Hangovers, congeners and cures

doggie bagIt’s not even January 1 and there’s an article about hangovers! Joan Acocella writes in the New Yorker about the phenomenon that Egyptians call “still drunk,” the Japanese “two days drunk,” the Chinese “drunk overnight” and the Danes “carpenters in the forehead.”

While drinking to excess without a resulting hangover might sound like something technology should have fixed by now (in a world of fat-free desserts, how could they not?), Acocella doesn’t suggest much in the way of a cures. But she does talk about various causes. To wit:

The severity of a hangover depends, of course, on how much you drank the night before, but that is not the only determinant…And what kind of alcohol did you drink? In general, darker drinks, such as red wine and whiskey, have higher levels of congeners—impurities produced by the fermentation process, or added to enhance flavor—than do light-colored drinks such as white wine, gin, and vodka. The greater the congener content, the uglier the morning.

Does that red-white difference ring true for you? What about “natural” winemaking? Partisans of sake often tout its purity and some even go so far to say that it doesn’t give headaches. I’ve never put that to the test.

And as to the cure, she suggests wearing sunglasses and moping around. Just kidding. Folklore often dictates the “hair of the dog.” But I’d steer clear of this morning-after twist from a Ukrainian in the story: “two shots of vodka, then a cigarette, then another shot of vodka.” She counsels to avoid Tylenol since it increases toxicity to the liver. For prevention, she points to advocates of drinking lots of water, a glass of milk or eating a meal prior to drinking. And, of course, consuming alcohol in moderation.

A Few Too Many,” By Joan Acocella, The New Yorker

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10 Responses to “Hangovers, congeners and cures”

  1. “Consuming alcohol in moderation to prevent a hangover.” Brought to you by the creators of the abstinence program in high school. 🙂

  2. This topic reminds me of a cartoon I did a few months ago: http://www.redwinebuzz.com/headache3sml.PNG

  3. In my college/fraternity days, I followed this regimen: an electrolyte-rich drink (Gatorade), a very meaty and fatty meal the day after, a miller lite, and a nap.

    In med school I had a friend who swore by this method: a liter of water, tylenol and an oxygen mask with a low flow rate as he slept.

    I was reluctant to punish my liver anymore with tylenol and felt ibuprofen or aspirin would not be kind on an already irritated stomach.

    I have since become an advocate of moderation and drinking on a full stomach.

  4. 1. I can attest to the fact that sake will leave you with a hangover if you drink enough of it.
    2. ibuprofen and alcohol don’t mix. The label on the ibuprofen bottle specifically warns against the practice since it can put you in the hospital. I think the same is true for tylenol.
    3. the congener theory sounds dubious to me.

  5. Gatorade’s the cure – drink before bed, every time you wake up in the night, and the next morning. And lots of water. Been adding the POM juice the “morning after” lately, to great effect…the placebo effect is a wonderful thing…(http://www.theonion.com/content/node/39082)

  6. Arthur is smart to be cautions about the meds. I know a doctor who swore by taking a stong ibuprofen pill before drinking and proclaimed he never got a hangover or headache. Recently, he went to the EMR and had a lengthy section of his large intestine removed and now excretes through a colostomy. I don’t think Tylenol is a good idea either. Maybe people should sip wine and have a glass of water on hand to alternate between sips. Having lots of food with your beverage is a good idea, too. I’ve also found that going to bed drunk is a bad idea (unless you have company in the same situation). Try to stay awake until you sober up a bit. I speak from experience!

  7. when push comes to shove and that happens more often than one would like, a high quality complex Vitamin B (which is severely depleted from overindulgence) and a banana milk shake (courtesy of Sara Snow) to replace electrolytes, potassium and soothe the stomach is the way to go.

    and while you’re at it, you can indulge in some of my artist picks:


  8. Two words, Milk Thistle. in the words of my Roommate “oh, your liver just needs to dump it’s toxins, here, drink a mouthful of this” and I’ve got to say, I’m not one that usually really into Herbal Remedies, but i felt like a million bucks after about 5 minutes. but then again i also keep a 1 to 1 water to booze ratio when I’m drinking.

  9. i am into herbal remedies and you’re absolutely right about milk thistle but i didn’t think it had such an immediate effect! i figure we should make it a mainstay as a supplement.

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