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A New Year with old traditions

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Egyptian wooden model of beer making in ancient Egypt, located at the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum in San Jose, California. (Photo source: Wikipedia Public Domain)

Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record

The tradition to celebrate the new year is as old as mankind. The origin of calendars were mostly based on the seasons and nature to help planning the harvest. The new year in ancient Egypt began with the flooding of the Nile River valley; the ancient Celts had no new year’s celebration, instead they celebrated sun and moon festivals.

This picture of a medieval grape harvest is out of the book: “The Tacuinum Sanitas” of Vienna, Austria. (Source: Wikipedia Public Domaine)

Here in the U.S. the calendar is based on the Christian Catholic calendar, commissioned by Pope Gregory XIII, on Feb. 24, 1582. Before that, countries would switch back and forth between March 1 and Jan. 1 to celebrate New Year.

The celebration of New Year’s Eve changed as well over time. Today, families play games and watch the countdown to midnight on TV with special shows.

Then, there are the parties. Hopefully everybody will celebrate New Year’s Eve responsibly. But, even if you stay at home and have your guest stay overnight instead of driving home, they can still end up with the most unwelcome side effect of having too much fun and too much alcohol: The dreadful hangover.

After the first accidental fermentation of fruit or wheat that produced alcohol, we know that there had to be the first poor guy drinking too much and suffering the consequences. Ever since, the hunt started for the perfect hangover remedy.

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Smart people, or — depending whom you ask — smart alecks will tell you to stay away from alcohol, or drink moderately. They are smart alecks, because who would try to achieve a hangover on purpose? Sometimes it sneaks up on you. That’s why the police tells you not to drive at all after drinking alcohol, even if you think you are under the limit. Doctors will tell you that two glasses of wine over two hours is safe to consume for men, or one glass of wine over the same time period for women. It’s unfair, but a scientific fact that women can’t drink as much as men. Knowing all that, chances are, there will be those who will drink too much. However, you can prepare against the negative fall-out the next morning.

First of all, have a good meal, rich on protein and preferably greasy. In some countries, party-goers drink a shot glass of olive oil before drinking alcohol. Indeed, according to researchers published in the Scientific American, oil does bind alcohol to a certain degree, but it still has to pass through the liver, changing the alcohol first into toxic acetaldehyde and then metabolizing it into the less toxic acetone which can then be broken down into water and carbon monoxide.

This takes time and the more alcohol you drink, the longer it will take. If there is too much acetone to be broken down, the body requires more water and minerals to do so. The alcohol dehydrates the body too, less water is available and the side-effects are all the horrible hangover symptoms.

To avoid that you can help the body by diluting the alcohol. Match every alcoholic drink with a tall glass of water.

Next, avoid mixed drinks and those with sugar.

According to the article by C. Roberts (University of Manchester, Dep. of Postgraduate Medicine & Dentistry, in the Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine, Volume 14, Oct. 2007) his study found that when participants drank vodka mixed with soda, their blood alcohol levels were higher than those who drank straight vodka (or vodka mixed with water). The researchers hypothesized that this was because of the carbonation and sugar. The bubbles and sugar effects the release of the alcohol, instead going into the liver the alcohol goes straight into the small intestine, where it is absorbed into the blood stream sooner.

Researchers also suggest to stay away from dark alcohol. During the fermentation of darker alcohol chemicals, such as tannin in red wine, are added. Those impurities can make sensitive people feel a hangover, even if they drank only one glass. If you take any diet substitutes or medication talk to your doctor before drinking any alcohol. Medication usually has a warning label stating if you can drink alcohol with it. This is not the case in over-the-counter substitutes. And don’t fall for those miracle-drugs. They do not work and can cause harm in combination with alcohol. Only your doctor can tell you if it is safe.

If you did drink too much, didn’t drink enough water, or had too much of dark alcohol and didn’t have anything substantial to eat — which means you didn’t read this article in time — you will be suffering from a hangover.

There are some home-remedies you can try. Some of them date back to the Viking era, others are fairly new.

Let’s start with what not to do. Don’t try the hair-of-the-dog method of drinking more of the alcohol you had the night before.

Some scientists theorize that hangovers are a mild version of alcohol withdrawals. Drinking alcohol again only prolongs the suffering.

A version of the hair-of-the-dog method is red beer. A light beer mixed with tomato juice. The light beer mellows the withdrawal symptoms of the hangover while tomatoes are traditional folk remedies in many cultures for hangovers. Tomatoes are a good source of vitamin A, C, beta-carotene and the antioxidant lycopene. Add to that salty olives, bacon and celery sticks, and it could work. Better would be a virgin variety, such as a non-alcoholic Bloody Mary, plain tomato juice or soup. Beef broth or chicken broth would work too. It replaces salt and potassium lost while processing the alcohol.

