What is the holiday spirit? Well, it depends on taste — rum, vodka or whisky seem to be popular. Why do we seem to find the need to overdo our alcohol intake over Christmas — the overwhelming pressure to have a good time, perhaps? Whatever the reason, many of us, despite good resolutions, are going to wake up with the mother of all hangovers at some point this holiday.
What causes hangovers?
Dehydration is the key factor. Alcohol is a diuretic — a drug that increases urine production and flushes fluids from the body. Drinking coffee the next morning will only increase this problem, as coffee is also a diuretic. Mild poisons in the drink are also a factor — the complex organic molecules such as methanol and acetone (rather than the ethanol alcohol) found in some drinks are said to be responsible for hangovers.
Which alcohol is worse?
Brandy, red wine, rum, whisky, white wine, gin and vodka are the main culprits. The British Medical Journal did tests that showed drinking bourbon whisky is twice as likely to cause a hangover as the same amount of vodka. The amount you drink naturally makes a difference to how much alcohol depletes the body of necessary substances (blood sugar, vitamins and minerals) required to stay healthy.
If you are drinking wine that comes from a country where a small change in the climate can make a big difference to the quality of wine — for example France, Germany and New Zealand — then in a bad season the wine contains many more substances that cause hangovers.
Almost all red wines and Chardonnay are matured in oak barrels so that they will keep and improve. If you drink this wine younger than three years there will be a higher level of nasties that can cause hangovers. If left to mature, these nasties change to neutral substances and don’t cause hangovers.
How to reduce hangovers
Eat plenty of food — having a full stomach when you are drinking helps to slow down the effects of alcohol and reduce the severity of a hangover.
In order to counter alcohol’s diuretic effect, drink plenty of non-alcoholic fluids, water or fruit juices. Mixing drinks is always held to be the main cause of hangovers. There is little evidence to support this view. There is, however, some evidence that suggests not to mix drinks made from the grape and the grain — so don’t drink wine and whisky. Drinking water at bedtime can help. While this won’t cure any hangover it should help to reduce the .
Sweating it out the next day can help, but most people with a hangover are not in any condition to do strenuous exercise. For those who are not feeling queasy, eating plenty of food can help. Masochistic types choose the bigger and heavier the breakfast the better. More sensitive types might prefer dry toast.
OK, that’s the serious part over. Here are a sample of possible hangover cures from around the world. A warning to anybody who tries these out: we cannot be held reponsible for the consequences!
A big T-bone steak. If that fails, then a chocolate milkshake.
Drink thick, hot onion soup the next morning.
Downing a sour herring with a beer chaser.
Stick 13 black-headed pins in the cork of the bottle that gave you the hangover.
A heavy glass of cream.
Eat a pickled sheep’s eye in a glass of tomato juice.
Rub a lemon under your drinking arm.
Heavily salted cucumber juice or black bread soaked in water.
A sip of brandy with a dash of peppermint.