Celebrating minus the hangover

Cactus Juice

You don’t necessarily have to get drunk or even drink
heavily to wake up the next morning with a hangover. I have
a friend who admits he’s a lightweight when it comes to
drinking. He claims that he’s produced a couple of
uncomfortable hangovers with as little as two or three beers.
Poor guy – he wouldn’t have lasted a day hanging out with

Obviously, drinking in excess is never a good idea – no
matter what you may be celebrating. But if you know ahead
of time that you’ll be having more drinks than you’re
accustomed to, or if you’re a lightweight like my friend is,
then there’s a cactus extract you should know about that
might help cushion the blow on the first morning of the New

Two sheets to the wind

According to neuroanatomist Robert West, excessive alcohol
intake triggers four stressful reactions in the body:

1) Disruption of the body’s water balance leads to
2) Blood becomes acidic when alcohol is metabolized.
3) Daily rhythms of the body are thrown off.
4) Alcohol impurities may trigger toxic reactions and

Those toxic reactions to impurities are an important part of
the hangover equation because they may prompt
inflammation. Imagine adding inflammation to dehydration
and it’s easy to understand why your head feels so miserable
on a classic “morning after.”

Set ’em up, Joe

Inflammation was the focus of a hangover prevention study
conducted by researchers at Tulane University. As reported
in the Archives of Internal Medicine, the Tulane team tested
an extract of a type of prickly pear cactus known as Opuntia
ficus indica (OFI). This extract has been shown to reduce the
body’s inflammatory response.

Sixty-four healthy subjects were recruited and randomly
assigned to receive 1,600 IU of OFI or a placebo five hours
before drinking began. During a four-hour drinking period,
each subject consumed 1.75 grams of alcohol per kilogram of
body weight. Subjects were allowed to chose an alcohol from
six different types: tequila, scotch, vodka, gin, bourbon or
rum. Blood and urine samples were taken the next morning.
Two weeks later the study was repeated with the same
subjects reversing OFI and placebo intake.

The researchers used nine symptoms to measure hangover
severity and overall well-being. In the OFI group, three of the
nine symptoms (nausea, dry mouth and loss of appetite) were
significantly reduced, and the symptom index was reduced by
nearly 3 points on average. Risk of severe hangover was cut
in half among those taking OFI. C-reactive protein (an
inflammation marker) was 40 percent higher in the placebo

Results also confirmed the old saw about dark liquor causing
worse hangovers than clear liquor. Subjects who drank vodka
and gin tended to have the least severe hangovers.

Rules of thumb

Opuntia ficus indica extract can be found through Internet
sources and in natural food stores. But even if you do fortify
yourself with this cactus prevention, you’ll be wise to follow
a few key rules of thumb that may help keep the morning
after from being a miserable awakening.

* Eat. Food intake slows alcohol absorption.
* Don’t mix different types of alcohol. It puts more stress on
the detoxification processes of the body.
* If you can, wait until you’re sober before going to sleep.
Your metabolism slows during sleep, so it takes longer for
your body to accommodate the alcohol. Intoxication may also
interfere with REM sleep.
* Don’t try to prevent a headache by taking acetaminophen
or aspirin before going to bed. This can actually increase the
time that alcohol is in your system. You can’t put a hangover
behind you until the alcohol has been fully processed. In
addition, the liver can be dangerously stressed when alcohol
and acetaminophen are combined.

Clean & clear

Finally, remember these three words: water, water, water.

Dehydration plays a large part in most hangovers, so drinking
some water between alcohol servings will help considerably.
And when you’ve finished drinking alcohol, keep the water

Of course, if you keep the water flowing while also
completely abstaining from alcohol, then you’ve found the
only sure fire way to prevent a hangover. But the reality is
that many people will be drinking a little too much tomorrow
night. And if they take a few precautions, they’ll be much
more likely to wake up with a clear head on the first morning
of 2005.

So here’s an H2O toast: Clear heads for the New Year!


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and another thing

Looking for a unique dish to prepare for a New Year’s Eve

A friend of mine sent me this recipe that could probably
benefit from an addition of 1,600 IU of Opuntia ficus indica.

Tequila Cake Recipe
(Be sure to read the entire recipe before starting!)

1 cup of water
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup of sugar
1 tsp salt
1 cup of brown sugar
Lemon juice
4 large eggs
1 bottle tequila
2 cups of dried fruit

Sample the tequila to check quality. To be sure it is of the
highest quality, pour one level cup and drink. Repeat. Turn
on the electric mixer. Beat one cup of butter in a large fluffy
bowl. Add one teaspoon of sugar. Beat again.

At this point it’s best to make sure the tequila is still OK. Try
another cup just in case. Turn off the mixerer thingy. Break
2 leggs and add to the bowl and chuck in the cup of dried
fruit. Pick the dang fruit up off floor. Mix on the turner. If the
fried druit gets stuck in the beaterers just pry it loose with a
drewscriver. Sample the tequila to check for tonsistikity.
Next, sift two cups of salt. Or something.

Check the tequila. Now shift the lemon juice and add one
table. Add a spoon of sugar, or somefink. Whatever you can
find. Greash the oven. Turn the cake tin 360 degrees and try
not to fall over.

Finally, throw the bowl through the window. Finish the
tequila and wipe counter with the cat.

And then start drinking plenty of water.

Happy New Year!

To Your Good Health,

Jenny Thompson
Health Sciences Institute


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“What Causes a Hangover?” Robert West, MadSci Network,
“Effect of Opuntia ficus indica on Symptoms of the Alcohol
Hangover” Archives of Internal Medicine, Vol. 164, No. 12,
6/8/04, archinte.ama-assn.org
“Dietary Supplement May Battle Hangover Symptoms” The
Associated Press, 6/28/04, thewbalchannel.com