Hair of the Dog – Everything you need to know about hangovers and how to prevent them

After a long night of drinking I’m sure most of us have had a friend offer a pithy commentary on how to avoid a hangover –“Take a Hair of the dog” – But do you ever wonder where the adage originated? “Hair of the dog” is A 19th century colloquialism that referred to treating a rabid dog bit by literally placing hair of the dog into the bite wound to stave off infection that was later adapted as a technique to treat a hangover – no doubt in an article like this. But is taking the “Hair of the dog- or in this case sip of the particular variety of liquid courage that kicked your fragile little hiney really fix a hangover?

To answer that question we need to know a little more about what causes hangovers or Veisalgia (in medical terminology).


Veisalgiais defined as – Unpleasant physical effects following the heavy use of alcohol.It’s derived from the Norwegian work Kvies – meaning “uneasiness following debauchery” and the Greek word Algia – meaning pain. Which is apt considering the Greeks also brought us Ouzo and Metaxa, which in my experience also mean Pain.


But how do hangovers happen?

As we digest food, alcohol, etc it is brought to the liver (the main detoxification site in the body) for processing, in the liver, enzymes breakdown and process nutrients then remove toxins that may be present. In the case of alcohol, aka ethyl alcohol, it is absorbed in the stomach and brought to the liver for processing. Once there, the liver enzymes break the ethyl alcohol into acetylaldehyde, once converted to acetylaldehyde, glutathione then converts it to acetate that is easily excreted by the body.


Here’s the problem, for most people, the liver doesn’t contain substantial glutathione reserves, and as you drink, the levels of glutathione drops, leaving more acetylaldehyde to circulate the liver.


So is that a problem? Yes, as it turns out, acetylaldehyde is 10-30x more toxic than alcohol itself –to as the body desperately tries to crank up your glutathione levels, acetylaldehyde begins to roam your body and is a major contributor to the pounding headaches and nausea you get as a parting gift the night after drinking.


Water, water everywhere…so you should drink it.

Alcohol is a diuretic, meaning once you break the seal you will be peeing out more water and dehydrating your organs. With less water available in the system the body actually borrows water from the brain, causing it to shrink – resulting in headaches.


How to prevent “hangovers”

Drink water

Drink water before during and after you consume alcohol. This will reduce the diuretic damage caused by the alcohol and minimize the dehydration that will precipitate your headaches..


Throw fat loss to the wind and eat…

Before you start drinking, eat foods high in fat and carbohydrates. Carbohydrates raise blood sugar and ease nausea. Fats slow absorption of alcohol and give the body more time to process the harmful by products of alcohol – which are the main culprits in your hangover.


What you drink will matter…though not necessarily the order

Drink light colored liquors – dark liquors including bourbons, whiskey, red wine (some of my favorites) contain higher amounts of congeners that act as toxic chemicals the body needs to detoxify.


Congeners are substance produced during fermentation. They include Acetone, Acetaldehyde, etc. and contribute to the taste and aroma of distilled beverages.


Beer and other malt or carbonated beverages, though not high in congeniers, will increase the rate of alcohol absorption and thus in creasing the likely hood of hangover symptoms. (They are also grain based and often laden with gluten that can set of a nasty hangover in its own right.). Also, people respond different liquors in different ways – listen to your body and how it handles various liquors and adjust your consumption accordingly for instance -I enjoy scotch and scotch enjoys turning me into a rage filled 30 something that enjoys being naked on the roof. Thus, when I want to avoid being naked and angry…I don’t drink scotch.


Conversational tidbit:

Incidentally, acetone is commonly found in nail polish remover and after clearing the liver is often excreted via sweat the main reason Saturday morning cardio classes all over the country smell like nail salons


Take Away- How do I prevent a hangover?

Do take Asprin – which is analgesic meaning it inhibits pain but it also inhibits the release of prostaglandin that has been shown to contribute to hangovers.


Don’t take Tylenol – on the other hand (aka acetaminophen) is extremely hard on the liver and in combination with alcohol can do some serious damage.


Morning after: breakfast is the most important meal of the day…especially when you have a hangover here is what I recommend:


Eggs – I know, not the most appetizing when you’re nursing a hangover but…eggs are high in Cysine an amino acid that is required in the breakdown of alcohol to Aceytate


Fruit – containing fruit sugar or fructose, increases the rate at which your body excretes toxins.



I recommend taking high quality magnesium, Vitamin C, B-complex and Glutamine, glutathione and electrolyte packs.

If you don’t have access to a glutathione spray, I recommend eating eggs (cystine), glutamine and vitamin c as each of them are found in the glutathione pathway.


It’s not ole “hair of the dog” technique but it will work.