Samui Wining & Dining
The Day After The Night Before

Hangovers and sure-fire cures.


8Most of us like a drink or two. On occasion we may even have a few more than that, actually, a lot more than that. And with that comes certain consequences. Usually foul breath, an empty wallet and an ungodly hangover to name but a few. And it's the latter that causes millions of early morning calls to the workplace claiming the flu, a stomach bug or some other such nonsense. All hokum, even a dodgy kebab at 4 am isn't going to give you that kind of headache. Trust me, I'm a writer and I'm Scottish, it's one of the few subjects I'm an expert on, without any research!

    So what actually happens to your body when you over-indulge? Well, after you ingest alcohol, your body breaks it down into (amongst other things) acetaldehyde, which is one particularly nasty chemical. In layman's terms it gives your brain a bigger kicking than a dozen England football fans could on crack cocaine. And that's just the start. Then your nervous system gets short-circuited by your body's mineral and vitamin depletion. Plus there's low blood sugar and acute dehydration. All of which result in nausea, twitchy nerves, shakes, pessimism, terrible brain pain and a temporary suspension of the laws of gravity. The severity of the hangover will vary depending on many things, including: the amount you've downed in a given time period; your own enzymatic capacity to deal with the poisons; your age, and your weight. Put like that, it starts to sound less attractive by the minute.

  Okay, let's presume you've ignored all of the above and are pretty sure sometime soon you're going to make the same mistakes all over again. Is there a cure? Short answer, scientifically speaking, is no. However, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence that certain things work for some people. Logically, eating before you go out and drinking lots of water before, during and after will certainly lessen the effects, but let's assume you chose to ignore that, as no doubt many of you will. And let's presume you mix your drinks, keep up with the fastest drinker in your group and believe you are on a mission from God to drink every bar dry. In other words - a normal night.

      You've now managed to find your way back home, removed half your clothes and launched yourself to within ten feet of the bed. All well and good. Now let's fast forward about eight hours. It would be longer but if you're lucky your bladder should have given you a wake up call. If not, you're on your own, no-one's going to help you with that one. A few stumbles and fumbles later and that's when it really hits you. Cue the England fans and let battle commence.

      First of all you could gulp down some water and go back to bed until the bad man inside your head goes away. But let's say you've got to get up. You could try a 'hair of the dog that bit you'. Many swear by a Bloody Mary, but really that's just delaying the inevitable. Unless you are planning to continue drinking until the Grim Reaper comes along, and that might just hurt a tad more. How about a nice cup of coffee? Sure it might wake you up, but it’s a diuretic (the same as alcohol) and will aggravate dehydration. You'll still have a blinding headache, and now you'll be much more aware of it. Orange juice is favoured by many, and just as many return it from whence it came! Your stomach is just going to reject it. On saying that a number of people believe a glass of orange juice with a raw egg in it works wonders. For most of us though it will simply mean two things to clean up off the kitchen floor. If nausea strikes, something fizzy, such as Coke (Irn Bru if you're Scottish) can work for that aspect of your discomfort.

       In terms of food, lots of people like nothing better than a good old fry-up. It can help with the replenishment of nutrients and, taken with some vitamin tablets, headache pills and plenty of water, is considered one of the fastest ways to combat a hangover. You may need a little nap afterwards though. Bananas, honey and peanut butter can help reduce the pain and some love Marmite on toast. It's got lots of salt and vitamin B, but its oily nature could upset some stomachs. How about consuming the rest of the pizza you staggered home with. If the dog hasn't scoffed it you could tuck in. I've no idea why it works, I think it's just a bloke thing. A hot bath can also help sweat the toxins out, as can exercise.

      There are a few products now on the market that the manufacturers claim are the ultimate cure. One is cysteine which is available at speciality food stores. It directly counteracts the poisonous effects of acetaldehyde. Taken with some vitamin C, headache tablets and a fruit-packed milkshake, it claims to do the trick. Another is a drug known as RU-21, which was allegedly created by the Russian KGB, to keep their agents sober whilst drinking with the enemy in order to steal secrets and lies. Its makers claim that it stops the body producing the enzyme which turns alcohol into acetaldehyde. But if you're seen taking two pills for every two drinks before consuming the alcohol, you'll be reasonably suspicious to any pub landlord or bouncer.

      Recently, there was a scientific study undertaken by Exeter University Medical School, and the results were published in the British Medical Journal. Unsurprisingly, they found no compelling evidence that any interventions actually worked. I think most of us could have told them that. So, really, the bottom line is that if you drink way beyond your limit, it's going to hurt. A few things might lessen the pain or take your mind off it for a bit but that's about all. You could do what I did and get roaringly drunk for weeks on end, trying out a different 'cure' each day. I did enjoy the 'hair of the dog' up to a point. Sleeping for very long periods also worked reasonably well, as did big fry-ups.

      Now for the downside to this experiment. My wallet is empty, my girlfriend's left me, my liver is the size of a small country and I could easily be mistaken for Frankenstein's monster's older, uglier brother. On the upside I've completely forgotten any problems I vaguely remember previously having, I've met a whole sub-culture of like-minded people, and street-hawkers now cross the road to avoid me. To be truly great, one must suffer for one's art. Cheers!

Johnny Paterson


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