I am going to bet your answer is probably a firm and confident no, followed by a derisive chuckle. And I wouldn’t blame you one bit. The idea of catching a hangover from a friend who had too much to drink the night before would be silly. Ridiculous even.
Have you ever caught a hangover from a bartender? No? Why not? Isn’t he/she the individual you spent all night with before you felt hungover the next day?
For an individual to experience a hangover, they have to partake in the causative action prior to the physical phenomenon we call a hangover. Indulgent self-administration of a substance that the human body considers a toxin. Clearly, no amount of time spent in the presence of a bartender or other people who are drinking too much will ever produce a hangover. And for those of you who are unaware, there is actually a very good explanation for what is happening within the human body after a hard night of drinking. It’s called a Jarisch–Herxheimer reaction, often just called “Herx.”
Can a body of water catch a whirlpool from an adjacent, separate body of water? No. That is because a whirlpool can only be created if all the right conditions are met within the body of water coupled with another force already connected to that body of water acting upon it from an upstream, directly connected source. In like manner, a human body cannot experience a hangover if alcohol never makes its way into its bloodstream. And alcohol cannot make it into the bloodstream unless one first puts it into their small intestine through their mouth. Their upstream self-administered source.
Now, let us look at this from a comedic point of view.
“Alright folks, gather ’round for the most shocking revelation of the century. Ever heard of catching a hangover? Yup, you heard me right. Like, “Oh no! My roommates Tommy and Timmy drank too much last night, and this morning, I woke up with a hangover!” Sounds pretty ridiculous, right? It’s almost as ludicrous as blaming your chocolate cravings on your girlfriend, who ate a whole box of truffles earlier in the week. “Why do I feel like eating chocolate all of a sudden? Oh, right, my girlfriend Jenny ate too much chocolate Monday night, and here, a couple of days later, I have a craving for chocolate!”
Here’s another zinger: Have you ever caught a hangover from an unmasked bartender? I mean, if we’re on this wacky theory train, why not? You spend hours with them, in close proximity, chatting, getting drinks, and breathing the same stale air. If we can “catch” colds, why not a hangover? Maybe bartenders have this mystical super-spreader power where they can transfer all the hangover germs through proximity in a close-quarter environment. Kinda like reverse osmosis, but for regrets and bottomless mimosas at Sunday brunch!
Now, for those of you who want to be in the know, it turns out the real deal with hangovers has a super fancy name: Jarisch-Herxheimer reaction. Or as I like to call it, ‘Oops-I-drank-too-much-last-night-and-now-my-head-feels-like-a-bowling-ball’ reaction. And no, you can’t blame your unmasked bartender, your roommates, or your drinking buddies for that bowling ball in your head. You’ve got to give credit where credit is due, and the answer is you. So the next time you wake up after a night of “fun,” thinking, “Why does everything hurt?” remember the good ol’ ‘Herx’ and maybe…drink a glass of water next time, or two, or five.” Or maybe, just don’t drink at all.
“Well, folks, we’ve had our fun with hangovers, but let’s now dive into the biggest myth-buster yet. Have you ever heard that you can catch an illness from someone else? Of course, you have. Have you heard that you can catch wellness from someone else? Of course, you haven’t. Why not? Well, just like you can’t catch that hangover from Bob, who can’t handle his tequila, you can’t catch wellness from your eternally healthy vegan yoga-instructing girlfriend. Stick with me on this wild ride.
“Let’s take this comedic conspiracy train even further, shall we? Next stop: the land of wild theories and, dare I say, ‘inner space.’
Ever think that what we call a ‘virus’ is actually just a little inner roommate we’ve had all along? Picture this: Literally trillions of tiny little “health-improvers” lounging inside of us, sipping on miniature cocktails, just waiting for Mother Nature’s signal to get to work. You could say we all come with our own little internal construction crew, ready to renovate! Or firefighters waiting at their respective stations, ready and waiting to go put out a self-imposed fire that needs putting out.
Now imagine if Mother Nature had a big red button labeled ‘Species Improvement Day.’ Every once in a while, when she thinks, “Hmm, these processed food eating dirtybird humans could use a little shakeup,” she hits that button. BOOM! Suddenly, everyone’s inner crews are awakened from their slumber. “Alright, lads, it’s go time! Let’s make these humans stronger, better, faster!”
It’s like a built-in upgrade system, but instead of getting the newest software version for your phone, you’re getting the latest version of YOU. Sure, the upgrade process might be a bit uncomfortable, with some sniffles and coughs, but hey, you can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs, right?
