QUESTION

My husband insists that a Bloody Mary the morning after a party cures his hangover. I think that’s nonsense. Who is right?

ANSWER

Technically, you are. There is no cure for a hangover. Based on ongoing research into the elements involved in a hangover (it’s surprisingly complicated!), it does appear that a morning drink might reduce some of your husband’s headachy symptoms. However, it’s actually the alcohol leaving the body, a form of withdrawal, that causes the hangover. The headache, thirst, nausea and shakiness that are collectively called a “hangover” are caused by the rapid reduction in the concentration of alcohol in the blood. Having a Bloody Mary or other alcoholic drink only temporarily delays this reduction in alcohol as the body engages in a complicated detoxifying process…in other words, it merely postpones the hangover. Liver detoxification occurs at a rate of approximately one drink per hour, and nothing can speed that up–not coffee or a shower or walking outside in the cold air. What helps: Staying well-hydrated (sip water throughout the day), resting and taking aspirin (if his stomach can handle it). Because alcohol can cause your husband’s blood sugar to fall, it might help to eat carbohydrates such as crackers or bread, which raise blood sugar. Going forward: It might also be a good time for your husband to review his drinking habits. The Department of Health and Human Services’ Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that if alcohol is consumed, it should be in moderation—defined as no more than two drinks daily for men (and up to one drink daily for women). As for which type of drink to choose, there is some evidence that alcohol with fewer congeners (naturally occurring compounds that give different drinks their flavor and aroma), such as white wine, light-colored beers and vodka, are less likely to cause hangovers than whiskey, dark beers, red wine and brandy, which have more congeners.