, coffee with lemon, coffee with salt, etcetera, etcetera.
My favorite one that Acocella dug up in her research was a wide variety of soups from countries all over the world that all, oddly enough, contain tripe. i.e. “edible offal from the stomachs of various domestic animals.” (Thanks, Wikipedia!) The theoretical science behind most of these wacky cures is that you’re merely giving your body a new problem to deal with, such as a difficult-to-digest greasebag meal, thus diverting your body’s attention away from, say, your hammering headache.
And then there are the pills. The old standby, of course, is aspirin (avoid Tylenol ‘cause it apparently beats up your liver), but in the last few years the market has seen an influx of “hangover pills” with names like Chaser, NoHang, and BoozEase that guarantee to leave you feeling bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. Though lab testing on these pills has been conducted, their effectiveness is difficult to measure due to the inconsistent nature of alcohol drinking and the effects is has on different people. However, tests have shown that milk thistle extract and prickly pear essence, common ingredients in many of these pills, have proven to be highly effective in alleviating hangover symptoms in a majority of the individuals tested.
So what’s the answer here? Breakfast beer? McDonalds? NoHang washed down with tripe soup? The sad truth is, there is no surefire cure for everyone; you’ll just have to experiment and see what works for you. For my oldest brother, it’s vanilla shakes. For my roommate, it’s weed. And for me, it’s a good dash on the treadmill (I swear, it feels great!), or if I’m too shitty for movement, lots of napping interspersed with pills and water.
Of course, you could always just not drink. But where’s the fun in that?