Well on Friday 30th March I had a drink. Not a massive story but I had been off the booze for almost a month so it was a big event for me!
The problem is that after a month without drinking it’s quite easy to get a hangover by indulging too much. We all regret that “one more beer” or “go on, open another bottle of wine” in the morning and sometimes even quote the classic “I’ll never drink again” (but always do). But, that doesn’t change the fact you’ve got a hangover. So what do you do?
Here is my Top 10 list of ways to prevent or cure a hangover. I’ve mixed my own remedies and hints with several scoured from ‘tinternet. Good luck!
1. Take preventative measures!
The best way to prevent a hangover is to prepare yourself before going out. Fat is good in this context as fat is digested slowly and will protect the stomach from the irritating effects of alcohol. Why not have some milk or a milkshake as well? Full-fat milk slows down the absorption of alcohol.
2. Be a softy
Every now and again have a non-fizzy soft drink or water. Why? You’ll only drink a finite amount of liquid over the course of the day/night so the odd non-alcoholic drink will mean you’ll drink less booze and ultimately have a less severe hangover. Fizzy drinks speed up the amount of alcohol going into the bloodstream.
A soft drink or water every now and again helps keep you hydrated. Alcohol is very dehydrating and this is the main cause of a hangover headache. So next time you’re at the pub after a walk on a hot summers day remember that a soft drink first will do you a lot more good than diving straight into the beer.
3. Don’t mix your drinks
Don’t worry, I’m not going to tell you to steer clear of cocktails. There are several old English sayings about mixing your drinks.
“Don’t mix the grape and the grain” (Keep wine/port/brandy separate from beer/whisky.)
“Beer then wine, I feel fine. Wine then beer, I feel queer.”
“Beer on cider makes a good rider, cider on beer will make you feel queer.”
All alcoholic drinks have impurities in them but different styles of drink have different impurities and some of them can react with one another in interesting ways. Pure ethanol is metabolically fairly clean and confirmed vodka drinkers will often bring this up as justification for their habit, and explanation for their resistance to hangovers. Red wines contain all sorts of interesting chemicals, leading to the complex flavourings typical of the breed, and although many of these impurities – such as arsenic – are poisonous, they are usually present in such minute quantities as to be relatively harmless. However, if the wine is concentrated by distillation, then as well as increasing the alcohol content, you are also concentrating the poisons. This is the reason that brandy, port and cheap red wine can give you the most monstrous hangovers, as well as gout in later life.
4. Before you go to bed/crash out/pass out…
This is my personal favourite. Before going to bed drink, eat and pop a pill.
- Drink a pint (or a large glass) of water (remember the dehydration?). Also try to have some orange juice, the vitamin C speeds up the metabolism of the alcohol by the liver.
- Eat something (my favourite is toast). In the morning it’s the lack of sugar in your body that’s responsible for that wobbly trembling feeling. Eating something will settle your stomach too.
- Pop a pill. I’ve read online that this is a bad idea so you may want to miss this one out but it seems to work for me. I tend to take a couple of paracetamol with my water, it seems to help me but we’re all unique so please be careful if you take any. Paracetamol apparently upsets the stomach and aggravates the symptoms of a hangover. Also, some pain relievers, including acetaminophen, aspirin and naproxen sodium, should not be used when alcohol is still in your system. If you want to take anything, then a multivitamin might help by replenishing some of the B vitamins you’ve urinated away during the course of the evening.
5. Sleep (plus a bit about throwing up)
Sleep is the best remedy. It won’t cure a hangover (as you won’t have one when you go to bed) but it’s the best way to let your body deal with all those toxins you poured down your throat the night before. Initially you may find it difficult to go to sleep as your body temperature will be higher than normal. Drink a bit more water (chilled, not freezing) and try to sleep.
If the room’s spinning and you feel you want to be sick, be sick. In fact if you feel like throwing up at any time in the evening it’s best to do so. Your body knows you quite well so if it tells you “I really need to get rid of the contents of your stomach” then you should really listen to it! It’s inadvisable to try to force yourself to be sick though.
6. Rehydration, vitamins and all that…
There are some sensible things to do when you wake up with a banging headache and some not so sensible ones. Here are the sensible ones!
- Rehydrate. You’re dehydrated, remember us telling you earlier? Get some water down you.
- Vitamins & Salts. Time to replace all you’ve lost, multi-vitamin tablets are the quickest way to replace all that lost goodness. Drink fruit or vegetable juice to replace vitamins, if they’re too acidic for you try mixing them with banana or yoghurt in a smoothie. Isotonic sports drinks are good all rounders and help replace lost salts and sugar.
- Drugs. As with any medication, read the packet carefully. Check the label before you take a pain reliever to reduce any hangover-induced aches.
- Shower and fresh air. Another way of relieving a headache is to sit in a really hot, really powerful shower and get the full force of it on the back of your neck. This is worthwhile because headaches are often caused by constricted blood vessels and tense neck muscles. A massage under a hot shower relaxes the tension out. Once you feel up to it a good walk will help clear the cobwebs. Getting out of your stuffy bedroom means you inhale lots of fresh air (hopefully) with good oxygen levels. I one walked around Uluru (Ayers Rock) at 6am with a monster hangover induced by too much cheap red wine. I still felt terrible but the scenery was fantastic…
7. The Fry Up
Your body is under a lot of stress and strain when it’s hungover and the thought of a cooked breakfast may make you feel worse (and give you indigestion) but but fat contains lots of calories, so you will get a much-needed energy boost. Eggs and meat are rich in the amino acid, cysteine, which is thought to be good at clearing out toxins. If you can get past the first mouthful you’ll be okay. My favourite would be a fried egg, bacon, baked beans and toast. Maybe a little black pudding on the side to remind me of home…
8. Caffeine & Coffee (don’t try this at home…)
Got a hangover, have a coffee! Why? The most common suggested cure for a hangover is in fact the exact opposite. Caffeine is a diuretic, i.e. it dehydrates you. So, any short term perkiness coffee/tea/Red Bull etc. gives you will be soon outweighed by the dehydrating effects.
If you want a coffee then feel free to have one but just make sure you keep up your water intake. In fact, if you can make it to your nearest <insert favourite coffee shop name here> then a full fat triple-choc-moc latte with cream (or whatever your preferred tipple is) may just help by putting fat and sugar into your body. Just make sure you have a water afterwards…
9. The classics: Hangover Cures from around the world
The classic English saying “the hair of the dog that bit you” suggests that a small drink of alcohol in the morning will help you. In fact there are many “traditional” remedies out there…
- Bloody Mary: vodka, tomato juice, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco and black pepper to taste.
- Bloody Maria: tequila, tomato juice, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco and black pepper to taste.
- Michelada (Mexican Bloody Mary): tomato juice, a few drops of hot sauce (not Tabasco), a few drops of Worcestershire sauce, a few drops of Maggi seasoning or soy sauce, a lime wedge (not lemon) and Negro Modelo.
- Prairie Oyster: egg yolk, Worcestershire sauce, vinegar, Tabasco sauce, and salt & pepper. I’ve seen a few versions which add a splash of Vodka.
- Bullshot: raw egg, vodka or gin, chilled beef bouillon, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco sauce and black pepper.
- Cabbage soup and pickle brine (Russia): chase with more vodka.
10. More extreme measures…
Some people have developed all manner of hangover cures. Some more extreme than others…
- Kidney Dialysis. Since you cannot depend on your kidneys to filter your blood properly after a binge, you could get a machine to do it for you. Admittedly most people don’t have access to a dialysis machine, but if you can stand getting hooked up by nurses armed with needles while still drunk, you can be sober in four or five hours without any ill effects.
- Oxygen. Popular wisdom dictates a brisk walk in fresh mountain air to dispel those post-binge blues, but the problem is that when you really need it, the last thing you’re capable of doing is getting up off the floor, let alone going out into the outside world. The theory is that the increased oxygen flow improves the metabolic rate, and thus increases the speed at which the poisons are broken down. Pilots and SCUBA divers have long known that a blast of O2 first thing in the morning does wonders in blowing away the fog.
- Ancient Rome. Deep-fried canaries (nice and “cheep“)
- Ancient Greece. Sheep’s lungs, two raw owl eggs.
- Assyria. crushed swallows’ beaks with myrrh.
- Menudo. Tripe, hominy and chilli, stewed for hours with garlic and other spices.
- Medieval. Eel with chopped bitter almonds.
- Haejangguk (Korea). Pork spine, dried cabbage, coagulated ox blood and vegetables in beef broth.
- Rabbit Dropping Tea!
Disclaimer and final thoughts
Please note that we take no responsibility for any ill effects caused by the remedies suggested here: you try them at your own risk. Nobody should mix their medicines.
Then again you shouldn’t mix cider on beer but you knew that didn’t you… 😉 Drink responsibly, enjoy your alcohol and I hope that we’ve helped you deal with hangovers. Now go and buy something from Amazon so we can spend the referral fee on wine and owl eggs!