Hair of the Dog

By Anna Sachse

Posted July 31, 2008 in Mind Body Spirit

I have a crap-ass hangover right now. Last night I met with the woman who is making my wedding cake and ended up drinking enough wine to drown a horse; now I have dry mouth, nausea and dizziness, and I feel like a horse kicked me in the head. So how do I start feeling better?


Well, obviously, the best option for beating a hangover is not getting one in the first place—i.e. drink less. It may be difficult to remind yourself to slow down as you enjoy your umpteenth pint of PBR and charm the pants off everyone at the bar with your drunken witticisms, but trust me—it’s a mantra you’ll be repeating over and over the next day if you don’t take care. The amount a person is able to drink comfortably depends on numerous things, including weight, gender, fatigue-level, medications you’re taking, how much food you’ve eaten, etc., but you can find a general guide to alcohol impairment at (that way you can avoid a DUI as well as a hangover).


But if you have already over-indulged, the next step is to drink two or three large glasses of water before you go to sleep—it helps flush the toxins (mainly a nasty chemical called acetaldehyde) out of your system and can prevent some of the symptoms of dehydration (alcohol is a diuretic) that make the morning after so painful. Eating a small snack can also help because the food will slow down how much alcohol is absorbed by your stomach lining.


When you wake up—probably a lot earlier than you’d like because alcohol interferes with REM sleep)—keep drinking water, electrolyte-fortified sports drinks or flat ginger ale, which can help soothe your stomach. Juice is also a good idea, because it will help give you the extra energy you’ll be needing due to the fact that alcohol taxes the liver and makes it less able to produce the glucose (sugar) that fuels every cell in your body. A little coffee may help as well, since caffeine can counteract the alcohol-induced swelling of small blood vessels that’s most likely contributing to your headache—but don’t have too much, as caffeine, like alcohol, is also a diuretic and rehydrating yourself is your number one goal. 


Contrary to popular belief, having another alcoholic drink in the morning (the hair of the dog theory)actually does nothing to “cure” a hangover. According to WebMD, your body contains an enzyme, alcohol dehydrogenase, which breaks ethanol down into the other chemicals that are making you sick. Adding more alcohol to the mix makes your body stop and concentrate on the new alcohol coming in so that you get a brief reprieve, but as soon as that added alcohol gets processed, you’re back where you started but with even more toxic chemicals floating around. You’re better off popping a couple Tylenol or Advil. Excessive doses of acetaminophen (Tylenol) can be toxic to your liver, particularly when combined with alcohol, but two should be fine. Take your pain medication before hangover symptoms even begin and you’ll be better off; just make sure to have them with a bite of food to avoid upset stomach. 


After that, everyone has their own little things that help them feel better. For me, it’s Mexican food. Rest or take a nap later if you’re able, or, counter-intuitively, take a brisk walk to the taqueria because exercise will help your body rid itself of toxins. The increased circulation also gets blood and air to your oxygen-starved brain. Right about now, my own brain could really use the help.



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