So you’ve partied too hard and are now stuck with the mother of all hangovers. A fuzzy, aching head, bleary eyes, and inability to focus make you want to crawl under a rock and never wake up. But there’s work to be done, chores awaiting your attention, and social commitments too. How do you get back to normal? Can you eat and drink your way out of this hangover?
ABCs Of Hangovers
Modern science, unfortunately, doesn’t have all the answers to the hangover phenomenon. Essentially, research on hangovers states that they occur as the result of a cocktail – pardon the pun – of bodily reactions to alcohol. These include dehydration, hormonal changes, chemical changes, and toxicity due to compounds in alcohol.1
The signs and symptoms of a hangover begin to manifest within 8 to 16 hours after consuming alcohol when blood alcohol concentration – the level of alcohol that your body has absorbed – starts dropping and continues for about 24 hours. Intriguingly, the symptoms usually peak when the blood alcohol level hits zero – more like withdrawal symptoms of not having alcohol in your system.
You may begin to develop a range of symptoms such as a headache, nausea, loss of concentration, irritability, or sensitivity to light. Other signs that you are hungover include sweating, fatigue, muscle pain, reddened eyes, rapid heartbeat, dizziness, and diarrhea. The symptoms vary in severity and number from one individual to another. This may be influenced by several other factors, including the use of other drugs, personality traits of the drinker, and family history of alcoholism.2 3 4
Food And Drinks That Ease A Hangover
Overcoming the hangover state is, by and large, something medical science hasn’t cracked yet. Perhaps that’s one reason sufferers typically rely on remedies based on anecdotal evidence and folk wisdom. Ultimately, scientists say, time is the only antidote to a hangover – typically, the agony of a hangover recedes over 8 to 24 hours.5
While there may be no sure-shot cures for a hangover, these easy remedies could help reduce your discomfort and take the edge off.
Rehydrating your body is arguably the first thing you should do to treat your hangover. Alcohol contains ethanol, a toxic chemical that acts as a diuretic, sending you more often to the loo than you would go otherwise. This dehydrates your body and leads to the many unpleasant symptoms of a hangover.6
Here’s a sobering thought: when your body is short of water, it will suck up what it can from any source. That includes the brain, and hence those splitting headaches.7 Try your best to drink water before
2. Coconut Water
Coconut water is an excellent beverage to rehydrate the body.9 It is also loaded with potassium, a mineral that our bodies lose due to frequent urination in the course of consuming several drinks.
The Food & Agricultural Organization also points out that coconut water contains the same five electrolytes as those found our blood.10 Thus, it can help restore the electrolyte imbalance due to alcohol-induced dehydration. Good enough reason, wouldn’t you say, to drink up on the morning after?
3. Fresh Fruits And Juices
Fresh fruits or a glass of freshly made fruit juice will give your body a much-needed shot of vitamins. Bananas and kiwi fruit, for instance, are good sources of potassium.11
4. A Warming Bowl Of Soup
A bouillon soup with vegetables is rich in vitamins and minerals and will help your body replenish the nutrients that have been lost due to dehydration. Also, this is an easily digested soup that won’t affect a stomach already irritated by alcohol.12
Here’s one way to make a simple bouillon:
You will need
- ¼ cup each of chopped onion, chopped celery, grated carrot, and chopped tomatoes
- 1 tablespoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 beef bouillon cube
- 1 cup hot water
How to make
Spray a pot with nonstick cooking spray and place over a medium flame. Cook all the vegetables (except the tomatoes) until tender for about five minutes. Add the tomatoes, garlic powder, and black pepper. Mix well and cook for two minutes. Dissolve the bouillon cube in a small bowl of water. Add this to the vegetables. Simmer the soup on a medium flame for about 10 minutes. Serve warm.
id="5-a-hearty-breakfast-eggs-bacon-and-toast">5. A Hearty Breakfast: Eggs, Bacon, And Toast
If you can stomach the idea, the classic English breakfast can help with hangover symptoms! Eggs contain cysteine, the amino acid that mops up acetaldehyde, an especially nasty by-product of alcohol produced in our bodies.13 14 Taurine in eggs is another amino acid that helps regulate liver function.15.
The carbs in toast help fuel up your brain and body and replenish the depleted glucose levels.16 Bacon is thought to help because of its cysteine content. Additionally, the salt in it is can top up your depleted electrolyte reserves.17 Just don’t go overboard with the bacon, though, since greasy food can irritate the stomach.
id="herbal-teas">6. Herbal Teas
Both ginger and peppermint are widely recommended herbs in complementary medicine to help relieve symptoms similar to those that accompany a hangover. Ginger is prescribed as a painkiller and can counteract nausea as well.18. It also reduces gastrointestinal disturbances and soothes the stomach.19
How to make ginger tea
Peel a 2-inch piece of ginger and slice finely. Boil 4 cups of water in a pan and add the ginger. Cover the pan and allow the tea to simmer for 15–20 minutes. Strain and add a little honey or a squeeze of lemon for flavor.
