The Hangover: A New Year’s Day Survival Guide
For those inclined to drink, there are always plenty of reasons to reach for a libation or three -- a quick spin through the calendar digs up Memorial Day, Labor Day, Fourth of July, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and jolly old Christmas for starters. But New Year's Eve takes the cake: it's the Big Event, where an explicit "live for today, the year is over" philosophy intersects with a social green light for boozing it up.
Even with responsible social drinking, of course, comes a possible price: the next-day hangover. As long as there's been drinking, there have been hangovers, and hangover cures. Those toga-clad party legends known as the ancient Romans went for raw owl's eggs, for example.
The fact of the matter, however, is that hangover cures are an art, not a science. A hangover, in fact, is not a single ailment -- it's a whole bunch of stuff, the interaction of which is not perfectly understood even by serious hangover science.
In a nutshell, when you're hung over, you're facing some or probably all of the following problems:
• Adverse reactions to alcoholic impurities
• Irritated stomach
The best cure for a hangover, of course, is not to drink so much. Let someone else place all those New Year's Day phone calls to the dinosaurs on the porcelain telephone:
• Pace yourself
• Alternate your drinks with water to stay hydrated
• Don't mix your liquors (sometimes the impurities stack up on themselves in comedic ways)
• Avoid sugary drinks; the sugar can act as a misery accelerator
Barring those strategies, there are a number of other things you can do the next day:
• Water helps with the dehydration
• Exercise raises your metabolic rate and helps clear up the toxins
• Baking soda in water can help tamp down some of that queasy stomach syndrome
• Eggs may help you with cysteine, which has been proposed as a preventative or antidote for hangover
• Milk can also help with rehydration and boost your calcium
A lot of people swear by "hair of the dog" (i.e., more drinks in the morning), but by drinking after drinking too much, you're probably just putting off (if not magnifying) the misery you're experiencing. Ernest Hemingway drank tomato juice and beer to deal with hangovers, and his health didn't turn out so great in the long haul.
Finally, some folks rely on a secret weapon: the magic hangover tonic. The Prairie Oyster
is an American classic, and it relies on a raw egg, Worcestershire sauce, salt, pepper, and an optional dash of Tabasco to work its restorative magic. It may be a placebo, but hey -- if the placebo works, it's worth a shot.
And next time, go a little easier on the tequila, OK?