After the ‘upgrade,’ humans, as a tribe, come out the other side better suited for the world in their global community, while Mother Nature nods approvingly, thinking, “Job well done.” Sort of a natural herd immunity boot camp led by the drill sergeant we call Mother Nature. Guess what? There is an answer for that, and it is a part of human evolution. Stay with me now and keep reading.
Ever catch yourself yawning right after seeing someone else yawn? Ever thought, ‘Hey, maybe it’s a yawn virus? Or a contagious case of the sleepies?’ Well, don’t worry, it’s not some rare disease or a secret plot by sleep-deprived zombies trying to recruit more members. It’s just your fancy-schmancy mirror neurons!
Now, before you think you have tiny mirrors in your brain reflecting yawns and other shenanigans, that’s not quite what’s happening. Mirror neurons are like the ultimate copycats in your brain. See someone do something? BOOM! These little rascals make you feel like doing it too.
But wait, there’s more! Have you ever been in that awkward situation where one person in the room, maybe Timmy from 5th grade, suddenly feels sick and – oh no – you feel like hurling too? Yup, you can thank (or maybe blame) your mirror neurons for making you join in the ‘puke parade.’ It’s like they shout, ‘Hey, Timmy’s doing it, so it must be the cool thing right now!’ Spoiler alert: It’s not.
So why on Earth would Mother Nature give us these copycat neurons? Well, back in the day, these nifty neurons helped our ancestors learn from each other without having to invent the wheel (or fire) every single time. It’s kind of like when you copy your friend’s dance moves at a party – saves time and energy, and you get to look (somewhat) cool too!
But here’s the thing: while they might make us yawn or cringe in unison, these mirror neurons are also behind some cool stuff. Like empathy! Have you ever felt sad when you see someone crying or happy when someone’s laughing? That’s your mirror neurons helping you feel what others feel.
So, the next time you catch a yawn or feel like joining the ‘vomit volcano’ after seeing someone else lose their lunch, remember – it’s not a virus. It’s just your brain’s ancient way of saying, ‘I see you, and I feel you… sometimes a bit too much!'” Oh, and one more thing about humans and it’s found in how we used to live. Not really the modern way we do today. Please keep reading.
“Okay, so let’s wind back the clock, wayyy before TikTok, Fortnite, and even before WiFi was a thing (yes, that ancient!). I’m talking about the time before the Industrial Revolution. You know, that phase in history class where everyone’s wearing funny hats, and there isn’t a single smartphone in sight.
Now, I get it. We often think of our ancestors as these burly, hardcore individualists, facing the wild with a spear in one hand and a determined look on their face, like some sort of caveman superhero. But surprise! They weren’t solo artists; they were part of the OG ‘squad goals.’ Yep, they lived in tribes.
Imagine this: Your entire neighborhood gets together not just for a summer BBQ, but for, well, everything! Need to build a house? The tribe’s got your back. Hunting for food? The tribe’s on it. Want to throw a dance party under the moonlight? The tribe is breaking out the drums. It’s like living in a never-ending group chat, but in real life!
Think of tribes as the ancient version of group projects at school, except instead of making posters about photosynthesis, they’re trying to survive and thrive. And unlike some of your group projects, everyone actually did their part (looking at you, Jimmy from 6th grade!).
It’s easy to romanticize and think, ‘Aww, everything was simpler back then,’ but let’s be real: they also didn’t have Netflix, pizza delivery, or memes. But they did have one thing – a tight-knit community where everyone relied on each other.
So, the next time you think you’re super independent because you made instant noodles all by yourself, remember our ancestors. They were out there, building huts, hunting mammoths, and making history… all in the company of their tribe. It’s kind of like a sleepover, just with more spears and fewer pizza rolls!”
So, do we catch a cold or contract a virus? Do contagions exist? Yes and no. Are they demons or little invisible pieces of DNA/RNA passed from one creature to the next? Modern science would suggest such a route, but what if it were something simpler than that? What if it were a built-in evolutionary byproduct of humans living in tribes, adapting over tens of thousands of years, learning not from books but by direct influence, and living a life comfortably couched in a tribe?
Earth’s Industrial Revolution may have brought us great inventions of technology and helped us improve overall human mortality, but the human species, as a whole, has not had enough time to adapt and evolve as fast as our technology has, and we are suffering because of it. Novel ideas like germ theory are great, but ideas well demonstrated at an evolutionary scale over tens of thousands of years are probably a better way of understanding how the world works.