There’s a reason this blog is called Accidental Scientist. I originally started it up to post things I’d discovered about life, the universe and everything else… but especially about the things that I like to call “stupid human tricks”. So without further ado, it’s time to get stuck in with the first little tidbit that I’ve found so far…
How to cure a hangover
As I’ve gotten older (and I hear that most people are like this), I’ve had more and more hangovers after a night on the town. Admittedly, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve started drinking a hell of a lot more (stress will do that to you), but that’s beside the point. Some hangovers have been so bad that they’ve completely taken away my Sundays from me – as I’ve spent them wandering around in a daze going, well, ouch.
No longer. I think I finally figured out the perfect hangover cure.
You will need:
- Two eggs
- A bottle of gatorade
- Eyedrops (preferably just natural tears – Genteal are pretty good)
- Caffeine, aspirin and ibuprofen (not acetaminophen or paracetamol)
- Two multivitamin tablets.
NOTE: I am not a doctor, nor am I pretending to be one. This advice could help you, it could kill you, or it could turn you bright blue. I honestly don’t know. Follow it at your own risk.
Here’s how you use the ingredients.
Drink this before you go to bed – as much as you can manage. Drink it while you’re drinking, and it’ll help too. But drink as much as you can – alcohol dehydrates you, and your liver and kidneys work much better at getting rid of toxins when they have water to work with. Drinking water is your first line of defence against a hangover.
You drink this the next day. It’s basically sugar water, with electrolytes to rebalance your system a bit (because when you get dehydrated with alcohol, you’re peeing out most of the salt in your system, and as your body is basically a large bag of salt water, you really need to replace it).
It’s the best and easiest way to get fluid into your system, and has its own handy-dandy built in automatic rehydration indicator – if it tastes good, you need to drink more of it. Once it starts tasting unappealing, you’ve had enough – you’re rehydrated. Sneaky, huh?
Boiled, fried, poached, whatever. You just need them. You can try eating them the night before if you can stomach them – but that will depend on how drunk you are. (And cooking when drunk, like driving when drunk, is a recipe for disaster).
Eggs help a hangover in two ways. Firstly, and most importantly, they’re one of the most nutritious sources of cholesterol you can get.
Yes, that’s right, cholesterol. You know that thing that doctors tell you is bad for you? Welllll… you see, there’s another side to that argument. Cholesterol is bad – when it’s clogging your arteries. When you’re drunk, however, it’s a whole other story. You see, your liver runs pretty much exclusively on cholesterol, and it burns fat to metabolize alcohol. This is why, among other things, doctors now say that drinking will lower your cholesterol (it does – because your liver kicks it up a gear). It’s also why hardened Russian vodka drinkers will eat very fatty foods while they drink – because it helps them metabolize the alcohol.
If you’ve ever wanted to drink someone under the table, eat a lot of eggs. Or other similarly high-fat foods. And keep eating them while you drink. You’ll be able to carry on (relatively sober) while they slowly slip into oblivion…
Eggs don’t just contain fat, they contain plenty of incredibly bio-available protein. Your body loves eggs – in fact, some people claim that eggs contain about the easiest protein for your body to digest.
Protein’s really good when you have a hangover, because protein is broken down into amino acids in your body, and amino acids are used to build neurotransmitters – which you screwed up by drinking. Alcohol makes your body dump norepinephrine and dopamine into your system, rapidly depleting your supply (the lack of norepinephrine, by the way, is why you snore more when you’ve been drinking than when you’re not… and if you don’t naturally build your supplies back up fast it also can cause anxiety days afterwards). So if you really want to feel happy, you’re going to need to replenish those guys – and eggs (and sardines – but let’s face it, who can eat sardines with a hangover?) are probably one of the best ways of doing it short of spooning down one of those muscle-building amino acid gloopy concotions you can buy at the gym.
Alcohol, in case you’re wondering, also screws with about 100 other neurotransmitters. Which is why you shouldn’t drink if you’re on any kind of psychoactive medication.
Eggs also contain vitamin C and B12, both of which are water soluble vitamins, which means that when you spent all that time the night before peeing your hard earned cash down the drain, you lost a lot of those too. You need to replenish them – and eggs are a great way to do this.
