Going on a drinking binge has serious consequences. The day after overindulging in alcohol usually begins with lots of regret and a serious hangover.
Along with the fact that sleep can be disrupted by overconsuming alcohol, it also leads to extreme dehydration because of its diuretic (fluid removal from the body) effect. In fact, dehydration is what most experts believe is responsible for the onset of hangover symptoms.
Studies show the majority of individuals who have had alcohol to drink have taken at least one day off work due to suffering from a hangover.
Typically noticed the next day, there are many symptoms associated with a night of drinking alcohol excessively. The symptoms experienced are unique to each individual and are generally both physiological and psychological.
Major hangover symptoms include:
Other common hangover symptoms include:
- Stomach Ache
- Faster Heartbeat
- Extreme Thirst
- Bad Breath
- Body Pain
- Impaired Motor Functions
- Noise Sensitivity
While not among the noticeable side effects, excessive alcohol drinking affects sensory perception, the liver, central nervous system, digestive system and brain with harmful toxins.
Home Remedies for Hangover
While there are no known cures for hangovers, there are many remedies available that provide relief from the after effects of drinking too much alcohol, which include:
Over-the-counter pain killers that contain acetaminophen (such as Paracetamol, Anacin, Paramol and Tylenol) are effective for getting rid of hangover symptoms such as headache and muscle cramps. Other pain relievers that are effective but may cause stomach irritation include aspirin and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs such as ibuprofen)
Typical dosage recommendations include taking two tablets first thing in the morning after alcohol consumption along with a full glass of water.
Warning: Consult with a doctor for guidance on which painkillers to take for hangovers if stomach sensitivity is an issue.
- Antacid Pills
Antacid pills help to neutralize and relieve the nausea, indigestion, high acid levels and stomach sensitivity caused by binge drinking.
Popular products include Maalox, Mylanta, Tums and Alka-Seltzer, which contain ingredients such as aluminum hydroxide, calcium carbonate, magnesium trixilicate, sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) and magnesium carbonate.
Warning: Some antacids contain citric acid and aspirin which can cause stomach irritation, so read the labels carefully.
Recovering from a hangover requires replacing essential vitamins and mineral lost when the body processes alcohol and its toxic byproducts.
Take a multivitamin (preferably in effervescent form) that includes folate and vitamin B12 to ease symptoms quickly.
Rehydrating the body is one of the most effective methods for recovering from a hangover, as dehydration is cited as the main cause of hangover symptoms.
Drink a glass of water before going to bed on the evening of excessive drinking, sip water throughout the night, and drink several glasses of water (between eight and ten) during the following day.
Water is the best choice for rehydration because it is gentle on the stomach and helps to dilute any impurities present.
- Sports Drinks
The electrolyte content in sports drinks helps to restore fluid balance and potassium levels in the body while providing carbohydrates that produce steady energy.
Warning: Avoid caffeinated sports drinks which can further dehydrate the body.
- Fruit Juice
The fructose sugar, vitamin and mineral content of fruit juices such as orange juice, tomato juice and coconut water, help to get rid of hangover symptoms by revitalizing the liver and flushing toxic byproducts of alcohol from the body.
Despite the fact that consuming sweet things is discouraged during a hangover, drinking soda that is caffeine-free, such as sprite, helps to relieve the symptoms associated with a hangover. It does this by helping to increase the rate at which the body metabolizes alcohol and a compound known as aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH).
- Ginger Tea
Compounds in tea, such as the epigallocatechin galate (EGCG) found in green tea, help to provide relief from hangover symptoms such as motion sickness, nausea, upset stomach and vomiting while helping the liver to detoxify from the effects of drinking alcohol.
Along with assisting the body to process alcohol faster, ginger tea stabilizes blood sugar (glucose) levels quickly.
- Drink ginger tea, or chew raw ginger.
- Combine four cups of water with ten to twelve slices of ginger and boil for ten minutes, then strain.
- Add half a cup of honey, the juice from one orange and the juice from half a lime to the mixture and drink it while warm.
For best results, repeat this remedy several times daily.
- Peppermint Tea
Common hangover symptoms such as nausea, bloating, digestive distress and tension go away after drinking peppermint tea, which also helps to detoxify the body after drinking large quantities of alcohol.
- To relax the intestines and speed recovery from a hangover, chew fresh peppermint leaves.
For best results repeat several times a day.
- Combine a cup of boiled water with a teaspoon of dried peppermint leaves and steep for fifteen minutes before straining.
- Consume two cups of the tea on an empty stomach the morning after drinking alcohol.
- Fill a tub with water before adding a few drops of peppermint oil and soak for approximately half an hour.
- Bouillon Soup
The vitamin and mineral content of soup made with vegetable-based bouillon helps to fight the symptoms of a hangover. Along with being soothing to the stomach, the liquid helps to replace lost sodium and potassium.
- Potassium Rich Foods
Drinking large amounts of alcohol has a diuretic effect on the body that lowers potassium levels dramatically and results in feeling weak, tired and nauseous.
