The Curse

Collage: euphemisms.

I’ve been noticing worse hangovers for the last few years and put it down to ageing — I’m looking down the barrel end of 40. Whereas in my twenties I could happily go on a vodka crawl in Krakow and be up for work the next day, whistling and merry, these days, my limit is somewhere between one pint and three.

What struck me as odd, though, is that though Ray’s tolerance is also dropping (better that way than the other…) it’s consistent: he can drink about five pints in a session without having to write off the next day. Whereas on some occasions, a single pint is enough to induce an entire day of nausea in me.

So I started to do a bit of tracking on this, and began to notice a possible correlation: I appear to have much worse hangovers when I’m on or approaching my period.

My first thought was that I was actually less tolerant to alcohol during my period and this is very much the folk wisdom you’ll hear on the subject: during menstruation, the thinking goes, our blood is (a) thinner and (b) there’s less of it. However, from reading around a bit more, there isn’t clear medical evidence on this point (it would have a pretty negligible impact on blood/alcohol ratio, particularly if you keep up other fluids). However, interestingly, there is a potential link between oestrogen levels and pain perception, so it could be that the hangover symptoms simply feel a lot worse (as if that is any consolation). There is also a suggestion that you might drink more, or more quickly, while pre-menstrual (slough of despond and all that) – although I can rule out the former as I have been quite careful about recording amounts drunk, it is possible I might be boshing it at a different rate.

As someone who likes systems, processes and clear rules, it’s frustrating to me that there’s no consistency to it – some months are better than others. So I’ve started to record things in a lot more detail (e.g. looking at food intake, speed of alcohol absorption etc) and I’d be really interested to know if others have observed any trends or discovered any mitigation, other than sticking to fruit tea for half the month.

9 thoughts on “The Curse”

  1. Oddly enough, I’ve been pondering a similar topic; I had a complete change in the way my body managed alcohol after I had Child #2. It clearly wasn’t just a case of building back up a reasonable tolerance after foregoing for so many months, though there was some of that, but I’m now also susceptible to hangovers in a way I was not before (and also after not necessarily having very much, though given that most good beers in my neck of the woods are north of 6%, ‘not many’ is about 2).

    I do think there is a bizarre hormonal connection that has only gotten worse in the years since, especially after I turned 40, and the only thing I’ve found that helps is never drinking without eating something substantial – ‘pre-gaming’ (or, you know, having a meal like a normal person) with something like a bacon & egg or avocado & cheese sandwich seems to make a difference. The carbs/protein combo is also a necessity – just having some salty snacks doesn’t do the trick.

    Of course, having massive quantities of food before drink also makes for a pretty filling day, calorically-speaking, so I tend to really up the exercise on those days and make sure I don’t have many many opportunities for mid-week drinks. In short, there’s a fair amount of planning involved, and even then, I don’t always get it right, but at least for me, the magic of carbs, protein and salt seems to help.

  2. I haven’t noticed a specific difference but that would likely be because everything pales in comparison to the immense pain (and nausea) I suffer, which is generally untouched by prescription medication. I don’t even think I’d notice if I had a hangover if I had one. Or maybe it’s that I just don’t drink (or hardly drink) at that time because I feel so awful. Either way I seem to escape this phenomenon.

    Certainly my worst hangovers these, days are the ones which take a psychological form rather than physical.

  3. In your record keeping are you taking note of the kinds of beers that cause worse hangovers? I vaguely recall reading somewhere that dark beer has more health benefits that pale beer – wish I could remember where I read that.

    1. I’d be interested in that too. I’ve had different hangover experiences after drinking similar amounts of alcohol. I think it may be down to types of hops, but that’s complete guess work on my part. I’ve found theories on this online but nothing scientific. And I haven’t analysed my drinking in enough detail to figure out any patterns.

  4. Being in the control group for this particular variable, I can only say that tiredness and being run down certainly makes things worse, so that could be part of it. Colour definitely plays a part – I really don’t react well to Guinness. And it’s really not nice the way one seems to suddenly hit hangover hell in one’s early 30’s.

    Time to adopt the Low Countries’ tradition of necking the dregs in a shot glass? Yeast has lots of B vitamins which help the alcohol detoxification pathways, which is why Marmite is great hangover food.

  5. Three, tops, without feeling rough the next day.Last night I had six and even mid-afternoon I still feel shite although as Mrs Professor Pie-Tin pointed out there was also a fair bit of red wine with the steak and chips I knocked up when I got home.
    It’s age and nothing else although I’m no expert on menstrual cycles except when I kept a secret calendar in the early days of our marriage so I could predict when herself would get snarky.
    For most of my working life half a gallon was the lunchtime tipple plus five or six more after work.
    But I noticed when hitting my early 50s the enthusiasm waned in roughly equal amounts to the severity of the headache the next day.
    It was the same with dope.I smoked like Lewes Bonfire Night for decades but again,mid-50s,it all got too much.
    Christ,though,imagine a life without drink.I tried it once on doctor’s orders.Never again.And I’ve outlived him.
    Now.It’s 3.30pm.Normally around this time the straightjacket of hangovers begins to loosen and the ‘eejit at the back of my aching skull starts whispering ” a livener around 6ish might be a good idea.It is Friday after all. ”
    Begone booze Beelzebub.
    For an hour or two at least and we’ll have another think about it around 5ish.

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