Plusses of the ‘magic’ hangover cures

Fran Rimrod

December 8, 2010 – 7:54AM

The effects of having too much 'Christmas cheer'.The effects of having too much ‘Christmas cheer’.

After a hard night on the booze, you would do or pay just about anything to ease the headache, the nausea and the feeling as though you’re as dry as the Great Sandy Desert.

With the silly season in full swing, so are the parties and, along with that, the risk of having a little too much “Christmas cheer”.

The web bursts with tips and tricks to speed up the recovery from the more “self-induced morning sickness”, but a Perth nurse (who wishes to remain anonymous) revealed some of the medical guild’s most coveted secrets.

Over-indulging on alcohol is easy during the Christmas 'silly season', but prevention seems to be better than any cure.Over-indulging on alcohol is easy during the Christmas ‘silly season’, but prevention seems to be better than any cure.

“When some doctors or nurses have a bad hangover, they sometimes self-administer intravenous fluids or put on an oxygen mask for a while,” she said.

Perth-based National Drug Research Institute director Steven Allsop said he was familiar with the unorthodox practices, having heard about them “in medical school 30 years ago”.

Breathing in pure oxygen with a mask could help ease fatigue and oxygen-depletion caused by an alcohol binge, he said, while an IV drip could help alleviate the effects of dehydration a little faster than drinking fluids.

The most common hangover cures recommended by the online community are a hearty bacon and egg breakfast, a swig of Berocca or the infamous “hair of the dog”, otherwise known as the “counter-beer”.

According to the National Geographic website, strange remedies from around the world include pickled herring in Germany, tripe soup in Romania and sour pickle juice in Poland.

Another website,, lists remedies that range from lemon in the armpits, dried bull penis and licking your own sweat and spitting it out, to pickled sheep eyes and rabbit droppings.

The root of the rotten feeling

Professor Allsop said while science to date didn’t offer one single cure to relieve the sufferer, there were a variety of reasons why we feel bad when we drink.

“Some of it has to do with the metabolites from alcohol, and one of them is acetaldehyde, which is highly toxic and can make you feel very, very poorly,” he said.

“Alcohol is also diuretic, so you become dehydrated and that’s a particular issue in a country like ours, and some quench their thirst with alcohol, which is the worst thing you could do.

“It also impairs your sleep. You do fall asleep quickly initially, but it disturbs that deep, restful REM sleep.

“Some people react to congeners, which give flavour and colour to alcohol. So for some, the higher the number of congeners, the greater the negative effects.”

Professor Allsop also said the reason why people thought their hangovers got worse with age was that the older people got, the proportion of water and muscle tissue in the body decreased, while fat increased.

He said this could influence how long alcohol stayed in the body and how it affected the body. The same amount of alcohol people used to drink would have worse effects as they got older.

Rethink and replenish

Megan Alsford, a dietician with the Dietitian Association of Australia, said the loss of electrolytes, low blood sugar and damage to the lining of the digestive tract also added to the poorly feeling after too much alcohol.

She said there while there was no magic hangover cure, a sure bet to feel better was drinking plenty of water or an electrolyte-replacement drink and eating some fruit.

“An anti-inflammatory may help with the headaches, but try to eat before you take any tablets as they may irritate your stomach further,” she said.

“If all else fails, you may be best to go back to bed and let the liver do its job.

“One sure fire way of not getting a hangover is not to overdo it on the alcohol – prevention is better than cure.

“Failing that, have a glass of water in between each alcoholic drink, as one of the reasons for a hangover is dehydration. This method can prevent dehydration and slow yourself down so you don’t drink as much.

“Why not make it a sparkling water with a lemon or lime slice if water is a bit boring?”

Professor Allsop supported Mrs Alsford’s message, saying hangover prevention was “much better than putting yourself on a drip”.

Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha

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