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Sunday, July 21

Gapers Block

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"I'll never do this again!" You've promised this before with the resolve of Scarlet O'Hara to yourself, God and that toilet you're hugging. But this year will be different. You are determined to avoid the gruesome effects of glow-in-the-dark shots, cheap "Champagne" and karaoke. Even at 24, you're just too old for this crap. I hear you and I am here to help.

First, let me say, you are not alone. Even the Bible recognizes the ill effects of late night partying: "Woe unto them that rise up early in the morning, that they may follow strong drink" (Isaiah 5:11). We've all done it. Had too much, wore the lampshade, insinuated that the Bride was pregnant... oh wait, that last one was just me I think. Anyhoo — its time to prevent the mortifying behavior and vomiting, or at least lessen the headache the next day.

The official medical term for a hangover is "veisalgia." It comes from the Norwegian word kveis, "uneasiness following debauchery," and the Greek word algia, "pain." (Hilarious. I think I need to hang out with Norwegians more often.)

This nasty sounding veisalgia is caused by a combination of acetaldehyde (a toxic byproduct of the alcohol-making process), dehydration and vitamin depletions due to one's copious consumption of booze. The tell-tale symptoms are headache, dry mouth, nausea, fatigue, shakiness, dizziness and a fear of examining the pictures you took with your cell phone. There are definitely some preventative measures you can take to avoid this problem.

One. You could abstain from drinking. It always works. Your pals will love you for being the designated driver and you can probably get all the juice or Diet Coke you want for free. If this seems like crazy talk to you, best keep reading.

Two. For heaven's sake, eat something. Skinny chicks are at the biggest disadvantage here. "Alcohol produces a higher blood alcohol content in females than in males, due to several factors: weight, distribution of body fat, and the way our bodies metabolize alcohol," according to WebMD. If you eat some dinner before you go out on the town, the proteins, carbs and fats, etc. will slow the absorption of alcohol and keep you from looking like a doofus in the first hour. Supersize your fries, just this once. Fats and carbs seem to stick around in your tummy longer and do the most good. Taking a multi-vitamin with your dinner is a good habit for anyone, especially folks who may overdo it on weekends. Taking your One A Day with food helps absorption of the vitamins into your system and may protect you a bit from the inevitable depletion of vitamins, mineral and salts that drinking and frequent trips to the potty will cause.


Three. Drink water. Most of you know this, you just don't do it. So freakin' do it already. Alternate a tall glass of water in between each drink if you don't want to carry two glasses. Put a lime in it — your drunk buddies won't even notice that it's not a gin and tonic. One note: club soda and all things bubbly can accelerate alcohol absorption into the bloodstream. A Perrier is definitely better than nothing at all, but opt for plain old still water whenever possible.

Four. Stick with light colored drinks and don't mix. If you're bound and determined to drink beyond the giggly phase, do yourself a favor and stick to one thing. A helpful site called explains that it's not just the amount of booze that contributes to your pain. "Some drinks give you worse hangovers than others due to the actions of impurities called congeners. While it's the ethyl alcohol (ethanol) that gets you drunk, amyl alcohol, butyl alcohol, methyl alcohol, propyl alcohol, and isopropyl alcohol is also found in most drinks to varying degrees, and the concentration of these congeners will go a long way to determining the severity of the hangover." White wine, rum, gin, and vodka contain less congeners than dark liquors like tequila, whiskey, bourbon, etc.

Sadly, red wine is among the worst for congener content and something else called tyramine. explains that aged wines and cheeses contain this amino acid that can cause headaches in some folks and real problems for people on certain anti-depressants. Beer is pretty low in alcohol by volume and low in congeners, but the bubbles may come back to haunt you. Dark beers fall into congener territory as well. So although a night of drinking Pinot Grigio is my personal idea of hell, many folks will be saved some headache by this plan. One caveat: cheap stuff of any color is far more likely to have more congeners than well-made wine or spirits. It's the holidays, so splurge on the nicer bottle or premium brand and maybe drink a little less of it.

