Most people know the feeling, and if you’re reading this, you’re probably “most people”. You overdid it on the tequila shots last night, and now you’ve woken up nauseous, achy, and full of regret. Your mouth is dry and you feel like crap. You’d do almost anything to make this feeling go away.
Everyone seems to have their own version of a hangover cure, from greasy food to supplements to “hair of the dog”. But do any of them really work? Or are hangovers just one of those things you need to wait out?
Is there really a best drink to cure a hangover? Is it just water, or should you reach for an electrolyte drink? What about supplements for a hangover? Is there a pill you can take, a food you can eat, anything at all?
To find out how to treat hangovers, we first need to go over what they’re like, and what causes them.
What are the symptoms of a hangover?
We know them, we hate them. They’re the price of a wild night out. Symptoms of a hangover include:
- Sensitivity to light and sound
- Anxiety and irritability
What causes a hangover?
The answer may seem obvious: Excessive drinking. But what specifically does alcohol do to you that causes the signature hangover symptoms?
1. Alcohol dehydrates you.
Alcohol is a diuretic, meaning it makes you pee more frequently than usual. It prevents your body from retaining water, so it ends up getting rid of the liquid you drink before it’s absorbed. This means that you lose more body water than your body would naturally be inclined to release. It also means you lose vital electrolytes.
The dehydration contributes to your headache, thirst, and exhaustion. Lack of electrolytes like magnesium can even lead to muscle cramps, furthering your misery.
2. Alcohol irritates your stomach lining and increases inflammation in the body.
Inflammation is the mechanism your body uses to target and fight off potential harm. Alcohol meets the criteria for “potentially harmful” since it’s technically a toxin which your body needs to work to eliminate.
Simply put, your stomach and other organs do not enjoy coming into contact with alcohol. The substance is irritating to the stomach lining, causing nausea and stomach pain. The process of breaking down alcohol puts strain on your other organs as well and causes your whole body to react with inflammation, leading to feelings of general fatigue and achiness.
3. Alcohol decreases your sleep quality.
Though alcohol is famous for making people pass out, it doesn’t allow your brain to slip into the deeper, more restorative stage of sleep. Meaning if you fall asleep while drunk, your sleep quality will be terrible and you won’t wake up feeling well-rested.
Is there any way to prevent a hangover?
Of course you know that the most obvious answer is to not drink. But there are things you can do while drinking to lessen hangover symptoms:
- Stay hydrated while drinking. Drink water in between sips of your alcoholic beverage. This way, you’re more likely to keep water in your system rather than lose it all.
- Don’t drink on an empty stomach. Having food in your stomach helps protect it from irritation. This practice also keeps you from getting too drunk too quickly.
- Avoid dark-colored liquors. This may not be something everyone agrees to. Dark liquors contain higher amounts of “congeners”, or ingredients that give liquor their flavor, than clear liquors. Congeners also contribute to hangovers.
How to cure a hangover
Sadly, there’s no way to completely “cure” a hangover and totally eliminate symptoms. But you can improve your symptoms in a few ways.
Best drinks and supplements for a hangover
Don’t fall for the “hair of the dog” trope. Reaching for the bottle again the morning after may ease your symptoms in the moment, but it will only lead to you feeling sicker later.
Reach for a drink that has electrolytes and/or vitamins - preferably both, like Swigg. Alcohol consumption affects the body’s ability to retain electrolytes, as well as certain vitamins. B vitamins are particularly affected by heavy drinking, and chronic alcohol overuse is associated with vitamin b12 deficiency.
Now does this mean that one wild night alone will reduce your b12 levels to zero, or even result in a deficiency at all? No, of course not. But consuming drinks that have B vitamins in them, or taking B vitamin supplements, will help you feel better and get your energy back up. Seek to get more vitamin C the morning after too, since alcohol suppresses the immune system, and vitamin C may help strengthen it.
Best foods for hangovers
Alcohol also affects blood sugar, so eating simple carbs like toast and white rice have been shown to help with hangover symptoms by giving your body the fuel it needs. Toast and honey is a great natural hangover cure.
And for nausea, try ginger. Sipping on ginger tea, or eating something light like carrot ginger soup (if you can stomach it) may be just what you need. Plus, ginger is an antioxidant that can reduce inflammation.
If all else fails, sleep it off
If you’re really tired the next day and have nothing to do, the best thing for your hangover might be to just give in to the fatigue and sleep it off. Since alcohol prevents restorative sleep, trying to catch up by napping during the day could be your ticket to feeling better. And you’ll probably snooze through the worst of the other symptoms, too.
The bottom line
Alcohol depletes your body, so the best thing to do after a night of drinking is replenish it with electrolytes, vitamins, antioxidants, and sleep.
And maybe next time, slow down a little and pace yourself.