Peppermint tea soothes an upset stomach and helps digestion. It is a popular remedy in complementary medicine to treat nausea and headaches.20
How to make peppermint tea
Steep a heaped teaspoonful of dried peppermint in a cup of freshly boiled water. Strain and cool before drinking.
A word of caution: Avoid peppermint tea if you have acid reflux. The tea relaxes the sphincter between esophagus and stomach, so acids can flow back into the stomach.)21
Say No To A Morning Drink!
An alcoholic drink in the morning – another widely touted, but entirely unfounded suggestion – to get over a hangover will not help. It’s risky too. Typically, doctors advise a 48-hour break from drinking to allow the body to recuperate from the effects of an alcohol binge.22
The phrase “hair of the dog” indicates a morning-after shot of alcohol drunk to cure a hangover. It is derived from the ancient belief that drinking a tiny potion containing dog’s hair will prevent rabies in a person bitten by the same dog. Won’t work, though!
Preventing A Hangover
Whether you’re a diehard party animal or someone who enjoys an occasional evening out drinking, there’s a lot you can do to prevent the debilitating effects of a hangover.
Eat well ahead of drinking
Eating food before you head out for that big night can help fend off a hangover or at least reduce the symptoms. Why? Because the food will insulate your stomach lining and importantly, slow down the process of alcohol absorption into your bloodstream.23 This will prevent a spike in your blood alcohol concentration. Those tasty cocktail snacks are also served for this purpose – keep munching on them while you drink.24
Hydrate your body
Try alternating between alcoholic drinks and water. Caffeinated drinks, however, can further dehydrate you and aerated or fizzy soft drinks will hasten the speed with which your body absorbs alcohol – so, avoid!25
Space out your drinks
Try to consume one drink only in an hour. Track the number of drinks you’ve had and the gap between each drink (your phone or an app can help). If that’s too complicated, ask a friend to watch and warn you.26
Don’t accept pre-mixed drinks
Get your drink mixed on the spot or you’ll never know the amount of alcohol that’s been poured into your glass.27
Be wary of congeners
The color of your drink matters. Dark-colored drinks such as brandy, whiskey, and beer contain more of toxic chemicals called congeners than light colored drinks like gin or vodka. These congeners tend to inflame blood vessels and brain tissue. So, they worsen hangover symptoms. Cut down on the dark-colored drinks or steer clear of them.28
|↑1||Wiese, Jeffrey G., Michael G. Shlipak, and Warren S. Browner. “The alcohol hangover.” Annals of internal medicine 132, no. 11 (2000): 897-902.|
|↑2, ↑5||Swift, Robert, and Dena Davidson. “Alcohol hangover.” Alcohol Health Res World 22 (1998): 54-60.|
|↑3, ↑6||How to cure a hangover. Drinkaware Trust.|
|↑4, ↑17||Kim, Dai-Jin, Won Kim, Su-Jung Yoon, Bo-Moon Choi, Jung-Soo Kim, Hyo Jin Go, Yong-Ku Kim, and Jaeseung Jeong. “Effects of alcohol hangover on cytokine production in healthy subjects.” Alcohol 31, no. 3 (2003): 167-170.|
|↑7||Alcohol Hangover. Educalcool.|
|↑8, ↑12, ↑22, ↑25, ↑28||Hangover cures. NHS Choices.|
|↑9||Kalman, Douglas S., Samantha Feldman, Diane R. Krieger, and Richard J. Bloomer. “Comparison of coconut water and a carbohydrate-electrolyte sport drink on measures of hydration and physical performance in exercise-trained men.” Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 9, no. 1 (2012): 1.|
|↑10||Coconut Water Is It. FAO.|
|↑11||How to cure a hangover.
|↑13||Piste, Pravina. “Cysteine–master antioxidant.” Inter J Pharm Chem Biol Sci 3 (2013): 143-149.|
|↑14||Cederbaum, Arthur I., and Emanuel Rubin. “Protective effect of cysteine on the inhibition of mitochondrial functions by acetaldehyde.” Biochemical pharmacology 25, no. 8 (1976): 963-973.|
|↑15||Bouckenooghe, Thomas, Claude Remacle, and Brigitte Reusens. “Is taurine a functional nutrient?.” Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition & Metabolic Care 9, no. 6 (2006): 728-733.|
|↑16||7 steps to cure your hangover and Ginkgo biloba: What’s the verdict?. Harvard Health.|
|↑18||Kraus Sr, Ann, and Barb Dillingham Sr. “Prepared Foods Excsimilar properties.lusive: Spices–Ginger.”|
|↑19||Ginger. University of Maryland.|
|↑21||Peppermint. University Of Maryland Medical Center.|
|↑23||Holt, St. “Observations on the relation between alcohol absorption and the rate of gastric emptying.” Canadian Medical Association Journal 124, no. 3 (1981): 267.|
|↑24, ↑26||Drink Smart. Princeton University.|
|↑27||Drink Smart. Princeton University.|