Hangover Cures and Prevention
By Staff Writer
Your head is pounding. Your mouth is dry. Your stomach is queasy. The morning after a night of overindulging in alcohol can make you desperate for a cure to ease your hangover. Is there anything you can do? Here are some ideas to help prevent and alleviate hangover symptoms:
Don't drink alcohol
The only way to prevent a hangover is to drink moderately or abstain from alcohol in the first place.
Stay hydrated when you drink
Alternating between alcoholic drinks and water, juice or some other non-alcoholic beverage will not only help slow the pace of drinking, but keep you hydrated, which may help minimize a headache the next day. 1
Hair of the dog
There's an old joke that you can't get a hangover if you never stop drinking. Having a champagne mimosa or Bloody Mary the morning after a bender may be tempting, but it's tough on your body. "The worst thing to do is to have another drink," says Charles Cutler, M.D., an internist in Norristown, Pennsylvania, and the chair of the American College of Physician's board of governors who spoke with Health.com. "The alcohol may temporarily take the edge off your symptoms but could hurt in the long run. Hangovers make you feel horrible because alcohol is toxic," Cutler explains, "and you need to give your body a chance to recover. That morning drink could lead to an even worse hangover the following day." 2
Restaurants feature hangover breakfasts that include eggs, bacon, sausage and a side of potatoes as big as your head. Cold pizza perhaps? Surprisingly, there is no scientific evidence that consuming deep-fried carbs will ease your hangover anguish, although many people swear by it. "Greasy food is just going to give you heartburn," says Cutler, who recommends sticking with easy-to-digest foods such as toast or cereal. "You want to get calories right back into your system." 2
Alka-Seltzer has been around since the Great Depression and the famous fizzy medicine has probably been used to treat hangovers for nearly that long. All Alka-Seltzer varieties contain sodium bicarbonate (also known as baking soda), which helps settle queasiness by neutralizing stomach acid. Of course it contains other ingredients, notably aspirin and citric acid, which may irritate your stomach, so be aware.2
Aspirin or ibuprofen
Over-the-counter pain relief such as Tylenol® and Advil® are often the first thing you reach for after a night of partying, and they can even help reduce the aches and pains you may feel after a night of heavy drinking. But you should proceed carefully. "If you're a regular heavy drinker, you may have done some damage to the lining of your stomach, and taking aspirin or ibuprofen (such as Advil) can worsen this damage and even cause bleeding," Dr. Cutler warns. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) is also risky for habitual drinkers, due to the potential for liver damage. 2 Check with your doctor about a pain reliever that's right for you.
The morning after, you may crave a big steaming-hot cup of very strong java. This sentiment can be multiplied by one thousand if you're already a dedicated coffee drinker. "If you're a regular coffee drinker, skipping the java when you're hung over mayâ€”or may not beâ€”a good idea," John Brick, Ph.D., an alcohol research scientist and author of The Doctor's Hangover Handbook, told Health.com. "You may wind up layering a pounding caffeine-withdrawal headache on top of your hangover woes if you miss your morning fix." That said, caffeine narrows your blood vessels and boosts blood pressure. "Both of these may make the hangover worse," Brick says. "If you drink coffee regularly, you might try a very small amount in the morning. Wait thirty to sixty minutes and see how you feel." 2
Water and sports drinks
Just as it’s a good idea to hydrate before and during a night of drinking alcohol, it's also wise to consume as much water and other non-alcoholic drinks as you can the morning after. Conventional wisdom holds that the dehydration caused by heavy drinking is what makes you feel so bad the next day, although this hasn't been proven. "Juice, water, Gatorade, all those things -- they're going to make you feel better," says Cutler. 2
One of the best things you can do for a hangover is to sleep it off. Alcohol disturbs your sleep cycle – it will knock you out, but actually deprive you of the kind of sleep you need. While sleep deprivation won't by itself cause a hangover, it can definitely make the symptoms worse. 2
Over-the-counter hangover cures
Although there are over-the-counter remedies that claim to metabolize alcohol quickly and cleanse and detox your system, or vitamins that claim to offer mood support so you'll feel better, the only surefire treatment for a hangover is time.
Or not having anything to drink in the first place.
This information constitutes the views and opinions of the author, who is solely responsible for its content, and does not reflect the positions or opinions of drugstore.com, inc.
1.“The 11 Best Ways to Ease a Hangover,” Men's Health, accessed September 6, 2012, http://www.menshealth.com/mhlists/hangover-cures/hangover-cures-prevention.php.
2. “10 Hangover Remedies: What Works?” Health Magazine via CNN.com, December 31, 2010, accessed September 6, 2012, http://www.cnn.com/2010/HEALTH/12/30/hangover.remedies/index.html.