Hangovers: From Prepare to Repair

So how are ya feeling today?

Did you overindulge? And I’m not talking turkey.

The average American consumes about 25 gallons of beer, 2 gallons of wine, and 1.5 gallons of distilled spirits each year. Which may sound like a lot. But compared to many other countries it’s really not. Especially when you consider that a huge proportion of those gallons are consumed on just three days a year. Super Bowl Sunday, New Year’s Eve, and (yep) Thanksgiving. Which is interesting information given that fact that the average American also consumes 118 gallons of soft drinks every year.

Yep. We drink a shocking amount of sugary carbonated beverages, much more than booze. So this leaves me to conclude that we American’s don’t know how to hold our liquor! Which may explain that queasy feeling and achy head you are experiencing this morning.

But never fear. I have a few tips to get you through all this. And though it may be too late at this point– the best (and most obvious) cure for a hangover is to avoid one altogether. Yes, I am a big believer in moderation. And though I am not preaching abstinence I will say “be sensible”. Nobody like a sloppy drunk. Know your limits and try to adhere to them. Everyone will be happier. Especially you the next morning.

But let’s face it. There are a few days a year when you might feel like indulging a bit more than is “sensible”. So I say prepare for those inevitabilities. First, hide the car keys. Really. There is no excuse for drinking and driving, and that’s all I am going to say about that.

So what are the best tips for avoiding an acute hangover?

Well, start by understanding what a hangover is. Get out your medical dictionary, because the technical term for this sort of “divine punishment” is veisalgia. It is simply the physical ailments caused by the withdrawal of a body chemistry altering substance, and the resulting malnutrition and dehydration. Because the process of alcohol leaving your system strips your body of these essential elements to well being.

So start with vitamins. B‑complex, vitamin C, and anti-oxidants will help your body detox. 100mg of all the major B vitamins taken before the festivities begin, then again at bedtime and (yep) once again the next morning will have both preventive and restorative effects.

Eat something. Before, during and after too much imbibing.  A full stomach will slow the absorption of alcohol into the system. Especially foods that are high in sugar or fat. That is why many people swear by a big glass of chocolate milk before the party starts.

Drink something– besides booze I mean. Pre-hydrate. Drink water and lots of it. Then keep hydrating throughout the festivities. I often alternate between a cocktail and a glass of water. Nobody cares what is in my glass and I still feel like I’m a part of the party. More importantly, I drink half as much and greatly increase the odds that my body will remain hydrated. That is a win/win.

Choose your poison well. This is a hard bit of advice for me to follow because my personal preferences run against the very core of this theory. But some spirits are better than others in avoiding the “death the day after” blues. The more distilled and pure the poison the better. So always drink the good stuff. And if your palate allows, lighter spirits like silver tequila and vodka which are continuously distilled in the fermentation process, are better than the darker spirits that sit undisturbed in pot stills.

But the best advice in preventing the “brown bottle flu” is the advice I started with. Moderation. There’s is nothing geeky about it!

Still, I realize it may be too late to take moderation cure this morning. So just how do you get through the next 12 to 18 hours of hell?

Well. Sleep it off (hopefully not in the slammer). Sleep is quite simply the best cure.

But if you can’t sleep the day away make sure you start with re-hydration. Start out slow, drinking room temperature water, graduating to Alka Seltzer, or herbal tea. Next, try something easily digestible like raw egg or cucumbers. These both add nutrition yet also rehydrate the system. If you are queasy, try Saltines. At this point slowly add more substantial nourishment. Fruits and vegetables high in potassium, like tomatoes and bananas, are good. So are carbohydrates such as oatmeal– and anything high in natural fructose sugars. Avoid dairy and (sorry) junk food, your body needs nutrition, not just calories.

Ok now for the controversial segment in our show. Hair of the Dog.

You always hear about those elusive, mythological tonics “guaranteed” to cure the hangover. Well, don’t bet the bank on them…

Coffee is one such “tonic”. People think a big cup of coffee is a surefire method towards sobering up even the most drunken of fools. But in actuality, coffee dehydrates you further, just at the time your body is suffering greatly from dehydration.

But what about that “hair of the dog” I mentioned. Well, my advice is to look at those “tonics” with a healthy dose of skepticism. The idea of an alcoholic next day “pick me up” is simply not a cure for a hangover. Because they merely revive all the elements that got you hungover in the first place. They might make you forget you that feel like hell. But trust me. There is hell to pay and you might as well just get it over with. These classic “tonics” are often called corpse revivers and quite frankly all they accomplish is perpetual inebriation. Making these remedies (I’m sorry) a myth.

Instead, try this. It has all the elements of a proper (and realistic) hangover cure, and it tastes delicious. GREG


Sippity Sup’s Hangover Remedy (guaranteed to possibly work- maybe)

Yields: 1 servings

  • hangover cure of green tea and orange juice1½ c water
  • 1 green tea bag
  • 3 thin slices of fresh ginger
  • 2 oz fresh orange juice
  • 3 oz chilled club soda
  • 1 slice orange, as garnish (optional)

In a small saucepan, bring the water to a boil. Remove from the heat. Add the tea bag and ginger slices. Cover the pan and let steep about 5 minutes.

Let the mixture come to room temperature then strain the mixture into an ice-filled highball glass. Add the orange juice and club soda. Garnish with the orange slice (optional). Drink slowly. Then go back to bed.

Greg Henry writes the popular food blog Sippity Sup- Serious Fun Food. He is active in the food blogging community, having been a speaker at IFBC, Food Buzz Festival and Camp Blogaway. He’s led cooking demonstrations in Panama & Costa Rica, and traveled as far and wide as Norway to promote culinary travel. He has been featured in Food & Wine Magazine, Los Angeles Times, More Magazine, The Today Show Online and Saveur’s Best of the Web. Greg also co-hosts The Table Set podcast which can be downloaded on iTunes or at Homefries Podcast Network.