How to cure a hangover

A party isn’t a party without bubbly and cocktails but, while there’s no cure for the embarrassing behaviour they can cause, there are ways to make the morning after less painful.

How to cure a hangover

The hangover is that most festive of illnesses, and can even be pleasant – the mild lethargy and a slightly groggy head are ideally suited to a day on the sofa with a Bond movie and a cup of tea.

The upset stomach and thumping headache of a severe hangover, though, are no joke, so what can we do to mitigate the party’s must-have malaise?

We spoke to the people best placed to answer this question.

The dietitian: 
“Start before you go out with a nutritious snack, such as a tuna sandwich or beans on toast,” says Dr Frankie Phillips, a dietitian for the British Dietetic Association. And watch out for party nibbles: “salted nuts will make you thirsty, and you’ll drink more!”

“Many of the symptoms of a hangover result from dehydration, ”explains Dr Phillips. “Isotonic sports drinks can rehydrate you – they’re absorbed quickly from the gut, and help to restore the salt imbalances caused by drinking. You can even make your own, by mixing equal quantities of orange juice and water in a glass, and stirring in a small pinch of salt.”

The chef
: Mitch Tonks, chef/proprietor of The Seahorse restaurant in Devon, is no stranger to a sore head. “I’d have a nice piece of haddock, poached in a little milk, with a poached egg or two on top,” he says. “No toast – you want to minimise chewing. A brisk walk along the breakwater, and you’re cured.”

Poached fish and eggs make for a healthy start, but dietitians wouldn’t be keen on his other suggestion: ‘hair of the dog’. “I discovered Averna Bitters – a sweet Italian liqueur – in Venice. A shot of it, over ice, is my personal elixir,” he says. “It’s not for everyone, though – my wife says it’s disgusting!”

The doctor: In the accident and emergency ward of Homerton hospital, London, Dr Tom Shaw gets to see the end result of some fairly spectacular nights out. “It is possible to make yourself ill,” says Dr Shaw, “but few people are ever going to require treatment. For the symptoms you’re going to be experiencing after a party, I’d recommend a small, fatty meal, a drink of rehydration salts, such as Dioralyte or Resolve, and a banana or two – they’re high in potassium, which you lose through drinking alcohol.”

The bartender: 
Ben Reed wrote the book on hangover cures (literally – Hangover Cures). The former head barman at London’s Met bar advises drinking, if not sensibly, then intelligently. “Certain cocktails will give you more of a hangover because of the spirits they contain,” he explains. “Some spirits contain more congeners – chemical impurities that impart flavour – than others, and these can make a big difference the next day. You can identify these by colour and flavour – dark or strong-tasting spirits will tend to contain more, and give you a worse hangover. So, a night out with a few vodka martinis will leave you in better shape than the same number of whisky-based Manhattans. It’s also smart to match each drink with a glass of water.”

Anatomy of a hangover

The hangover (or ‘veisalgia’, to use the technical term) affects most areas of the body in some way, for up to 24 hours.

  • Headaches as a result of dehydration and the dilation of blood vessels in the brain. Hormone imbalances impair restful sleep, causing mental fatigue.
  • Mouth feels rough and scratchy because of dehydration – and perhaps because you forgot to brush your teeth.
  • Liver builds up fatty and lactic acids, impairing its ability to metabolise sugar. The resulting low blood sugar is what causes that nasty depressed feeling.
  • Kidney function is impaired, causing increased urination and dehydration.
  • Digestive system suffers from inflammation, excess gastric acid (indigestion), delayed digestion and flatulence. 

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