Hangovers are a source of dread for me now. Long gone are the days when I could boldly drink myself into a stupor without any fear of the repercussions (well, the physiological ones at least). That was college. Now, when I decide to put one on with old friends, every sip goes down with the bittersweet knowledge that the following day will be one of the worst days of my life. I can’t help but thinking: Why hasn’t a cure for hangovers been discovered yet? It turns out I’m not the only one.
Scientists at U.C. Davis are crying out for more funding to research hangover cures, and not just for reasons of personal health and comfort. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, “related absenteeism and poor job performance” associated with hangovers costs American businesses $148 billion annually. That’s $2,000 a person every year. That’s a serious amount of lost change, especially considering the state of the American economy in the last half decade.
You’d think that with such a great effect on productivity, there would be more concern on this issue and a greater desire to find a cure. However, hangovers are not an epidemic, they are brought upon by choice, therefore the simple but unrealistic answer is for Americans to stop drinking or to drink less (but let’s be honest, that is never going to happen). So it’s not much of a surprise that there has been little research on the subject. In fact, “We really don’t know much about a hangover and it is an incredibly puzzling response – the symptoms only show up after all the alcohol is metabolized and gone from the body,” says Alyson Mitchell, a professor at the department of food science and technology at UC Davis. “The fact that something is the most toxic after it has been eliminated from the body [is unusual].”
What we do know is that there are certain foods you can eat that will help restore the building blocks of protein that get diminished when you drink too much. To start, eat something fatty before you go out, just make sure it includes meat, dairy, or olive oil. The fat will coat your stomach, which will protect your body from absorbing the alcohol too quickly. For the day after, eat something with eggs. Eggs help replace cysteine, an amino acid lost from heavy drinking that our bodies have a tough time replenishing on their own. That’s why I strongly encourage the breakfast burrito – sorry, vegans!
Another great hangover food is a New Orleans favorite: yakamein, or as they call it, “Old Sober.” According to the Atlantic: The big bowl of liquid is loaded with sodium to replace all the salts that your body whizzes away due to alcohol’s diuretic properties. The unctuous brisket sits in your stomach like a heavy sponge, slowing down the body’s absorption of alcohol. The B-complex vitamins in the green onions might help ease an impending headache by preventing an accumulation of glutaric acid. That egg plays a part, too, being full of a chemical called cysteine that removes noxious acetaldehyde from the system.
Although these tasty options will help replenish your body, and possibly even truncate your temporal misery, they still do not prevent nor end the hangover. The British Medical Journal concludes, “No compelling evidence exists to suggest that any conventional or complementary intervention is effective for preventing or treating alcohol hangover.” Hopefully scientists like Dr. Mitchell can start receiving the funding to research this plague-of-the-bottle, and maybe one day, a hangover will be cured by just taking a pill. Until then, it’s breakfast burritos and copious amounts of Vitaminwater for me.