Just In Time For St. Patty's: The Secret To Hangovers

Why is it that we get hangovers?  And why is it that they become less predictable as we get older?

Two recently published articles may shed some light on this.  Then again, this is a wine blog, not a medical journal, so read on at your own peril.

Bottom line:  The reduced presence of certain enzymes and amino acids (good), combined with an excess of alcohol and its resulting toxins (bad), determine the severity of a hangover.  These variables are going to be different on different days, hence the lack of predictability.  One way to address this is to boost what your binge depletes.  Alternatively, you could not drink so much, dear. 

The Rest Of The Story: 

Melissa Dahl over at MSNBC gives a simple physiological breakdown of how our bodies break down booze.  In a nutshell, there are a couple of enzymes your body depends on to process alcohol.  As we get older, those enzymes become less efficient.  What's more is, cheap stuff has more congener content, which are byproduct chemicals from fermentation/distillation. 

Jeff Gordinier at The NY Times covers Alex Ott, a serious mixologist (mad scientist/bartender to the fabulous) and collaborator on Mercy, a hangover preventative.  Take a peek at what the Mercy folks are cooking up and you'll see how they intend to overcome an overtaxed body's deficiencies by boosting peptides, vitamins, electrolytes, and other things forgotten from bio/chemistry class. 

If all this sounds very laboratory-focused, it probably is.  You didn't think there was a prayer you could say to cure a hangover, did you?  Oh, wait.  Yes you did. 

So, let's summarize:

hangovers + getting older + cheap booze = 3 days of praying

Tom Johnson at Louisville Juice and part-time curmudgeon, has a slightly different take: "...everything gets worse as we get older."  Big thanks to Tom for bringing this alarming revelation to light.

Happy St. Patrick's Day!