Restore potassium levels and relieve hangover symptoms quickly by eating lots of potassium rich foods such as kiwis, apples, mushrooms, baked potatoes, dried apricots and dark leafy greens.
- Toast, Crackers and Cereal
Complex carbohydrates such as cereal, toast, crackers and oatmeal are gentle on the stomach and help to improve the symptoms of a hangover by reintroducing vital nutrients such as minerals and vitamins, while also increasing blood sugar levels in the body.
Noted as one of the best remedies for a hangover, getting adequate sleep is essential to recovery from drinking excessively.
Overconsumption of alcohol disturbs regular sleep patterns and reduces the quality of rapid eye movement (R.E.M) sleep cycles that the body needs to restore brain function every day.
Sleep as much as possible to recover quickly from a hangover, making the bedroom as dark, quiet and comfortable as necessary.
Participating in gentle exercise helps to increase the metabolism, endorphin levels and oxygen levels of the body. This helps to break down alcohol and its toxic byproducts while improving mental clarity.
However, the exercise must be mild to moderate such as walking or light cycling, as excessive exercise increases dehydration levels.
The amino acid content in asparagus helps the body to process alcohol faster, which cuts down on the toxins produced after drinking alcohol, protects the liver from damage and relieves hangover symptoms.
The potassium content in bananas helps to relieve the symptoms associated with a hangover because it restores electrolyte levels in the body. Eating bananas also helps to restore depleted carbohydrates in the liver and soothe an upset stomach.
- The day after drinking too much alcohol, have a breakfast of one or two bananas.
- Drink a milkshake made of bananas and water with enough honey to sweeten.
- Coffee and an Aspirin
While drinking coffee on its own is not recommended while suffering with a hangover, studies show that combined with aspirin, coffee has a positive effect on hangover symptoms such as headaches. This is because of the effect that the anti-inflammatory properties of aspirin and the caffeine in coffee have on reducing the levels of ethanol (alcohol in its pure form) in the body.
Warning: Coffee is a diuretic, so the positive effects may be short-lived and result in and individual feeling worse later on.
- “pH Shot”
Drink a pH restoring cocktail that provides antioxidants and relief from gastrointestinal inflammation and hangover symptoms:
- In a blender, combine a cup of kale with half a lemon (without the rind), a small piece of ginger, a quarter of a cucumber, a quarter cup of pineapple and three ounces of water, then drink the entire mixture.
Resting and focusing on a distracting pastime such as watching television or reading a book can help to ease the discomfort of recovering from a hangover.
- A Hot Bath or Shower
Taking a hot shower or bath during a hangover helps to get excess toxins out of the body while reviving skin damaged by drinking too much alcohol.
While it will not cure the effects of a hangover, wearing sunglasses can reduce the hyper-sensitivity to loud music and bright lights associated with drinking too much alcohol.
The blood sugar controlling properties of lemons along with the fact that it balances pH levels in the body helps to get rid of a hangover by reducing symptoms such as muscle pain, dizziness, light sensitivity and queasiness.
- Combine a glass of warm water with a teaspoon of honey and two teaspoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice before drinking it slowly.
For best results repeat this treatment two to three times daily (drinking the first glass upon waking).
The fructose and potassium content of honey make it an effective remedy for hangovers because it assists the body with metabolizing alcohol faster.
- Every hour, swallow three or four teaspoons of honey.
- Combine a cup of water with one or two tablespoons of honey and sip it slowly until finished.
- Eat toast or crackers slathered in honey throughout the day.
Repeat each treatment until hangover symptoms subside.
- Toast and Egg
After a night of drinking alcohol, a breakfast of two or three pieces of toast and eggs helps to reduce the symptoms of a hangover.
The combination of the cysteine from the eggs and carbohydrates from the toast help to reduce the toxic effects of alcohol in the body, while also providing beneficial nutrients. As an additional benefit, the parts of the toast that are charred help to filter alcohol related impurities because of its carbon content.
Warning: Nausea can result from eating eggs cooked with grease or fat.
- Tomato Juice
The fructose, enzymes, minerals and vitamins in tomato juice help the body to process alcohol more effectively, which helps to control hangover symptoms.
- Mix a tablespoon of honey, a tablespoon of fresh lemon juice and a pinch of cayenne pepper into an eight ounce glass of tomato juice (or soup) before drinking it all.
For best results, use this treatment twice daily (morning and afternoon).
- Oil Pulling
Oil pulling, which is a natural method of detoxifying the body, helps to treat the effects of a hangover when done before eating and brushing the teeth in the morning.
- Put a tablespoon of coconut oil into the mouth.
- Swish the oil around and suck it through the teeth for between fifteen and twenty minutes before spitting it out.
- Rinse the mouth thoroughly.
Warning: Be careful not to swallow or gargle the oil.
What to Avoid During a Hangover
When dealing with the after effects of a hangover, there are certain things to avoid for faster recovery.
