I usually try not to post stuff from other places on the Internet, but this is information most of us could really, REALLY use. Had I known this stuff a few years ago, my younger days would have been a lot less spent-in-bed-with-a-huge-bottle-of-water-groaning-loudly-for-
(That is too an adjective!)
Disclaimer: The content in this page is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Please contact your doctor before using any of these hangover remedies.
Guide Note: The best way to avoid a hangover is never to drink. If you're reading this page, chances are you've decided to give that method a miss. Want to learn how to cure a hangover? Read this page to learn how to survive an evening of drinking with the least hardship.
What causes a hangover?
- To learn how to cure a hangover, you have to know what causes it. So what causes a hangover, besides, of course, drinking too much? There is some debate about the specific causes of that awful morning after, but it seems to break down to several factors.
- Dehydration. Alcohol is a diuretic, which, as the Mayo Clinic explains, means it causes your body to excrete even more moisture than you're putting into it. If you're ever stranded in the Sahara between oases, you may find the experience is similar to a hangover (without the fun of the night before).
- Hypoglycemia. Alcohol makes your liver break down its stored energy and flush it out of your system, the BBC says. That wobbly feeling you get when you're hung over is pretty similar to the one you might get after fasting for a while.
- Congeners are some of the chemicals in alcohol that aren't ethanol. Rule of thumb: the darker the alcohol, the more congeners, and the worse the hangover.
- Acetaldehyde is, according to a study done at UCLA, another cause of hangovers. Its effects include: sweating, nausea and vomiting. Sound familiar? Your body breaks ethyl alcohol (the active ingredient in alcohol) down in two steps: first into acetaldehyde, and then into acetate, which your body expels. That second step takes time, however, and if you're outpacing your body, that nasty acetaldehyde stays in your system.
- Alcohol irritates the gastrointestinal system, notes Dr. Thomas Stuttaford, leading to nausea and intestinal distress.
- Alcohol makes it difficult to get deep, restful sleep, says Dr. Jeffrey Wiese. Some of the effects you feel are fatigue.
Step 1: Before you start drinking
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- Eat something. Alcohol is mostly ingested through the small intestine, the next stop after the stomach. If there's food in your stomach, it will take longer for the alcohol to get to your small intestine, and thus longer for you to get drunk. Also, it'll prevent the hypoglycemia problem noted above.
- Drink water. If you start your night dehydrated, it will only get worse.
- Prickly pear extract may decrease the nasty effects of cogeners, according to a 2004 study. However, it needs to be taken several hours before you start drinking.
- Take 50 milligrams of Vitamin B6, put another 50 milligrams in your pocket, and leave 50 milligrams next to a glass of water to take when you get home. Dr. Jeff Wiese says it is the only thing proven in a double-blind study to help a hangover. However, doses of over 500 milligrams per day can be toxic, so don't take too much!
Step 2: While you're drinking
- Now that you're out, apply these steps to prevent a hangover in the morning.
- Drink one glass of water or a nonalcoholic beverage for each alcoholic beverage you down, recommends Aaron White, PhD. This will prevent dehydration.
- Take that next dose of Vitamin B6 with that water, about three hours after your last dose.
- The Mayo Clinic says that if your urine has a dark color, you're probably dehydrated. If you're not peeing clear, have another glass of water before you knock back more booze.
- Drink only one kind of alcohol, says the Mayo Clinic. Multiple types of alcohol increase your chances of getting a hangover.
- Choose your alcohol wisely to avoid cogeners. The medical journal BMJ lists these drinks in order of least to most hangover-inducing:
- Tequila isn't listed, but since it's dark it's safe to assume it's on the worse end of the scale. Champagne, says the BMJ, is also one of the worst for hangovers. They also add that cheap booze will hurt more in the morning than the high-end stuff.
Step 3: Before bed
- You may want to fall into bed as soon as you get home, but just ten minutes of self-care will help reduce or eliminate the pain that otherwise awaits you in the morning.
- Take that Vitamin B6 you thoughtfully left out for yourself earlier.
- Wash it down with a pint of water.
- Drink a glass of orange juice, says Dr. Rob Hicks. The vitamin C will make your liver process the alcohol faster.
- Eat something light to prevent low blood sugar later.
- Don't take acetaminophen (otherwise known as Tylenol); many studies, summarized in the journal Postgraduate Medicine, show that acetaminophen can damage the liver when combined with alcohol.
- Don't take any other over the counter pain relievers, either. The FDA says if you combine them with three or more drinks, it can lead to stomach bleeding.
Step 4: The morning after
- Go back to bed. Alcohol affects how well you sleep. You'll need more in order to recover.
- Drink water. Yes, even more. Your body needs to rehydrate.
- If your stomach is bothering you, don't drink coffee or other caffeinated beverages. Caffeine irritates the stomach.
- If you are nauseated, drink soft drinks or fruit juice, says WebMD.
- Eat something. Dr. Thomas Stuttaford recommends as much protein and carbohydrate as you can manage, to recover from alcohol-induced hypoglycemia.
- Now's the time for painkillers, if you need them. BMJ strongly recommends a quick-absorbing type, like Alka-Seltzer.
Resources on How to Cure a Hangover
- SoYouWanna.com: SoYouWanna cure a hangover?
- AskMen.com: How To: Cure A Hangover
- BBC News: The ultimate hangover cure? (2005)
- CHOW: How to Cure a Hangover: Tips for the over-indulgent (2006)
- Nzgirl: How to Cure a Hangover (2006)
- FOXNews.com: Hangover 101: How to Deal With the Morning After (2006)
- BBC: h2g2 - Hangover Cures
- Wikipedia: Hangover
- Times Online: The party's over: Advice on treating hangovers (2004)
- National Institutes of Health:Vitamin B6 Fact Sheet