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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