While it may seem like a good idea, drinking coffee is one of the worst things for managing a hangover because of its diuretic effect on the body and the brief surge of energy.
Similar negative effects (along with stomach discomfort) are caused by drinking energy drinks that contain carbonate ingredients such as Red Bull and Lucozade during a hangover.
- Drinking More alcohol
Also known as “hair of the dog”, many sufferers believe that a hangover can be cured by drinking more alcohol the morning following a drinking binge. A preferred drink of choice for this method is a combination of tomato juice, salt, pepper, Tabasco sauce and vodka, also known as a Bloody Mary.
Some believe this works because of the fact that alcohol consumption raises blood pressure.
The reality is that this practice only delays the inevitable, with hangover symptoms reemerging once the alcohol processes out of the body.
Experts recommend giving the body a change to recuperate by avoiding alcohol for a minimum of forty eight hours after overindulging.
Using a sauna while experiencing hangover symptoms can be life threatening as the body is already in an extremely dehydrated state. Additional dehydration from sweating in a sauna combined with changes in blood flow and the blood vessels can lead to issues such as abnormal heart beat and blood pressure falling to dangerously low levels.
How to Prevent a Hangover
While abstaining from alcohol is the only sure way to avoid a hangover, there are several methods of preventing or cutting down on the chances of having a hangover.
- Eat Before Drinking Alcohol:
Eating before planned indulgence in alcohol is highly recommended, particularly high carbohydrate and high fat foods.
Drinking on an empty stomach provides no buffer between alcohol and the stomach lining. On the other hand, eating a meal helps to slow the rate of alcohol absorption which cuts the risk of suffering with a hangover.
Note: A similar effect can be obtained by drinking a shot glass full of olive oil or eight ounces of full fat milk.
- Drink a Lot of Water Beforehand:
Hydrating well before drinking is an effective way to prevent a hangover. After ingesting alcohol, the kidneys reroute water from the tissues of the body and sends it directly to the kidneys due to the production of a chemical known as vasopressin. The resulting dehydration is the main cause of hangover symptoms.
Drink at least eight glasses of water each day, upping the intake before drinking alcohol to prevent headaches, dry mouth and other hangover symptoms.
- Maintain a High Fitness Level:
A fit, healthy and active body is much less likely to suffer a hangover than an unfit on. It helps to exercise regularly and maintain fitness levels to prevent the possibility of a hangover.
- Drink Light Colored Alcohol:
Depending on the individual in question, different effects are produced by drinking different types of alcohol.
This phenomenon is cause by impurities in alcohol known as congeners, which are a byproduct of fermentation and are found in higher levels in dark alcohol such as whiskey, red wine and dark (navy) rum.
High levels of congeners cause brain tissues and blood vessels to become irritated and increase the chances of having a hangover as a result from drinking the alcohol.
If an individual notices that they are sensitive to dark alcohol, it is best to stick with light alcohols such as vodka, white wine and gin.
- Avoid Overexertion:
Overexertion leads to excessive dehydration, which makes hangover symptoms much worse. Avoid becoming exhausted to prevent the low energy and water depleting effects of a hangover.
- Pace Alcohol Consumption:
Depending on factors such as gender and mass, the human body breaks alcohol down at an average of one unit per hour. It is only when the consumption of alcohol goes above and beyond this level that issues occur.
Avoid a hangover by not drinking too much alcohol at once. Spacing drinks out properly gives the body a chance to process alcohol effectively.
- Don’t Drink Soda with Alcohol:
To prevent a hangover it helps to avoid mixing alcohol with substances such as soda or sweet foods, as these increase the rate at which the body absorbs the alcohol.
Instead, stick to having non-carbonated drinks and water in between each drink of alcohol.
- Don’t Mix Different Types of Alcohol:
Mixing different types of alcohol contributes to hangovers because of the effects of congeners and other chemicals. To avoid this problem, it is best to choose one type of alcohol and drink only that for the evening.
- Limit Alcohol Consumption:
Another effective way of preventing a hangover is by limiting overall alcohol consumption to the daily recommended amount, which varies based on an individual’s gender and the kind of alcohol in question.
Experts recommend the following quantities:
- Men: No more than 3 to 4 units a day
- Women: No more than 2 to 3 units a day
- One measure of spirits is 1 unit
- One small glass of wine is 1.5 units
- One can of beer is 1.8 units
- One pint of beer is 2.3 units
- One large glass of wine is 3 units
The Truth about Hangover Cures
Although there are many commonly used remedies for hangovers, the truth is that there is no scientifically proven “cure” and the ones that do exist gained their popularity based solely on myth.
The only real way to prevent hangovers is by not drinking alcohol or by limiting intake of alcohol by figuring out and adhering to personal tolerance thresholds for consumption.
Several sources offer pricey “hangover pills” and similar “miracle cures”, such as Rebound, Berocca and Chaser, that promise to alleviate symptoms for the sufferer instantly. However, studies show that these treatments are generally ineffective.
The only true “cure” for a hangover is time and lots of rehydration.