We've all dealt with a gnarly hangover – the kind that makes you promise yourself you'll never drink again. Whether your symptoms are mild, moderate, or severe, hangovers are not pretty. However, there are plenty of remedies that can help you get back to normal after a wild night. We ranked the best hangover remedies and give you some tips to prevent getting an extreme hangover the next time you go drinking. But first, let's dive into what causes a hangover in the first place.
There have been many studies that set out to test the many theories about the exact culprit of a hangover. Research has suggested that congeners in alcohol affect the chances of getting a hangover. Drinks with low congeners include vodka, gin, and rum, while beverages with high congeners include brandy, whiskey, and bourbon. A study published in the Journal of the National Medical Association tested the effect of heavy drinking with high and low congener alcoholic beverages. It found that alcohols with higher congeners had an impact on hangover severity and that low congener alcohol did not.
Similarly, another study indicated that elevated levels of acetaldehyde, a compound the liver creates when metabolizing alcohol, causes increased skin temperature, headache, increased heart rate, nausea, and dry mouth. Also, researchers reported that increased acetaldehyde levels cause alcohol not to be metabolized properly.
Others assert that your immune system is responsible for your hangover. A Korean study found a relationship between hangovers and cytokines, a substance that is secreted by immune cells and has an effect on cell communication and inflammation. To explain, those with hangovers had high levels of cytokines which further proves the argument that a hangover is an inflammatory response.
Everyone experiences hangover differently depending on what and how much they drink. However, you may notice some of these symptoms after a wild night of excessive drinking.
While there are plenty of scientific studies about that aim to fully understand hangovers, one thing we know for certain is that they are a real pain. Here are some of the most common hangover remedies out there ranked for effectiveness.
"Hair of the dog" is short for "the hair of the dog that bit you," an expression meaning that partaking in a small portion of the substance that ailed you can actually relieve its negative symptoms. Drinking alcohol causes methanol to be converted into the toxic compound formaldehyde, which could be the culprit for some hangover symptoms. According to this theory, drinking a small amount of alcohol when you have a hangover can stop this harmful conversion. It's the same concept as weaning off any drug causing withdrawal symptoms, though there are tons of claims that this remedy is entirely a myth.
There's a bit of debate about the effectiveness of coffee when it comes to hangovers. Some people swear by drinking a cup of coffee after drinking. While it's true that caffeine can block some of alcohol's sedative properties that slows down your brain, it doesn't reduce inflammation nor is it hydrating. Coffee is effective, but only temporary, so if you do drink a cup of joe, make sure take an Advil and drink some water along with it for good measure.
There isn't a magic pill that can make your hangover vanish (oh, how we wish this were so), but there are supplements that help to reduce symptoms.
People have been taking Alka Seltzer for hangovers for decades. Alka Seltzer is great for neutralizing the acid in an upset stomach. Pop two of these fizzy tablets into a glass of water and experience relief. While Alka Seltzer is great for helping take care of an upset stomach, it sadly does little to help with headache or general fatigue.
Drinking Pedialyte, Gatorade, or any other beverage formulated with electrolytes are go-to for some people when battling a hangover. Sometimes drinking water alone isn't enough rehydrate our bodies. Pedialyte is formulated to help replenish vital fluids, electrolytes, minerals, and nutrients, while Gatorade is a sports drink designed to keep athletes from getting too dehydrated. In reality, the effects of drinking Pedialyte or Gatorade while hungover are more than likely just a placebo. Drinking water will give you the same results, but at a fraction of the cost.
As we know, alcohol causes an inflammatory response in the body, and the best way to ease the effects is by taking an anti-inflammatory. Ibuprofen can help ease inflammation and get rid of any hangover headaches you might have. Just make sure you stay away from pain relievers containing acetaminophen, like Tylenol, because it can cause kidney and liver damage when combined with alcohol.
One of the best things you can do if you wake up with the classic hangover symptoms is to drink water. Alcohol is a diuretic meaning that it increases the output of urine and depletes electrolytes. Additionally, excessive drinking may lead to vomiting which in turn causes you to become even more dehydrated.
Although dehydration isn't the sole cause of your hangover, it is responsible for many of the symptoms including a headache, fatigue, dizziness, and dry mouth. Therefore, increasing your water intake can help to reduce your symptoms.
