For most people, having a hangover after a night of drinking is a couple of painful hours that you don’t want to remember. But it became a career for a man to find a cure for the hangover.
Shaughnessy Bishop-Stall began a decade-long search and traveled to over 35 countries to find a cure for the hangover. He wasn’t just pounding Advil or chugging Pedialyte. Bishop-Stall, a journalist, has put in extreme efforts – from jumping off the Stratosphere Tower in Las Vegas (the resulting adrenaline rush, he says, blew the hangover right out of it) to diving into cold glacial water (in which a response to the fight to escape had sobering effects – and consulted dozens of experts in various fields to find a remedy, resulting in his new book, Hungover: The Morning After and One Man’s Quest for a Cure.
While dehydration is commonly believed to be the leading cause of a hangover – which is often accompanied by severe headaches, nausea, and tremors – Bishop-Stall says it is a little more complicated.
“If the problem was dehydration, you could wake up the next morning and drink a pint of water and you’ll be fine. But that doesn’t really seem to be happening,” Bishop-Stall told CNBC Make It. “That’s because There are other underlying things that are causing the dehydration … all of the cells in your body are inflamed, and they are inflamed due to the response of your body’s immune system. Such a big hangover is your body’s immune system going into high gear. “
Bishop-Stall came up with a very special blend of vitamins and supplements that cures hangovers (more on that later), but he also says he came across some simple things you can do to help.
Eat eggs for breakfast the next morning, he says. Eggs contain an amino acid called n-acetyl-l-cysteine, which, according to Bishop-Stall, comes so close to a “magical ingredient” he could find for a hangover cure. The amino acid cysteine in eggs can help break down acetaldehyde, which is a by-product of alcohol.
“If you look through almost every culture, eggs for breakfast seem to have been a common thing for thousands of years, right down to an American bacon and egg breakfast or a proper British roast or whatever you have,” he points out.
Order your eggs with a side of cabbage, another food Bishop-Stall recommends for hangovers.
“There have been recipes, songs, and poems about cabbage that go back hundreds if not thousands of years and refer to the morning after it was cooked,” says Bishop-Stall. “And it turns out that cabbage has what is known as a ‘chelating effect,’ which means that it gets into the body and clings to toxins and pulls it out when it leaves your body.”
In his search, Bischof-Stall also explored what he calls “the old Victorian chimney sweep method”. In Victorian England, he explains, chimney sweeps made money on vacation selling extra soot from chimneys. People mixed the soot with a hot cup of milk before drinking to help with hangovers.
While this may seem unsavory, Bishop-Stall notes that charcoal tablets are used today to filter toxins out of the body.
CNBC Make It led Bishop-Stall’s suggestions from Dr. Tania Elliott of NYU Langone Hospital in New York City. While Elliott says that eating eggs can help break down acetaldehyde, and that eating cabbage could help absorb alcohol, she says that charcoal pills won’t help with a hangover.
“Charcoal tablets are used for acute alcohol intoxication, in order to absorb alcohol from the stomach during alcohol intoxication,” says Elliott. “However, it wouldn’t matter in a hangover where alcohol has already been absorbed into the bloodstream and broken down.”
What is Bishop-Stall’s formula for a hangover cure? In his book, he suggests taking the following dietary supplements after drinking and before bed: n-acetylcysteine (NAC); Frankincense (Boswellia); Milk thistle; and vitamins B1, B6 and B12.
“Once you fall asleep and the hangover mechanism starts, it’s practically impossible to stop and you don’t necessarily want to stop it,” he says, “because it’s primarily an immune system response.”
For her part, Elliott says there is scattered evidence that NAC and frankincense can help relieve hangover symptoms, but there is no evidence that milk thistle, B1, B6, and B12 will help.
Also, says Elliott, “remember that herbal supplements are not regulated by the FDA and can contain harmful contaminants,” she says of Bishop Stall’s preparation. “In terms of vitamins, it is better to eat these nutrients than in pill form.”
To help out with a hangover, Elliott recommends moisturizing and eating before drinking. “Eating in the stomach helps slow down alcohol consumption,” she says.
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