Why eyedrops? Well, do you remember the film Withnail and I? Where Withnail says that he has “a real bastard behind the eyes”?
Nine times out of ten, the worst part of your hangover is caused simply by the fact that your eyes are dry. No, really. They’re about the first thing to dehydrate in your entire body, other than possibly your T-zone.
The thing about eyes is that they’re not exactly good at reporting problems to your brain. They have pain sensors, and touch sensors, but they’re pretty lousy at what they do (and spread pretty far apart, so they’re not that accurate). Not only that, but until you train yourself to recognize the difference between a real (vascular) headache and the pain that comes from dry eyes, you won’t even figure out that the pain you’re feeling is really in your eyes – because it feels like a band of pain behind your eyes, or across the front of your head.
Sure, sounds like a bad design, but it’s like that because your eyes are busy doing other things – like seeing things – so nature skimped a bit on the pain receptor part. Either way, the pain that you get from a hangover is mainly this pain from your eyes. Try to visualize it next time you have a hangover, and the lightbulb will suddenly go on. By the way, when your eyes are in pain, they have an amazing ability to make you feel tired. It’s automatic – nature’s way of protecting them is to get you to shut them, and the easiest way to do this is to make you feel tired and go to sleep. It’s half of why you feel like a slug after a night on the town. (The other half is probably real sleep deprivation).
How do you fix this? Really easy. Apply eyedrops frequently (once every 10 minutes or so) to each eye, until you’ve drunk enough Gatorade that it stops being a problem. Genteal are recommended by my eye doctor because they’re preservative free in the eye. (And he’s a great eye doctor – one of the best I’ve ever been to – if not the best).
As I said earlier, you pee out a good portion of all of the water soluble vitamins in your body when you’re on a bender. Take one before you go to bed (if you can stomach it), and one in the morning when you get up (again, if you can stomach it – you might need to take it after eating the eggs) to replenish your system’s supply.
Caffeine, Aspirin and Ibuprofen
In cases where the hangover’s not too bad, you can skip the caffeine, aspirin and ibuprofen. (I skip the caffeine most times myself). However, if the other tips just won’t shift it, aspirin, ibuprofen and caffeine will help. This cocktail is basically a version of Excedrin which swaps liver damage for stomach bleeding – frankly, I prefer to have a internal bleeding than risk shutting down my liver – and as Excedrin uses Acetaminophen/Paracetamol instead of Ibuprofen, it’s a bit too risky to take after drinking.
Caffeine is a vasodilator – it opens up the blood vessels in your head. These blood vessels can constrict while drinking, causing a vascular headache (this is a true headache, unlike the eye-pain I mentioned above) – and the caffeine cures that. It’ll also give you a bit of a buzz and perk you up – but I avoid it if I have a hangover – it just makes me feel weird and almost hollow, like I’m not really there. It’s also a diuretic, which isn’t exactly productive when you’re already dehydrated.
Aspirin’s an old folk remedy made good – people realized that taking willow bark made people feel better when they had a headache. Enter chemistry, and pharmaceuticals, and whaddya know, we have the refined version. It’s mainly an analgesic and anti-inflammatory agent, shutting down production of pain transmitting chemicals in the body. Helps me anyway.
If you’re taking aspirin, make sure you take the enteric coated ones, to avoid stomach problems.
Another anti-inflammatory/analgesic, but it appears to work on different pathways, and at least for me, will shift headaches that aspirin (or acetaminophen) cannot. It can cause stomach problems, so try to go for coated tablets.
What if all this doesn’t work?
Well… either pray, or try more eggs and Gatorade. There’s a reason people go to Beth’s (home of the 12 egg omelette) in Seattle after a night on the town, you know…
[edit: Added the real Other reason for eggs than fat, which is protein. I missed it last time by accident – and believe me, while vitamins C and B12 are good for ya, the lack of them doesn’t really make you feel that bad. Not on that time scale anyway]
[edit: fixed a badly structured sentence which made it look like I was saying that caffeine caused vascular headaches, not cured them]