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How to cure a hangover.

Updated on February 23, 2010

It's all down hill from 21.

It's a sad fact of life but the older we get, the worse our hangovers get. It's nature's way of telling us we are too darn old to pole dance, play beer pong, spontaneously get up at open mic night, insult people, hook up with random strangers, hook up with our friends' crushes (or worse their partners). Those things need to be done in your twenties... preferably the very early twenties.

At some point I am sure we will all become very sensible and learn to have no more than three drinks in one night; to make sure that we drink on a full stomach; to alternate the alcoholic drinks with glasses of soda water and cranberry juice; and remember to take out our conatct lenses and remove our shoes before collapsing into our beds.

However, until that day of ascension we are need of hangover cures. Preventative measures - such as drinking water before you go to bed along with swallowing a painkiller and a vitamin C tablet - are all well and good, but sometimes you're just too wasted to follow this sage advice. In which case you need a plan of action for when you regain consiousness with the pain of a thousand tiny hammering dwarves in your head, and a mouth like a camel's butt crack.

The following tips are tried and tested by myself and have proved helpful in dire circumstances, but remember: I am not a doctor, and have no medical training - this is just what works for me.

Ibuprofen and water.

As soon as you wake up, drink a lot of water in small sips (taking too much liquid of any sort into your stomach too quickly can induce a reflexive action that will make you vomit it straight back up again), and take a painkiller containing IBUPROFEN. This is an anti-inflammatory that will calm down your engorged brain cells and make them hurt less. Go straight back to bed and try to sleep long enough for the painkillers to kick in (brush your teeth first if you're up to it).

When you do have to get up, you can take a few more throughout the day but follow the instructions and DO NOT exceed the dosage on the bottle. It's bad for your liver and your kidneys to take too many painkillers. Ditto stuff like Alka seltzer, Aspirin and anything else containing acetaminophen or paracetamol. Your poor organs are already dealing with a vat of last night's alcohol, you don't want to over load them.

A decent meal.

Wake up for the second time and eat some food, proper food. Something with carbs, vegetables and protein. A small steak, baked potato and broccoli is a great start, or a bowl of chicken or shrimp pasta. Chinese food is also another good option, but avoid things in batter. Or there's the traditional scrambled eggs, toast, tomatoes and a bit of lean ham. You might be craving potato chips and donuts, but they'll make you feel sick because of all the oil, plus it's more toxic junk for your already stressed liver and kidneys to deal with. Your body needs good food to give it nutrients and mop up some of the booze.

Rehydrate.

Drag yourself to the store (walk, don't drive) and pick up four liters of Gatorade, Powerade, or some other sort of watery sports drink that's got sugars and electrolytes and a pleasant thirst-quenching flavour. Spend the next six hours in bed with movies on in the background (no reading - focusing on small letters will make your head hurt), slowly sipping the liquids. By night time you should feel replenished for another evening out on the tiles should you be a total masochistic.

Get your head wet.

If this option is open to you, go to the beach. Not to bake in the hot sun, but to play in the waves. There's nothing like cold water engulfing you over and over again for several hours to a make you feel refreshed, and clear a pounding headache. Check you're within sight of a lifeguard though... remember when you're hungover, you're probably not as strong a swimmer as you usually are. Oh and by the way, paddling up to your knees in the waves will not work. You have to get your head wet to fell better.

If the ocean's not an option, sit underneath a luke warm shower for 10 minutes, give yourself a blast of icy water for a minute at the end, towel off and then go to bed.

Sleep, sleep and more sleep.

Going to bed features quite heavily as part of my hangover cures. This is because when you pass out drunk you are doing just that, passing out. You're not sleeping properly, consequently, even though you may have been unconscious for eight hours or more, you won't be feeling at all rested, and your body will be desperate fo sleep. Sleep deprivation makes you feel like you can't function properly, it's difficult to string a sentence together and you're doing everything in slow motion, plus you'll find you're feeling very cold and shivery ... go to bed.

Have sex.

Seriously, it will make you feel better. Not the hard and fast, hit your head against the wall, take the skins off your knees and get motion sickness type of sex. God no, that'd be exhausting, plus nothing ruins a romantic moment quicker than having to leave halfway through to put your head in a toilet bowl.

No, I'm talking about the slow, gentle, lazy sex that you have when you're really, really tired. It will take your mind off things, and an orgasm will release endorphins and serotonin flowing that are the body's natural painkillers. Furthermore it will help you sleep. Sex with yourself, if a partner's not readily available, will also work wonderfully.

Lastly a word about a hair of the dog.

Some people swear by having more booze to alleviate the headache and make you feel human again. I don't personally take this route, and I wouldn't advise anyone else to, because it's obviously not very good for you and just prolongs your hangover into the next day. However some would say that it does take the edge off the pain so if you're going to choose this option, consider the following.

  • Mix a very small amount of alcohol with a lot of a non-alcoholic drink, like half a bottle of beer with half a liter of 7-up, Sprite or the equivalent.
  • Do not take painkillers and have a hair of the dog. It's one or the other, not both. Painkillers contain chemicals that have to be filtered through your liver just the same as booze, neither of them are actually good for your liver, and it's an easy way to end up in hospital.
  • NEVER DRIVE. You were wasted a few hours ago when you went to bed, you were probably still drunk when you woke up. The fact that having another alcoholic drink can numb the pain of your hangover, means you're drunk again. You could kill someone, and it's just not worth it. Stay in bed instead, have the Chinese food and the Gatorade delivered.

Good luck, hope you feel better soon, and if you are suffereing from a massive hangover, don't beat yourself up over it. Nobody else is going to give you sympathy, so you might as well be kind to yourself.

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