Hangovers occupy a special place in the mythology of drinking – they’re the inevitable consequence of a good time, the dark shadow cast by a fun night out. They’ve inspired writers and filmmakers with the challenge of communicating the horrors of a bad hangover, or the joy of sharing the pain. Dorothy Parker quipped that hangovers are the “wrath of grapes”, and director Bruce Robinson depicted the horrors of the long term hangover with pitiless realism in Withnail & I.
When you’re suffering from a hangover, there’s only one question on your mind: How do I make it go away? It’s a problem that’s occupied some of the finest minds in history, from medical professionals to experienced drinkers. PG Wodehouse’s Jeeves was always capable of shimmering into the room with a hangover cure of supernatural effectiveness, but the recipe is kept vague to preserve the mystique.
Some of the famous hangover cures endorsed by notable sufferers throughout history are of questionable merit, but are educational to look at.
Ernest Hemingway reputedly endorsed a stomach-churning combination of beer and tomato juice, and also suggested ‘Death in the Afternoon’, a cocktail of absinthe and champagne, recommending the sufferer “drink three to five of these, slowly”. While it might relieve some of the symptoms of the hangover, it’s unlikely you’ll find yourself able to do much else with your day.
In 1878, the Paris World Exposition drew an international audience to the City of Lights, and merrymakers found themselves in need of a restorative cure the morning after a night of enjoying the bars and bistros. The organisers introduced the Prairie Oyster: a hangover cure consisting of raw egg yolk, Worcestershire Sauce, Tabasco Sauce, salt and pepper. It’s gruesome, and might simply help to put your hangover in perspective, but this actually contains some helpful ingredients! The egg and seasoning helps to replenish some of the key nutrients your body is running low on, while the peppers and spice are toxins which are processed by your liver – to do this it has to stop processing the alcohol in your system, which gives you a respite from the nausea-causing formic acid it spits out in the process.
Kate Winslet has attended her fair share of Hollywood parties but her favoured pick me up is reassuringly down to earth: a sausage and bacon sandwich, accompanied by orange juice and sugary tea, followed by a “little sleep” and a shower. Even if this doesn’t actively shift a hangover, it makes waiting for it to go away more pleasant!
Cures That Work
If you’re suffering from the results of a night of drinking and don’t have the luxury of crawling back into bed with a bacon sandwich, or the stomach for a champagne cocktail, you need cures that can actually help you feel better, and fast.
To start with, we need to look at what causes the classic symptoms of the hangover – not merely ‘drinking heavily the night before’, but how that affects your body to produce the headache, nausea and dizziness that characterise hangovers.
Alcohol is a diuretic, meaning it causes your body to lose water – water is normally kept in a delicate balance in your body, with reserves circulating in your bloodstream and transferred into cells when needed, and out of cells when it’s not. When there’s an excess, it’s cycled through your kidneys and out of your body in urine. Alcohol interferes with your body’s production of Anti-Diuretic Hormone – the chemical that regulates how much water you have in your system and tells you when you have too much and when you too little. A diuretic like alcohol stops this hormone being produced and the result is your body thinks any level of water is an excess!
The immediate effect of this is dehydration. You’ll excrete water through sweating and urination, and the morning after you’ll be extremely thirsty. It’s more serious than normal thirst though – the diuretic effects of alcohol can cause your brain cells to shrink in size, which means your brain pulls on the membrane that attaches it to the skull. This is the root cause of the headache that is the hallmark of the hangover. Tackling this headache means tackling dehydration – painkillers aren’t enough!
Vitamins and Minerals
You’re not just losing water from your body – you’re also losing everything your body keeps suspended in that water, most importantly electrolytes! These water-soluble salts are used by your body to regulate some of the key processes that keep you feeling happy and healthy, and operating at your peak.
Electrolytes help your body to manage water retention, muscle action, the transmission of nerve impulses and even your mood. So waking up to a body that’s sweated out lots of its electrolytes is an unpleasant experience that contributes a lot to your hangover.
Some of the worst effects of the hangover are caused not by the alcohol itself, but by the by-products of your body’s attempts to deal with this toxin. Your body removes alcohol from your body because it can be dangerous and breaks it down in the liver into other chemicals which are merely unpleasant, rather than potentially fatal. These by-products make you feel nauseas and unsteady until they have cleared from your system.
A Total Solution
Your hangover cure, therefore, needs to tackle these three problems: dehydration, a shortfall of electrolytes and toxins washing around your system.
O.R.S. tablets dissolve in water, and are made according to the World Health Organisation’s rehydration standards. This means that you’re not just rehydrating (water alone can actually dilute your remaining electrolyte levels further, compounding the problem!) you’re also restoring the vital balance of nutrients that keeps your body at its best. This is a great place to start: it relieves your headache and gives your body a fighting chance of getting back to normal faster. It has all the benefits of a prairie oyster, and none of the stomach-churning ingredients.
A bland, simple breakfast that’s kind to your stomach can cushion some of the toxins swirling about your system and raise your blood sugar, compressing the time until you’re once again feeling at the top of your game.