Lets just say, hypothetically, that you didn't follow my advice (or anyone else's for that matter) and you find yourself hammered at the end of the night. It might not be too late for you. If you are still coherent and with reliable buddies, get yourself to a 24-hour diner, stat. (Getting there in a cab or via public transit, goes without saying I hope.) Virgin radio's guide to hangover cures suggests you order something involving eggs and a pitcher of water. Eggs contain a high level of cysteine, an amino acid that helps out your liver clean out the toxic stuff you've consumed. Some OJ may not hurt either. Fructose or other sugars along with some vitamin C are a good thing. Skip the coffee. Coffee has caffeine, which may lessen an impending headache, but will more likely irritate your tummy tonight and keep you awake for all the unpleasantries. Its diuretic effects will make the dehydration problem worse.

Friends may encourage burnt toast due to its carbon content. Activated carbon supposedly has the ability to mop up congeners and ease your pain, but as points out, "Activated carbon is not burnt toast," and they have a whole article to explain it. Plus it tastes nasty. Be safe getting home and drink some water upon your arrival. Maybe pop a multi-vitamin. Pee. Go to bed. You may hurt a bit, but with some rest you'll be OK. Unless your night was more like this...


Picture a shot of you lying on the bathroom floor, still in your sparkly New Year's best. The cool tiles soothe your face and provide stability in a world that keeps spinning without you. Once again, you blew it. Pick yourself up very slowly and drink a big glass of water — or as much as you can without barfing. Crawl into bed and stay there. Until you have to pee again. And again. Keep drinking water with every trip to the loo if at all possible. When you finally decide to greet the day, you may realize that someone has knitted tiny socks to fit each of your teeth individually. Your bed has been placed on a turntable of some kind, and someone has injected your head with liquid lead. What can you possibly do to get rid of this feeling? Officially, not much. Doctors say time is the only real cure. But I know you. You'll try anything at this point. Pills, shakes, voodoo, anything.

Rehydration is definitely first on your agenda. Even water may be a challenge, so try a mild flavored sports drink or even ice chips if it's all you can handle. I'm a big fan of the Lemon Ice flavored Gatorade and try to buy some at the beginning of December, just in case. The sports drinks will replace some electrolytes and stuff you've drained from your body — particularly if you've been Barfy McBarfalot. I've heard tell from new moms that something called Pedialyte works, too. It's pricey and meant to rehydrate children with diarrhea, but lord knows you're desperate and not proud in these times. Obviously, this is not its intended use and you should read the label carefully before abusing any kiddie meds. The fact that it also comes in frozen popsicle form is oddly appealing, though.

You may be tempted to take some aspirin, and that's a good idea, too. However, do not take anything involving acetaminophen most commonly known as Tylenol. Definitely don't take it the night of the crime, either. Acetaminophen can react in a big bad way with your liver and alcohol, so best to not take any pain relievers at all right after drinking. (Seriously, are you going to read the label in that state?) Tried and true aspirin is the best thing to ease your pounding head, since it doesn't contain caffeine. Ibuprofen is a good second choice.

Eat something mild as soon as you feel up to it. Most of the medical sites recommend bouillon. I say get won ton soup and add some salt to it. It's cheap and you can probably get it delivered. You may have to order six quarts of won ton soup to meet the minimum delivery and pay for with your debit card because you spent the last of your cash on a cab, but it's worth it. No it's not glamorous, but neither are you right now, honey. Tip the guy well. You need the good karma.

But what about...

..."Hair of the dog"?
A Bloody Mary or another shot will do the trick, won't it? Who are you, Hunter S. Thompson? No. While a shot may ease the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal for a bit, the apex of your misery is always when your BAC finally equals zero for the first time. The heath section of explains, "A hangover typically begins several hours after you stop drinking, when the level of alcohol in your blood begins to decline. They peak when your blood alcohol level reaches zero, but can last for up to 24 hours thereafter." So if you have a breakfast shot, you might feel OK for a bit, but you're just putting off the inevitable and punishing your body even more. Not to mention, drinking in the morning to "feel better" is pretty much hopping the express train to alcoholism.

