Hangover cures: beneficial or bust?
With the imminent homecoming festivities, if you’re anything like me and over 21, it’s likely you’ll have a few adult beverages. However, if a few drinks turns into many, a lovely hangover can be waiting in the morning.
But fret not! There are steps that can be taken to subvert alcohol’s cruel revenge. And out of the goodness of my heart, I assembled a group of test subjects (AKA my friends) to put some of these remedies to the test.
First we must address that timeless inquiry: What causes a hangover?
Surprisingly, medical experts are unable to agree on the actual cause of hangovers, though there are many theories about the contributing factors. Not surprisingly, the factor most associated with hangovers is dehydration. Alcohol causes your body to produce more urine and in turn, lowers the fluid levels in your body.
Usually, if you’re drinking alcohol, you’re not drinking a whole lot of water. That, combined with alcohol being a diuretic, almost ensures that after a night of drinking you will wake up dehydrated.
Dehydration is usually associated with the hangover symptoms of dizziness and feeling lightheaded. Generally, this is really bad for your body, especially over prolonged periods.
Another key player is the by-products your body produces when metabolizing alcohol.
One is acetaldehyde, a toxic compound that your body secretes to break down those sweet, sweet ethanol molecules that make you think you’re good at dancing.
Acetaldehyde is damaging to your brain, pancreas, liver and pretty much every other organ in your body.
Acetaldehyde isn’t the only toxic by-product of alcohol metabolism. There’s also cytochrome, malondialdehyde and a plethora of other lipid peroxide–derived aldehydes that all react with the proteins in our bodies and definitely aren’t chemicals that you would leave unattended with a toddler.
The list goes on and on. But there is one thing we can all agree on, and it’s that hangovers suck.
So what’s one to do when you wake up with your head a’hurting, stomach a’churning and heart a’pounding?
Well, I have some suggestions.
To kick off my research group, we did a control run where we didn’t use any hangover remedies. In other words, we reminded ourselves of how it feels to be hungover. News flash: hangovers are still awful.
We needed to make sure that the alcohol we drank would end with us being sufficiently hungover. What better way than with malt liquor and Four Loko?
We each drank half of a 40-ounce bottle of malt liquor, then poured a Four Loko into the bottle until we had a barely palatable blend of crappy, cheap alcohol. Then, we drank all of it.
Let me tell you, 10 times out of 10, this WILL give you a hangover.
For round two, we each picked our remedies and once again set out drinking beverages that invoked the feeling of choking down battery acid. Here’s the breakdown:
Activated charcoal is highly absorbent, having a surface area of 3,000 square meters per gram. This makes it a perfect candidate to soak up all those nasty toxins that alcohol produces.
I had the subject take four 280 milligram capsules of the stuff both before drinking and after waking up in the morning.
This one worked surprising well! My friend, I mean, the test subject, felt pretty alright the next day. They found this rather surprising, though not as surprising as how dark 2,240 milligrams of activated charcoal made their bowel movements.
Overall, I’d chalk this us up to a plausible hangover solution.
2. Good Ole Water and Ibuprofen
The test subject for this one was none other than yours truly. Honestly, I felt like I couldn’t drink enough water to feel hydrated again.
I immediately drank three, 16-ounce bottles of water upon waking up.
This solution mostly felt like my normal morning routine when I wake up during the Tucson summers. I don’t know if I would go so far as to say that this is a remedy, but it was certainly better than not drinking three bottles of water.
3. A Hot Shower
I was skeptical of this one at first, but the test subject insisted that this always works for them. The theory behind it is that the heat makes your body release all those nasty toxins and the water has a refreshing effect on the hungover psyche.
I couldn’t find much (or any) research supporting this one. But the test subject reported that it definitely worked, which makes you wonder how much of these remedies only work on an individual basis.
4. Those Hangover Shot Things
You know what I’m talking about, those little bottles that look like 5-hour energy shots that they sell at the check-out of liquor stores.
The idea is that you take the shot before a night of drinking and it completely prevents you from feeling hungover the next day.
Test subject’s report: phony baloney.
But this could be more of a testament to the hangover’s cause than the shot’s ability to cure it. Seriously, I don’t understand why anyone drinks Four Loko, ever.
There are dozens of other tricks that claim to be hangover cures. Unfortunately for you, I don’t have that many friends, but feel free to try them! They just might be winners! But maybe not.
If you’re looking for an absolute hangover buster, maybe just don’t drink so much?
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