A Little Late –– But Still Good Advice

Probably no town in the long human history of urban life has been through what we have over the past two weeks.

We’ve had important elections, the biggest sporting win in New Orleans’ history on the world’s biggest stage and then the long line of parades. The Saints parade. French Quarter parades. Uptown parades. Suburban parades. Superkrewe parades. And we weren’t done yet. We staged the annual long procession of humanity parading through every square inch of the entire metropolitan area, made up mostly of people going from one place to another, often not knowing in advance the starting or final location of either direction –– and all to the accompaniment of really tasty foods that are as far from healthy as you can imagine, washed down by a full range of beverages made by distilling, brewing, fermenting and blending.

You, my dear New Orleanians, have put yourself through it all and performed to your usual expert and excessive levels of enjoyment. Now, because in the end you are only human, there is a price demanded by the body: Enter “The Hangover.”

Your body and your mind are first of all telling you to slow down –– not permanently but just for a few days. The Catholics (and a few Protestant religions) are very accommodating in this area with the observance of Ash Wednesday, which is their way of letting you know that a “break” is in order. I know: They did not really plan it for that reason, but it is the way it works out.

There are many cures for hangovers, and you no doubt have friends that will swear by one or two or three of them. Today, there are even hangover cures sold over the counter at retail outlets. I am certain they are all fine at some level of relief for an achy, run-down body. Yet you can accomplish the same thing with some simple treatments, most of which are available in your home right now.

A hangover is simply your body telling you that it has had too much of certain things, such as alcohol, sugars and salts, while not getting enough of other things, such as sleep, water and minerals.

Let’s travel down the path to feeling positively human again for the primary purpose of doing more partying on St. Patrick’s Day, St. Joseph’s Day, etc. Seems reasonable.

First of all, get sleep. That’s the best friend you have. Don’t let one of your other so-called friends entice you to get out of the house for some “hair of the dog.” These people, while no doubt fun, are not at the moment your true friends. Sleep, sleep, and sleep some more. Forget the clock. Get all the sleep your body wants.

Drink lots of liquids, particularly those liquids that contain vitamins and minerals. Orange juice is good. Athletic drinks such as Gatorade and Powerade are good. Even pickle juice is good: lots of minerals, and it’s what the Polish do to offset the effects of vodka. (Please give me credit right here for passing up this target-rich atmosphere, just begging for smart comments and wry observations.)

Multi B vitamins and vitamin C are all good.

Coffee is not so good. The caffeine is not what your body really needs right now. Aspirin is not good either. Aspirin is a blood thinner, like alcohol, and it can exaggerate the effects of alcohol if there is any left in your system.

If you must “drink” something, try a Virgin Mary. You may feel like you have to put a little vodka in the drink. A little is okay but not too much. The tomato juice, the seasonings and the green veggies (celery, green beans, okra, etc.) are all good for what ails you.

Also, head for the shower. Alternate between hot and cold water. Stay there for a while. The humid (OK, wet) environment will cleanse your pores, moisturize your nasal passages and your mouth and jump-start your mental outlook in general.

Finally, and this is probably the last thing you will feel like doing, get out into the sunshine, and take a brisk walk. Breathe in fresh air. Feel the warmth. Move those arms and legs. Roll your head in a circle around your neck.

Hangovers are not complicated affairs. They are caused by a variety of factors, such as the dehydrating effect of alcohol and the naturally occurring congeners that are the natural byproducts of the fermentation process. Hangovers are made worse by other factors such as your weight; your age; not drinking water to replace the fluids lost to alcohol; not eating as you drink; and other bad habits in which you indulge, such as smoking.

But the situation is temporary, and obviously you can minimize the bad feeling by not drinking as much and, happily, by drinking better quality beverages. Higher cost and higher quality beverages usually go through better manufacturing processes, filtering out some of the “bad things.”

There are people who never get hangovers. This can happen because they scored better than you did in the gene pool sweepstakes. They also may know how to spread their alcohol consumption over a longer period of time, giving their bodies a chance to deal with the situation before fully immersing them again.

In any case, when you have over-partied, don’t compound the situation by immediately continuing not-so-bright behaviors.

After all, you don’t want to feel bad when the next big celebration comes along. And in this city, they come around very quickly.

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