Food & Drink » Glenda Bartosh on Food

Food and drink: Let the hangovers begin

A handful of good Canadian tips for getting over the party



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"Pepper-heads," a.k.a. the folks who love to eat hot peppers, claim that capsaicin (formerly called "capsicin"), the stuff that makes chili peppers hot, triggers the production of endorphins in reaction to the pain that the capsaicin causes our little nerve endings wherever it happens to touch down - mouth, tongue and the odd eyeball or two if you unwittingly rub same after chopping up hot chili peppers.

While there's no scientific evidence to support the capsaicin/endorphin claim, you might want to add a few chili peppers to your recipes regardless. Some studies show that they may release brain signals that make us feel less hungry and more satisfied.

There's no doubt, however, that you can trigger endorphins through the Big O (and I don't mean Olympics), prolonged stress, acupuncture and float tanks, or getting pregnant and breast-feeding. Since the first option can become repetitive, the second not recommended, the middle ones expensive or unpalatable, and the latter impossible for some and too radical for others, I suggest chocolate.

Contrary to urban myths, it does not contain endorphins. But chocolate, bless its dark little heart, does deliver a combination of alkaloids that trigger serotonin production, and that makes us feel good. More good news if you drink a lot: serotonin also helps repair liver damage, but I'm not sure I'd count on over-consumption of Hershey bars to bail me out on that one.

The caffeine chocolate carries also offers a gentle pick-you-up when an espresso or cup of coffee might prove too much. As for curing a boozy hangover, it likely won't affect much.

Francis Bacon, the painter known as much for his disconcerting portraits as his disconcerting drinking binges, decided that suicide might be the only panacea for that. Since that has its limitations, you might want to consider other options.

If you're lucky, you will have been born with the right gene pool and optimal liver size to minimize the downside of alcohol. About 25-30 per cent of people seem to be resistant to hangovers. Barring genetics, and not drinking at all, there are a few things you can do to keep the "delayed alcohol-induced headache" demons at bay. These, however, primarily fall into the "minimize the damage" mode before rather than after the fact.

Drink more slowly and, if you're into the hard stuff, drink the lighter-coloured liquors, like gin, tequila or vodka. The darker the alcohol the worse the hangover concluded a 2009 study that indicated that the fermentation process for darker-coloured liquors produced more by-products called congeners, which exacerbate hangovers.