High amounts of alcohol cause sleep disturbances which cause fatigue and the overall feeling of malaise. Not to mention, poor sleep quality exacerbates hangover symptoms. Thus, it is important to get as much rest after a night of excessive drinking because it allows your body to recover.
Sorry all the carb-phobes out there, if you want to help ease your hangover, you're gonna have to eat some carbs. The reason being is that excessive alcohol consumption lowers your blood sugar and contributes to hangover symptoms like dry mouth and fatigue. Usually your blood sugar level drops, the liver will work to produce glucose from stored carbs. However, after heavy drinking, your liver is too busy metabolizing the alcohol to produce glucose. Therefore, eating carbohydrates is a great way to raise your blood sugar. Preferably, eat healthy carbs for breakfast including wheat cereal, oatmeal, bananas, apples, and sprouted bread. If you're feeling nauseous and can't bear the thought of downing a hearty breakfast, nibbling on a piece of dry toast will make you feel better.
This method is probably the most uncommon on this list, but getting an IV drip is actually quite effective when it comes to curing a nasty hangover. All over the United States are "hangover cure" services and spas that allow you schedule an appointment with a nurse who will administer an IV filled with vitamins and nutrients that will end your hangover, give you energy, and turn you back into the functional human being you were before you started drinking. Keep in mind though, these services don't come cheap
Exercising is probably the last thing you want to do after a night of heavy drinking, but hear us out. Alcohol is a depressant that leads to slowed brain activity. This then leads to delayed release of endorphins, a natural hormone released by the brain that makes you feel good and regulates your mood. Exercise can assist in stimulating the release of those endorphins, which will make you feel less fatigue and improve your mood. It will also and get your blood moving so the process of clearing your body of those alcohol-related toxins is accelerated. Once your blood starts pumping and your endorphins start flowing, you'll start feeling like an actual human being instead of a hungover zombie in no time.
With that in mind, there are some critical factors to consider when using exercise as a hangover remedy. Your body is already dehydrated, so while exercising it is imperative that you stay hydrated by drinking lots of water so you don't become more dehydrated. Also, before you begin your workout, make sure you get that healthy breakfast in, including plenty of carbs, so you have enough energy and don't deplete yourself even more. Your safest bet is to keep your workout light after a night of heavy drinking.
Obviously there are plenty of methods that can help cure your hangover, but the best way to ensure you won't have to deal with the aches and pains of the morning after is to act before you drink! Before your next night out, consider some of these tips so you don't have to deal with the burden of a nasty hangover.
This is a common sense preventative measure, but many skip dinner and go straight to the booze – don't be like them. Eating before you take a sip of alcohol slows down the absorption of alcohol into your bloodstream and prevents you from getting drunk too fast.
Before you drink, make sure to eat a meal that contains healthy fat, carbs, and protein. An ideal pre-drink dinner would be a juicy burger or grilled salmon with potatoes. The amino acids and B-vitamins help to process the by-products of the alcohol.
We already mentioned that congeners can affect the severity of hangovers. If you are especially prone to hangovers, stay away from high congener drinks like bourbon, tequila, whiskey, and red wine and opt for low congener liquors like light vodka, gin, or rum. Beer varies widely in congener content, but heavier beers tend to have more congeners.
The body metabolizes about one drink (one shot, beer, etc.) per hour. The faster you drink, the faster your blood alcohol level rises which increases the chances of waking up with a hangover. With that said, resist the temptation to knock back multiple shots or drinks in a short time span. The rule of thumb is one drink an hour.
Another hangover prevention method is to stay hydrated while you drink. A rule to follow is to have one glass of water per drink. This way you're counteracting the dehydrating effect that alcohol has.
A disco nap is the nap you take before you head out for a night on the town. Sleep does not prevent a hangover altogether, but it does improve your immunity and prep your body for a long night of heavy drinking.
At this point, we should all know smoking cigarettes is not good for you. However, if you do smoke regularly or indulge in a social smoke every now and then, consider skipping out on smoking when drinking alcohol. A study that followed 113 college students and their drinking and smoking habits and the severity of their hangovers and found that those who smoked had worse hangovers than those who didn't smoke.