Hangover 101

After traveling the country and sampling every type of drink that’s local and good, I’ve heard just about everything regarding how to handle the day-after hangover. Some people have it right on, and some people are flat-out wrong.

I’m not the first to write a 101 on hangovers, but I’d like to think this one will go down as a lesson for all those out there curious to get it right.

First off, a hangover is the result of severe dehydration. Your body naturally releases hormones that allow you to absorb water. Alcohol suppresses those hormones, which explains why you’re prone to piss a lot while drinking. It goes right through you!

Consider this: for every cup of alcohol consumed, your body releases as much as four cups of water. In those four cups are natural electrolytes that keep you from feeling achy, tired, and dry in the mouth.

Your brain uses water to operate. When your body has no water, it takes from your brain, and that causes it to shrink and contract. It hurts about as bad as it looks.

A hangover is relative to the drinks you consume. A byproduct of the fermentation process, called a congeners, is what determines the intensity of your hangover. Darker spirits, such as whiskey, brandy, and tequila, as well as red wine, have high amounts of congeners. Vodka and white wine have less. The product quality has a lot to do with it as well.

Has anyone ever told you not to mix your alcohols? Congeners are the reason. Since no two are alike, you should stick with a certain drink (whiskey drinks, vodka drinks, beer, etc).

So how to cure a hangover? I’ve heard it all, from a bit of the “hair of the dog that bit you” to a cold shower to coffee. The best remedies, however, are simple:

  • Water – four cups lost for every one drink.
  • Eggs – eggs contain cysteine, an enzyme that helps your body replenish those hormones you lose when drinking.
  • Potassium – bananas, tomato juice, potatoes and sports drinks all contain potassium, which helps alleviate the effects of a hangover.

Ultimately, time is the best cure. Your body needs time to recover. Drinking more only prolongs the hangover, coffee and showers dehydrate you. You want to fill up on water, and rest it off.

Prevent a hangover by drinking some water or a light carb snack before bed… if you can remember.