...Hangover remedies they sell at White Hen and gas stations?
You know who buys pills at White Hen and gas stations? Drunk people. reminds us that all of these cures are technically labeled "dietary supplements." They say that, "According to Hangover Review, which did a study covering many of over-the-counter hangover cures on the market, the only 'medically provable' supplements are Sob'r-K Hangover Stopper, Chaser and Uncle Rummie's Hangover Helper because they make use of the effective filtering qualities of carbon to reduce the number of impurities the body has to process. Sob'r-K Hangover Stopper is inexpensive compared to the others, uses the highest-grade carbon and the concoction is patented; therefore, Hangover Review deemed it the smartest choice." After reading all of these evaluations, it seems to me that none of these are "cures" and that you're probably better off just eating something and taking a multi-vitamin with a big glass of water.

WebMD reports that "Of all the hangover helper pills, HPF Hangover Prevention Formula™ — an herbal supplement containing derivatives of the prickly pear cactus — has shown the most promise. Researchers found it reduces three of nine hangover symptoms: nausea, dry mouth, and loss of appetite. It's believed to work by reducing the body's inflammatory response that alcohol causes." Apparently a study at Tulane University found that prickly pear may be the answer to hangover woes. I figure, researchers that have spent years near the New Orleans party scene probably know their stuff. However, WebMd also cautions that "the study that demonstrated the prickly pear derivative's defense against hangovers was supported by the product's manufacturer." Hmmm, sounds fishy.

This "Hangover Review" sounds a bit suspect as well, so I checked it out. They appear to be unbiased and claim "We have researched our data on the Internet and those weird paper things called books and provide the consensus view of the moment. If we could not find at least three reasonably reliable sources on the basic facts of hangovers and the chemical / physiological reasons for those hangovers, then we didn't put it on the site... Please note that we are not sponsored by any of the products that we review." OK then, sounds altruistic enough. However, Hangover Review does run several sponsored links to its site from Google.

I feel the need to be responsible here and remind you that the happy juice can, in fact, kill you. Alcohol poisoning is no joke and if any of your buds show signs of it, get them to an ER immediately. According to WebMD, signs are:

  • Vomiting (An unconscious person could choke and suffocate from vomiting)
  • Confusion.
  • Passing out, coma, or inability to awaken the person.
  • Seizures.
  • Slow breathing — fewer than 8 breaths per minute.
  • Irregular breathing &mdahs; 10 seconds or more between breaths.
  • Low body temperature (hypothermia), bluish skin, and paleness.

Your BAC will continue to rise even after you've stopped drinking so even if they seem OK for the moment, it's likely to get worse. Don't mess around with this. Enough said I hope, and I can return to my naturally snarky tone.

In all of my research, offered the most comprehensive hangover combatant plan around. They proudly tout,

The following arsenal-in-a-milkshake is so loaded with the anti-toxic munitions your body needs, that after it makes short work of your hangover, it might just clear out your nasal passages, shrink your hemorrhoids, and leap out of your body and write your History term paper. Behold the official Almighty Hangover Emergency Cure (patent pending):

  1. Take 2 aspirins
  2. Take 200mg cysteine (available at specialty food stores)
  3. Take 600mg vitamin C
  4. Take 1 tablet vitamin B-complex
  5. Mix the following ingredients together in a blender:
    • 1 banana
    • 1 small can V-8
    • 6 large strawberries
    • 2 tablespoons honey
    • 1 cup orange juice
    • 1-2 cups milk (or soy milk), to desired consistency
    • 1/4 tsp. salt
    • dash of nutmeg
  6. 6. Drink it all up.

If necessary, follow up with a dose of Maalox, lots of Gatorade, and bouillon soup for dinner. These ingredients will rehydrate your body, replace essential vitamins and minerals, and help rid your body of some of the toxic byproducts of metabolized alcohol.

This is so ingenious and well researched that it has to have been created by college students that were supposed to be doing something else. Have to say, I'm tempted to whip up a batch during the day on the 31st. It certainly couldn't hurt, considering my drinks of choice are Champagne, red wine and bourbon (bubbles and congeners aplenty!) So, eat, drink water and take your vitamins — just like your mom told you. But maybe keep some Gatorade on hand and keep the Chinese delivery place number handy, just in case. Good luck, and happy new year!


About the Author(s)

Christine Blumer is the owner of Winediva Enterprises, a private wine education and events company. She writes for several culinary and wine magazines and produces a monthly e-newsletter, Diva Dish. Subscribe via email to winedivaentmsncom or visit

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