Unfortunately, you cannot cure a hangover. If you rang in the new year with a little too much gusto, I have nothing but bad news for you. According to the latest medical science the only 'cure' is time.
Full disclosure: I've been clean and sober for a little over twenty years now, and a lot has changed in that time. Technology has made giant leaps, but a search of the App Store didn't bring up anything that promised to zap away a throbbing head, an upset stomach, or that insistent feeling that one did or said something in the throes of last night's celebration that may haunt one throughout the year.
This must be said: it is far better for your health on every level to avoid hangovers by drinking alcohol only in moderation. I'm not just saying that as a recovering alcoholic. Medical professionals will say the same. But, hangovers happen. Here's what you should know.
What are the symptoms of a hangover?
Symptoms vary from person to person, but if you drank more than your fair share last night and are experiencing tiredness, weakness, thirst, headache, sensitivity to light and sound, nausea, stomach pain, vertigo, anxiety, irritability, and/or sweating...you are probably the owner of a hangover.
What causes a hangover?
- Dehydration: Alcohol increases urination and loss of fluids through other body processes. Dehydration accounts for symptoms like thirst, fatigue and headache
- Poor sleep quality: you may fall asleep quickly after a night of drinking, but your sleep is not restful because of disruptions in normal sleep patterns.
- Stomach irritation: alcohol irritates the stomach lining and increases the release of digestive fluids causing stomach upset and nausea.
- Inflammation: as your body tries to metabolize alcohol, it produces volatile toxic substances like acetaldehyde that cause inflammation of the liver, pancreas, brain, and gastrointestinal tract.
How to (somewhat) relieve a hangover
- Take a pain reliever, but NOT acetaminophen (Tylenol). Take aspirin, or Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) instead. These may cause stomach upset so be careful and never take more than the recommended dosage. Avoid acetaminophen because it can interact with the alcohol in your system and may cause liver problems.
- Drink coffee or tea. A little caffeine can help with the grogginess.
- Eat smart and not too heavy or greasy. Toast or a bagel will help with nausea. If your stomach feels up to it, a little Greek yogurt for protein will help your body rebuild some of the compounds that it's using to metabolize the alcohol. If you are feeling ambitious, can handle the blender safely, and are fairly confident the sound won't make your head explode, try a smoothie with fresh fruit and Greek yogurt.
How to prevent a hangover
If you are suffering right now, this is the last thing you want to hear, but it's the truth: your best bet is not to get a hangover in the first place. If you drink to excess, you will wake up with a hangover. Period.
Here are a few things you can try before you drink alcohol that may prevent or reduce hangover symptoms.
- Alternate glasses of water with your alcoholic beverage of choice. This will slow down your alcohol consumption and help with hydration (Dehydration is the main reason you feel like refried death right now).
- Never drink on an empty stomach. Mix in some carbohydrates while drinking.
- Dark liquors and beverages tend to cause more severe hangovers. whiskies, red wines, and gold tequilas will put the hurt on you more than vodka and gin, but if you drink enough of any form of alcohol, you will get a hangover.
- B vitamins and zinc may lessen the severity of hangovers when taken 24 hours before heavy drinking.
Take this with a grain of salt...
Or better yet, several big glasses of water. As I mentioned above I am a recovering alcoholic. From about 1980 to 2003, if I didn't wake up with a hangover I either had never gone to bed the night before so was taking my hangover to-go, or I was too broke to afford enough booze to get drunk on. In that span, I tried every hangover helper on the market and any old family recipe that came my way including enough hair of the dog to build a team of huskies for the Iditarod. None of them cured a hangover, and many were worse than just riding it out. The only thing that consistently made me feel better was exercise. This is purely anecdotal. There is absolutely no science to back it up, and since dehydration is a key ingredient of hangovers, if you do exercise, you have to make sure you are actively replacing the fluids you sweat out. But my theory is that the endorphins released during exercise helped clear my head a bit and the increased heart rate and blood circulation helped clear away some of the toxins. Again, no science. Just a guess. Your results may vary.
If you feel you have an alcohol or substance abuse problem and want help
Note: this article should not be taken as medical advice. The writer is not a medical professional and has no medical expertise. This article was compiled using information from trustworthy sources: National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism | Harvard Medical School - Harvard Health Publishing | HoustonMethodist.org/blog |