Pounding headache, queasy stomach, uncomfortable sweating, overwhelming drowsiness… most of us have experienced these symptoms at one time or another due to what we call “the horrid hangover.” The only definite way to prevent this feeling is to avoid drinking too much, but that is often easier said than done. Thankfully, there are plenty of other remedies out there that assist with curing a hangover.
Hangover Remedies to Avoid
There are so many hypothetical “cures” to a hangover that it is difficult to decipher which remedies actually work. In fact, many of the circulating remedies can actually make hangovers worse. Therefore, we have to ask ourselves, “How helpful are some of these cures?”
Caffeine. When you wake up hungover and tired, a natural instinct might be to grab a cup of coffee to wake up. Caffeine, however, can actually be bad for a hangover due to its dehydrating effects. You would be much better off sticking to water.
Pain Killers. Because ibuprofen is a blood thinner, it can actually intensify a hangover if there is still alcohol in your system. Medication and alcohol rarely go together well. Therefore, it is important to not rely on pain killers to “kill” your hangover.
Greasy Foods. Many people swear that the craving and consumption of greasy foods help them alleviate their hangovers. Despite this, many doctors such as Dr. Cutler believe it is better to eat lighter, because greasy food is just going to give you heartburn.” He suggests getting nourishing calories back into your system is better for your body.
Hangover Pills. Hangover medications such as Chaser, PreToxx, and RU 12 have very little evidence to back up their effectiveness. Joris Verster, assistant professor of psychopharmacology at Utrecht University, claims that, “Hangover pills that have been studied are not effective.” Verster explains that they can relieve some hangover symptoms, but not all of them.
Sauna. You are going to want to re-think your strategy if you are trying to “sweat out” your hangover. Trying to get rid of your hangover by going to a sauna can be very dangerous because your body is already so dehydrated. A sauna will make matters worse by causing a lower heart rate and decreasing your blood pressure.
Cultural Remedies for Curing a Hangover
Different cultures use different foods and remedies that are known to soothe many hangover symptoms. Some of these rituals might seem absurd or outrageous to some, but have nevertheless been utilized by people from around the world.
Poland: Drinking pickle juice or eating sauerkraut is known for curing a hangover in the Polish culture.
Ecuador: Oregano tea is used to help settle an uneasy stomach that often comes with a hangover.
England: The English often eat bacon and toast to rejuvenate after a night of drinking. Elin Roberts at Newcastle University suggests that, “Bingeing on alcohol depletes brain neurotransmitters, but bacon, which is rich in protein, contains amino acids that top these up and make you feel better.”
Namibia: In this culture, it is common to drink Buffalo Milk (which surprisingly does not have any buffalo in it). Instead, it consists of clotted cream, dark rum, cream liqueur, and whole cream.
Puerto Rico: Puerto Ricans are known to have an odd custom that includes rubbing a slice of lemon or lime under the armpit of your drinking arm. Supposedly, this would prevent dehydration.
Rest and Rehydrate
When you look beyond all the strange remedies and cures that are out there, curing a hangover really comes down to rest and rehydration. After a night of heavy drinking, your body has lost many nutrients and, as a result, feels very weak and tired. There are many different ways you can rehydrate yourself. Vegetable and fruit juices, among others, can replenish your body with the nourishment it needs to recover:
Water. H2O is, of course, the best way to hydrate. To avoid hangovers altogether, many people drink a large glass of water before they go to bed or alternate drinking water between their alcohol beverages. This will help flush out the toxins in your body and restore nutrients that are diminished when you drink too much.
Iced Tea Refresher (Cooled Green Tea + Cooled Peppermint Tea + Honey + Lemon). Teas usually assist in soothing a queasy stomach and honey is made up of minerals that will help rid your body of the alcohol faster.
Fruity Banana Smoothie (Bananas + Fruit + Ice). Bananas are full of potassium and minerals that will help get rid of a nasty hangover headache.
Coconut Water Rehydrator (Coconut Water + Ginger Ale). Coconut water is best known for its hydrating abilities and the mix with ginger ale will also help with an upset stomach. This drink is a great cure for bad indigestion or nausea.
Liver-Loving Smoothie (1/2 of a Small Beet + 2 Apples + 1 Orange + Lemon Juice). Because beets are great for detoxing the liver and fruits are a healthy source of minerals and vitamins, this mixture can help replenish your system after a night of heavy drinking.
If you know beforehand that you are attending an event where alcohol is present, there are a few common tips to know before you leave the house:
1. Don’t Drink on an Empty Stomach. Make sure that you have a nice, big meal before you plan on consuming any alcohol. The food will help absorb the alcohol and provide you with nutrients that can fight off hangover symptoms. It’s called Food & Drink for a reason.
2. Don’t Switch Alcohols. Going from red wine to beer to rum is just an example of some potentially dangerous combinations. Decide at the beginning of the night what kind of alcohol you want to drink and then try to stick with it. Lighter alcohols like beer and vodka are also less likely to cause severs hangover symptoms versus darker liquors like whiskey or rum. It is also generally a good idea to avoid champagne or sparkling wine. Alcoholic beverages with bubbles in them are known to intoxicate you at a faster rate.
3. Avoid Diet Mixers. Because diet drinks have zero sugar or calories, the alcohol is more likely to go directly into your bloodstream. Regular drinks that have a few calories will ultimately be better for you once the morning rolls around.
It is clear that this topic may require further exploration. There is still much confusion over what actually causes a hangover, which is why cures and remedies are still being developed every day. When curing a hangover, look into all the options and decide on which works best for you. Keep in mind that science typically trumps superstition.
Check out this cool infographic from Fix.com.