Dealing with Your Hangover

Good morning. If you’re reading this, you’ve survived last night’s adventures and are most likely not under arrest or locked in the trunk of a car. Good job. Now let’s deal with your hangover.  It’s a doozy, I’m betting.

First thing. If you feel like you might throw up, just go ahead and do it, even if it requires inducing. It’s unpleasant, but it’s going to be way easier getting the poison out of your system directly (there’s a reason they call it intoxication) than it is to put the extra load on your liver and kidneys, which are likely already working overtime. Seriously, you’re going to feel a lot better.

But maybe it’s not as bad as all that, or you just aren’t ready to take that step. That’s cool. There are other things you can do right now to help yourself out.

The best way to process out a hangover is vigorous athletic/aerobic activity. Work up a sweat. Get your heart rate up. You’ll feel really sick at some point on the upswing (and again, go ahead and puke if you have to), but even twenty or thirty minutes should be enough to burn up all the poison and replace it with adrenaline and endorphins.

I understand that most people will also skip this option. It’s a perfectly reasonable response, and one I’ve given many times, myself.

Lucky for all of us, there are less radical steps that can also be taken. The thing about alcohol is that it’s a powerful diuretic. It encourages your body to evacuate lots of water in order to process out the poison you ingested while you were having so much fun last night. Compounding the problem even further is that the water you evacuated took lots of important vitamins and minerals and electrolytes with it, things your body needs to feel and function well. B vitamins are crucial for nerve function. C plays a vital role in energy production. Both are water-soluble, as are potassium and sodium.  All of them need to be replaced before you can start feeling better. Lots of companies make fizzy vitamin powders (I’m a big fan of emergen-c, myself), many of which contain electrolytes. Avail yourself of a packet or two. Vitamin C is especially helpful in clearing toxins out of your bloodstream, and because it’s water-soluble, it’s almost impossible to overdose, so go to town. Orange, grapefruit, tomato, and pineapple juice is chock full of the stuff. Gatorade and other sports drinks are good for electrolytes and minerals.

I’d be remiss, of course, not to mention our old friend the non-steroid anti-inflammatory drug, or NSAID. Ibuprofen is my drug of choice from this family, though others’ mileage may vary. I’m also down with aspirin, and have dabbled in the naproxen family. I’ve a long habit of advising against acetaminophen, but if that’s all you’ve got, don’t not take it because of some shit people told me when I was growing up. A couple-four of any of the above ought to take the edge right off your headache.

A good long shower is a good idea. One of the big ways your body processes poison is through your skin, so cleaning off the toxic patina and cleaning out the evacuation chutes will help that along. Also it’s nice to stand under the water and be brain dead for a while and let the pressure of the water distract your nerve endings from the pain you’re experiencing (nerves can only convey pain or pressure at one time, which is why you hold and press on the parts of you that hurt: true fact).

Now, let’s eat some food.

Whether you’re cooking at home or going out to brunch (that most civilized and delicious of meals), now is the time to lay on the fat and the protein. As a regular habit the traditional North American breakfast of eggs, breakfast meat, greasy potatoes, and toast is a terrible idea, unless maybe you’re a farmhand or a lumberjack or you work in construction. But for hangover mornings its existence is possible proof of the existence of some benevolent divinity who wants us all to feel better and be able to be happy again. I’m sure somewhere out there is some peer-reviewed study as to why this may be, at least so far as the mechanism is concerned. I just know that it works, that the grease and cholesterol and butter and salt will set almost any hungover soul’s belly to something like rightness. It’s like ballasting a ship: the sailing gets smoother, no matter the seas. Drink some coffee, too. It’ll wake you up.

In worst case scenarios (or even just because you feel like it), you can try the hair of the dog. I’ve had mixed luck with it, myself. Sometimes it sets me right as rain, others it just amplifies the miasma. A Bloody Mary’s a good bet, what with the salt and the tomato juice, though I’m more like to get a Salty Dog myself. If you want to go old school, the Suffering Bastard is a classic hangover cure. Mostly I recommend sticking with clear liquor with lots of mixer (Mimosas are best drunk sober), and not more than one or maybe two of them. Just enough to take the edge off, not get a new buzz going. You’ll pay for that later.

By this point, you should be feeling mostly like yourself again, and can get on with your day.

2 thoughts on “Dealing with Your Hangover

  1. Eggs are helpful in part because of their cysteine content. Cysteine is a precursor for glutathione, an enzyme produced by the liver that helps to metabolize acetaldehyde. Acetaldehyde is the toxic metabolite of alcohol.

    1. Also, UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES should you take acetaminophen if you still have alcohol in your system. No kidding – this is a no-no. It sounds surprising given that acetaminophen has been so commonly used over the counter for so long, but the load it places on your liver when your liver is occupied with processing alcohol is remarkable. (This drug would *never* be approved today.) Studies have shown elevation in liver transaminase levels after as little as three days of use in combination with alcohol, and in high doses liver failure can (in some reported cases, not all) be induced with just one day’s use. Never ever ever mix it with alcohol.

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