So, you have just woken up, with your head feeling like it is being crushed in some sort of crushy device, you’ve knocked over the glass of water you sensibly poured before passing out and forgetting about it last night, trod on the tail of the cat who in return has lacerated your leg, and smacked your toe hard against a chair that wasn’t where your treacherous sense of spacial awareness told you that it should be.
Good morning after, and welcome to your…
1 a severe headache or other after effects caused by drinking an excess of alcohol.
But just what is wrong with you?
Very brief science
The biggest problem that you are facing is one of dehydration. Alcohol is a strong duretic, for every 250ml of a normal strength drink you swallow, you will expel about 800ml of liquid through urination.
This means that in order to have kept your hydration level the same you would need to have drunk 3.5 times as much non alcoholic fluid as you did alcoholic. I reckon it’s a fairly safe bet that this is not the case.
There are also, to name a few, congeners, acetaldehyde (the reason that women get worse hangovers than men), and glutamine rebound to factor in.
If you are suffering enough to have just googled ‘how to lose a hangover’ you probably don’t care at all about biology right now and just want to know how to fight it.
The scientific answers – What works and what doesn’t
Don’t dismiss science just yet though, because it is going to help you out now. There are some things that will not help you, no matter how much you think they are going to and then there are a few very simple things that really can help lift you up out of your current self inflicted misery.
Let’s start with the five things you might think are a good idea, but that you really DO NOT want to do:
Don’t take Aspirin – Alcohol thins your blood, and aspirin does exactly the same thing. Thinning your blood even more than it already is seems pretty unlikely to help you in any way. It’s also a gastric irritant.
Don’t take Ibuprofen – At least not if your hangover includes any kind of nausea. It might help your headache, but Ibuprofen is a gastric irritant and is going to make your urge to vomit even worse.
Paracetamol – Also a bad idea, they just make your liver work even harder than it is already having to.
Don’t drink coffee – It’s a very temporary pick up, but ultimately your biggest problem is that you are dehydrated, and caffeine is a duretic – this can only make things worse.
Hair of the dog. A drink will very likely make you feel temporarily better, but ultimately you are just prolonging your suffering.
And now for the five things that really will help you:
Eat burnt toast – It’s all about carbon, which acts as a natural filter. If you end up in an hospital emergency unit with alcohol poisoning they will pump your stomach full of a carbon mixture to filter the toxins. Burnt toast does this on a smaller and more comfortable scale.
Eat eggs. Eggs contain cysteine, and this breaks down the acetaldehyde which is contributing to making you feel like hell.
Get some vitamins – Especially B and C, but none of them are going to do you any harm. You can either take a couple of multivitamin pills, or drink fresh fruit juices.
Hydrate yourself – Drink water, or anything else you like as long as it does not contain caffeine, alcohol, or taurine (Red Bull) because these are all diuretics and will do the opposite of what you need them to do.
Replenish your levels of sodium and glycogen – You could do this with an isotonic sports drink if it is non-caffeinated, or you could just put a spoon each of salt and sugar in a glass of water.
and what works for me
What’s above is the conventional wisdom, these things should help everyone to get through a hangover as quickly and painlessly as possible, but…
… as we all know, everyone is different and what works for one person might not work for anyone else. So here are the things that always seem to work for me (in no particular order and without scientific explanations).
Bacon sandwich – A big sandwich filled with crispy fried bacon, with lashings of tomato ketchup and/or HP sauce.
Orgasm – I don’t know why it works, but nothing seems to help me lose a hangover like a good hard orgasm, this one is tricky if the person you share a bed with also has a hangover and doesn’t believe in the same cure.
Bloody Mary – It’s pretty much a generic cure for everything bad in the world, so why wouldn’t it work for a hangover.