Now we have explored how alcohol affects the brain and some of the possible causes of the alcohol hangover – and why you can blame alcohol for your morally vacant actions – we can finally get around to working out a cure. The general consensus is that you can’t actually cure a hangover, but taking into account what we have learn’t about the pathogenesis of this pathetical problem, we can surely employ a strategy of damage limitation and symptom alleviation to maximise our eat, sleep, rave, repeat cycle.
Before you go out you need to make sure that you are hydrated, drink lots of water throughout the day and avoid caffeine, to limit dehydration of the coming urination-al cup (toilet-athalon, W.C.up, leak-athon, take your pick of the puns, but either way, your levels of bodily fluids are loo-ering tonight – I’ll stop). Couple this with a full stomach before drinking, this will lessen the likelihood of alcohol irritating your stomach lining, causing you to vomit; it will also slow the rate of alcohol absorption, giving you staying power (the kind of staying power you will need to reach the pinnacle of drunken night dialectics – allowing you to broach seemingly immaculate conclusions to the world’s deepest and most elusive of political, ecological and controversial conundrums – before falling asleep, forgetting everything and resigning your hard work to the ‘almost solutions’ of history). Furthermore, eat foods high in vitamins and minerals; tonight is going to be a long onslaught on your body’s micronutrients, make sure you are well stocked before the battle begins. If you like, you can invest in some multivitamins to further bolster your body’s defences, especially those high in the antioxidants vitamin c and vitamin b1, these amicable aids will be ready to start detoxifying your body as soon as the battle begins.
Now you have done the preparation for this skirmish it is time to let the slippery dogs of war out of their bottles. But, if you are looking to lessen the hangover, then choose a particularly clear dog (such as a good quality gin or vodka): the lack of toxic congeners in these drinks lead to less severe hangovers. And don’t forget to stay stocked up on that other clear liquid too. Drinking water on a night out is seen as a sign of weakness, but if you are serious about lessening the hangover, and keeping your mouth from feeling like industrial-grade sandpaper in the morning, just keep chugging it down and see how weak everyone else is in the morning.
Immediately before bed may be the perfect time to start your fight back against the inevitable hangover. Although I don’t recommend anybody cooks at this time, it is certainly going to be beneficial to eat a couple of eggs. Eggs are rich in an amino acid called cysteine, which is an essential constituent in the production of glutathione (gloota-thigh-own), an integral part of acetaldehyde cleanup. As you drink more alcohol, your stores of glutathione get used up, by eating cysteine rich foods you can replenish your used stores of glutathione. By eating a few eggs, or chicken, or salmon, before bed you are going to further enable your body to break down that nasty metabolite, therefore lessening the debilitative effects of the hangover. I know chowing down on a seasoned side of salmon isn’t the most practical of pre-bed protocols, but swapping your meat-free kebab for a chicken fillet burger could give you the head-start you need. Taking an aspirin (a prostaglandin inhibitor) before bed will also aid you in this fight, high levels of prostaglandin have been linked to more severe hangovers (however, aspirin can also irritate your stomach, so if you aren’t feeling too great already then best leave this solution for the morning). Now is also the perfect time to start the rehydration regime. Keeping a few full glasses, or a 2-litre bottle (of water), next to your bed could save you from braving the perilous bedroom-kitchen labyrinth and spare you from the embarrassment of experiencing the pinnacle of 1st-world problems: not being able to leave your comfy bed to quench your thirst, no matter the proximity of the closest oasis.
In the morning, when you finally muster the fortitude to divorce the sacred sacrament of body and bed, you are going to appreciate last night’s prophylactic precautions – but the battle is far from over, the real fight has just begun. It goes without saying that rehydration is a major priority, but it is by no means the only deficit which needs redressing. As you merrily frequented the fine-smelling toilets during last night’s urination-al cup, you parted with vital electrolytes, and it’s important that these are replaced quickly. This can either be achieved by purchasing some rehydration sachets or from natural food sources. Every element of your hangover breakfast should be chosen on its medicating merit. You will, I hope, be pleasantly surprised that the classic hangover cure, a full english breakfast, is not too far from the optimum, with a few slight alterations. Eating eggs, bacon, beans and toast in the morning will set you on the road to replace lost electrolytes, it will also allow you to synthesise more glutathione from these cysteine-rich foods. A good addition to this would be a banana, as the high levels of potassium and sugar will replenish your lost stores. Orange juice is another great idea to replace glucose and for topping up that amicable antioxidant vitamin c, however on top of your breakfast this may further irritate your stomach; a good alternative is an effervescent vitamin c tablet, some also contain b vitamins.
Finally comes the coffee question: does caffeine help or hurt the hangover? While it may reduce your tiredness initially, when the caffeine wears off it is going to leave you even more incapacitated than before you drank it. Couple this with the dehydrating effects of caffeine and I don’t think it makes a good candidate for a hangover cure, but if it works for you then by all means continue.
Before: Hydrate, multivitamins, full stomach.
During: Clear alcohols, stay hydrated, cysteine-rich pre-bed meal.
After: Rehydrate, cysteine-rich foods (eggs, chicken, etc.), replace electrolytes (banana), vitamin c & b1, aspirin.
Find the rest of the Alcohol and You series here: