Samui Wining & Dining
Never Again!

Some advice on how to cope with a blinding hangover.


18You roll over and open your eyes in a painful squint. The early sunlight is streaming through the blinds and it makes your eyes water. Your headache thumps in time with every heartbeat and everything else aches, too. Your mouth feels like it’s stuffed with old socks and you’ve a raging thirst. You groan and roll over away from the light but that makes everything throb even more. Bursting for the toilet and longing for a big glass of cold water, you start to get out of bed but you’re dizzy and feel a bit sick. The room sways and begins to rotate slowly. Even planting both feet firmly on the floor doesn’t slow it down. You’re suffering from the after-effects of alcohol poisoning. You’ve got a hangover.


It’s a simple little word, isn’t it, and only too familiar to most folks. But it covers a constellation of unpleasant symptoms from mild dizziness to virtual collapse. It varies from one person to another and there’s no fixed amount of alcohol involved. There are only two things that mankind knows with any certainty about this condition, and the first is that the more you’ve had to drink the more severe the symptoms will be. And the second is that there’s no real cure for it.


You can forget right away about the ‘the hair of the dog’. Grabbing a couple of short sharp shots of spirituous liquor actually does seem to help: there are usually several by-products (known as ‘congeners’) present in alcoholic drinks and these are partially responsible for your current discomfort. But when your body processes alcohol it creates poisonous by-products, such as acetaldehyde. That’s why a couple of nice strong Bloody Maries seems to help: your liver stops handing the toxins from last night and begins to work on the new alcohol intake instead! But it won’t be a relief for long; in an hour or so you’ll be feeling just as bad again, if not worse.


Even taking pain killers won’t improve things. Aspirin thins the blood in the same way that alcohol does; paracetamol will affect your already over-worked liver, and ibuprofen can irritate the stomach. But there are a few things you can do to help matters.


Even though you’ve been filling your body with liquids, boozing is a sure-fire way of becoming de-hydrated. So drink as much water as you’re able (at least a litre) before you go to sleep. And drink the same amount again as soon as you wake up (assuming that you can make it to the fridge!). But take note: pure water isn’t altogether effective. Add electrolyte powder or, failing that, a pinch of salt will do the trick.


Fruit-juices are good, too, particularly the fresh sort. They raise blood-sugar levels and replenish your body with some of the essential vitamins depleted during the previous night’s binge. But, tempting though it is, try to avoid coffee. The caffeine will certainly pick you up a bit but coffee is a diuretic, which will make you want to use the bathroom, dehydrating you even more.


So what’s to be done? Is there anything at all that helps? Helps, yes, but nothing will make it go away. A hangover can last all day and that’s the price you pay for your fun the night before. As well as the advice above, some sorts of food are beneficial, too. Anything rich in vitamins B and C and potassium, such as bananas or oranges, will offset some of your nutrient loss. Complex carbohydrates like fruit, whole-grain bread and natural cereals will also help to top-up your blood sugar and these work more surely than the simple ‘carbs’ like sugary drinks, pasta and potatoes.


Which is one of the reasons why some of the traditional hangover ‘cures’ have stood the test of time. Such as the famous Parisian remedy of ‘Drunkard’s Soup’; the bread, onions, butter and cheese go partway to replenishing those depleted nutrients. In Germany, they go for pickled herrings with sour cream and onions. Likewise, in Poland, drinking pickle juice is a common remedy. And there may be some truth to this – pickles are high in vitamins B and C. And then there’s the ‘Full English Breakfast’. It can work to a point: cysteine, an amino acid found in eggs, is known to reduce acetaldehyde levels, whilst the other amino acids in bacon are good at topping up the neurotransmitters in your fuzzy head.


There are hundreds of ancient folk-remedies to pick from, too. Some of them perceptively include ingredients that today’s scientists know to be efficacious. But others are more peculiar, such as the rabbit-droppings tea which was a favourite of cowboys from the old Wild West. In Sicily, eating a dried bull’s-penis is said to do the trick. An obscure old Celtic cure is to bury the sufferer in moist river sand – a remedy with the same thinking as banging your head against a brick wall, I imagine. And the ancient Romans swore by a bucket of deep-fried canaries – squawk! However, if some of these suggestions make you feel squeamish, then avoid getting drunk in Mongolia at all costs. This is where they swear by scoffing a pair of sheep’s eyes pickled in tomato juice.


Coming back to earth, one of the most famous of all the cures emerged in 1894. The New York socialite, Samuel Benedict, asked the staff at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel to whip him up his own creation, which has now become universally known as ‘Eggs Benedict’: half an ‘English muffin’, topped with bacon or ham, poached eggs, and with a rich Hollandaise sauce. And, even to this day, there are many people to be seen with dark circles under their eyes, nibbling hesitantly, hopefully even, at this dish in breakfast restaurants all over the world. Yes, even on Samui!


I’ve deliberately avoided mentioning that the best cure of all is not to get drunk in the first place. It’s not really sound advice, particularly here when you’re taking it easy in a tropical paradise. But at least you’ve now got some good advice on how to ease your misery a little – if you’re not too hungover to read it, that is!


Rob De Wet


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