You have a headache, you have a stomachache, and your get-up-and-go is gone. You have a hangover.
Experts know little about what causes a hangover. Some theories say that alcohol disrupts biological rhythms; others that alcohol withdrawal is the culprit. Research suggests that impurities produced when alcohol is distilled can make you feel nauseous. The sweeter the drink, the higher the level of impurities. Malt liquors and red wine are especially toxic.
That headache? It may come from dehydration — alcohol is a diuretic — and your body’s adjustment to your dropping blood alcohol levels after you’ve stopped drinking.
For now there’s only one surefire way to avoid a hangover: Don’t drink.
And there’s one proven cure: Time. It takes 8 to 24 hours for symptoms to disappear.
In the meantime, try these simple, natural ways to avoid the pain, or to tackle headaches, nausea, and general malaise the day after:
Drink water. It’s important to stay hydrated while you’re drinking alcohol. That means drinking plenty of water between cocktails. If you bypass that rule and wake up groggy the next morning, drink up to rehydrate and flush the impurities from your system.
Drink other fluids, too. Remember: Water isn’t enough. You need to drink electrolyte-rich fluids, too — like sports drinks, coconut water, or bouillon soup — that can restore the salt and potassium you’ve lost.
Grease up before you go. One longstanding folk remedy is to take a spoonful of olive oil before a party. Some swear by it. Eating a pizza or other fatty food has the same effect. Both are said to grease the intestines so the alcohol takes longer to absorb.
Consume sugar while you’re drinking. Studies show that fructose may speed alcohol metabolism, thus reducing the risk of a hangover. It’s important to eat sugar while you’re drinking, not before, since fructose metabolizes quickly. Try plain orange juice between cocktails.
Fill up the morning after. Eat breakfast. Electrolytes in food help replenish a dehydrated system and get calories back into your body. But go easy. While a greasy meal before drinking may help, a hangover needs foods that are easy to digest, like toast and cereal. Some believe that eating burnt toast will help, with the charred carbon crust filtering out impurities much like a carbon water filter. But there’s no research to back it up.
Eat ginger. For centuries, people have taken ginger to reduce nausea and vomiting. Try nibbling crystallized ginger in the aftermath of a night of drinking. The National Institutes of Health reveal early research that consuming a combination of ginger, tangerine pith, and brown sugar before drinking decreases nausea and vomiting.
Watch for prickly pear cactus. While it’s still being tested, one study has shown that taking 1,600 IU of prickly pear extract five hours before drinking reduced risk for severe hangover by 50 percent.
Go back to bed. A hangover isn’t caused by lack of sleep, but that makes it worse. Take a long nap the day after: It’s the body’s way of healing itself.
Between snoozes, rehydrate and restore with this globally used recipe from our book 500 Time-Tested Home Remedies and the Science Behind Them. It returns starch, sugar, sodium, and potassium to your depleted system.
- Stir 1 teaspoon of salt and 8 teaspoons of sugar into 5 cups of distilled water.
- Whisk in ½ cup orange juice or ¼ cup mashed banana.
- Sip the mixture slowly throughout the day, storing it in a cool place. It’s good for 24 hours.