A recent remedy is to have plenty of electrolyte drinks at your bed. The alcohol not only dehydrates the body, but the body uses much more minerals and vitamins to break down the toxic alcohol. Drinks with electrolytes have sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium and phosphate to replace what you lost.

Athletes and college students have something in common. Both prefer children’s electrolyte solutions instead of sport drinks with too much sugar to refill their own electrolytes. According to a study in 2007 one third of people purchasing children’s electrolyte solutions don’t have children.

I used to be an incentive travel agent, organizing symposiums and meetings around the world. Most European companies added open bars in the evening for their employees. There would be always one or two people who would come crawling out of their rooms the next morning, feeling too sick to go to the meetings. We had a short-term remedy at hand: Two magnesium pills, a bottle of Coke or Pepsi mixed with multi-vitamins. This would get them through the day until around 4 p.m. when they would get back into the open bar. Not a healthy life-style. Fortunately those meetings usually lasted only three days. My colleagues and myself always preferred when we worked for American companies. They would send the entire family to the meetings and have only cash bars. Having the spouses and children there stopped them from indulging in too many drinks than they could handle.

From modern times to the historic home-remedies. If Romans, Greeks, vikings and sailors used them, they might be worth a try.

The Romans and Greek considered anybody drinking undiluted wine a barbarian. Today, when you go out to the pubs in Germany, Belgien, France and other countries that were conquered by the Romans, you still can order wine mixed with water or with lemonade. The mimosa — champaign mixed with orange juice — is another example how to dilute the alcohol.

Scandinavian countries are the origin of the Vikings. To go viking meant to go on a trip. Often that trip included lots of looting, pillaging and burning down villages carrying away helpless maidens. It’s not hard to imagine that Vikings liked to party on their days off. Their remedy against hangovers was the sauna. Earliest remains of those saunas go back to 1,000 A.D. Saunas were simple bathing houses with big heated stones in its center. Pouring water on the hot stones produced the steam. The steam would make the Vikings sweat out the alcohol faster. Afterwards they would jump in an ice-cold river, the ocean or into snow banks to cool off. They must have had really strong hearts.

One of the oldest recipes for hangovers is from Iceland: A soup made out of sheepshead, salt and water. It might be not as practical trying to find a sheepshead to cook, but menudo soup with tripe is known in Mexico and New Mexico as a good cure and is easier to come by. Many Mexican restaurants in town offer menudo on Jan. 1.

Bulgaria, Georgia and Greece have tripe soup as hangover remedy as well.

Countries such as Sweden, Norway, Finland and northern Germany have hardcore brandy that have an alcohol percentage from 64 to 76 proof and are distilled out of rye, wheat, barley or potato. These coastal countries have hangover cures that sailors and farmers would use for centuries. All are based on fatty cold-water fish. The fish is served on bread, either marinated in oil or pickled in vinegar. These fish specialties are often already served during the parties and are part of the hangover breakfast traditions.

You think that sushi is a typical Japanese specialty? Think again. British citizens in medieval times thought to cure hangovers by eating raw eel.

In Germany, Russia and the United States dill pickles in vinegar are used as hangover cure for a long time. The vinegar actually helps to regulate the pH level of the stomach acid and the salt helps to refill those electrolytes, helping against the stomach ache.

University students at the University Heidelberg, Germany, in the 18th Century would often drink too much wine and get into sword duels. Their hangover cure were boiled eggs, the yoke would be removed and mixed with oil and salt, stuffed back into the egg and eaten. An early version of deviled eggs.

These historic remedies mentioned seem to be fairly harmless, I did leave out the wild and crazy remedies. Here is just a sample of our desperate ancestors trying to escape the pain.

The Romans believed in wearing flowers in their hair to keep the headaches of intoxication away. John of Gaddesden (1280-1361) was an English court physician and treated the royalty by bathing their privates with vinegar and salt before making them eat sugared cabbage. The cabbage might work, but the rest? This method spread throughout the courts of other countries. The Irish had also creative ideas, they would bury themselves up to the neck in wet sand or go swimming.

All cultures agree, hangovers are a pain and there is no 100 percent cure, yet.

We all know not to drive while drunk and hopefully you have a party host who collects the guests car keys at the beginning of the party. However, recent statistics from the CDC indicate that driving the next day with a hangover is just as bad as driving drunk.

Hopefully, you will be one of the smart people and not drink too much or not at all if you volunteer as a designated driver.

Have a safe and happy New Year.

Christina Stock may be contacted at 622-7710, ext. 309, or at vision@rdrnews.com.

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