When you’re smashed, your head shrinks. I don’t mean that in the cartoon sense, when you feel like you have a puny head attached to your normal-sized body. Your head shrinks after a night of drinking because it literally loses volume. Brain shrinkage is normal with advancing age (at 2% per decade), yes, but it shrinks with more alcohol, according to a study in the Archives of Neurology.
Why Am I More Wasted than You?
Head shrinkage is just one of the reasons why you get a hangover. Some people are more prone than others to feeling the pain after several shots of whisky or several bottles of beer. Genetics plays a role in whether or not you get a hangover. A large percentage of Asians don’t have enough enzyme that breaks down alcohol, which explains a lot of drunken Japanese businessmen passed out in public transportation.
You also guarantee a hangover when you choose bubbly drinks. Carbonated beverages, such as champagne quickly reach your small intestine, where alcohol is absorbed into your blood. Hence, the uncontrollable urge to sing “Livin’ on a Prayer” (Bon Jovi) in public.
Darker alcoholic beverages also tend to deliver heinous hangovers. In my experience, dark rum is a bastard, but scotch and Guinness are gentlemen. Darker drinks contain congeners, which are metabolized by the body into formaldehyde. So, dark spirits plus congeners plus formaldehyde equals looking and feeling like Gollum the next day.
Make it Stop
The good news is you can go on drinking throughout this Oktoberfest — without the Gollum effect the next day. At the very least, minimize the aches and pain. Here are some hangover cures you may want to try:
Drink water before you go to bed
Hydrate. When you drink, you lose more water because alcohol is a diuretic. Rehydrating before you go to bed prevents the parched, hit-by-a-baseball-bat feeling the next day. Hydrating, I find, works best.
Eat bananas and pretzel
Bananas, high in potassium, and pretzel, high in salt, prevent further dehydration.
Eat before drinking, and snack on protein while drinking
Eating before drinking also proves effective. Food, particularly protein-rich chow, keeps your stomach from absorbing too much alcohol.
Take a nap
Get some sleep. After I grab a quick bite (electrolytes in food replace lost water in your system), I get back to bed. A long nap helps the body heal after an evening of booze.
A shot (or five) of whisky is good — sometimes necessary after seeing how much taxes you paid on payday. A hangover doesn’t have to follow the next day. As always, ladies, drink responsibly and safely.
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Joy has been a vegan for over 20 years. She's done a wide range of stories for magazines, from music and movies to business and culture matters. She continues to write professionally to this day — like, right this very minute.