Updated: Nov 7, 2019
Nine out of ten people over the age of 18 have had an alcoholic drink at some point in their life according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
Not all drinking is bad. Socializing over drinks is a well established phenomenon and we have all at one point or another have over indulged.
Alcohol is ok in moderation. But it is a toxin to the body. And hangovers seem to be the body's way of letting us know we may have had one too many the previous night.
The official medical term for a hangover is veisalgia. But no matter what you call the feeling after a night of partying, it is still terrible. Veisalgia is the physiologic response to consuming more alcohol than your body can metabolize and eliminate.
Alcohol is metabolized into acetaldehyde, a substance that is toxic at high levels. This is what makes you feel bad and is responsible for the nausea, headache and sometimes diarrhea. Some unfortunate people are prone to getting vertigo - that horrible feeling that everything around you is spinning, usually followed by vomiting.
The reason a hangover feels so bad is multifactorial. We know that alcohol can dehydrate you and consumption affects your ability to have restful sleep. So sleep deprivation is common even if you sleep in late after a night of partying.
Drinking can also cause throw off our biological clocks, which may be why a hangover can feel like jet lag.
Much has been said and written about how to cure a hangover, but what really works? Is there anything that helps you bounce back quicker? It is important to note that most commonly recommended “cures” for a hangover don’t work.
Here we will go over 10 hangover remedies that have at least some scientific backing.
1- Keep it clear
It doesn’t matter if you drink beer, liquor or wine. And it makes no difference what order you drink them in. Beer before liquor is gonna give you the same hangover as liquor before beer if you drink too much. However, there is some proof that vodka and gin may cause a hangover less frequently than red wine or whiskey. The reason is thought to be the chemicals found in the dark alcoholic beverages.
2- Drink more
When do you start feeling bad after drinking? When the blood alcohol levels begin to fall. This is why some have claimed (correctly) that drinking alcohol in the morning after a late night of drinking actually makes you feel better. It does. BUT...this is a slippery slope to alcoholism, is unhealthy, does not let your body recover and we do not recommend it!
Drinking can lower your blood sugar, just this fact can exacerbate the hangover and the feeling of fatigue. The main fuel source for the brain is glucose. Eating a light meal with a fruit juice (ie orange juice) may expedite the recovery.
4- Drink water
Drinking alcohol can make you lose water. This is because alcohol consumption promotes urination by inhibiting the hormone that decreases how much urine you make. Understandably, nausea can make drinking water difficult, but even a glass or two of water will help you get over a hangover.
No magical hangover cure here, but it is a mild stimulant that can help you get going. The only downside is, like alcohol, coffee increases how much urine you make and can exacerbate dehydration.
6- Pain relievers
Take whatever over the counter medication you fancy. Keep in mind that tylenol is metabolized through the liver. When recovering from a hangover, the liver is still busy and the increased stress of trying to metabolize tylenol can cause liver damage.
There are small studies that have looked at this and found that taking Vitamin B6 may alleviate the symptoms of a hangover. These vitamins help the body eliminate alcohol which may shorten your hangover symptoms.
This is an over the counter supplement. It is an antioxidant. N-acetylcysteine has been shown to decrease the symptoms of a hangover by reducing the byproducts of alcohol metabolism in your system. These byproducts are normally metabolized by the liver into acetaldehyde, which is toxic.
When alcohol hits the liver, it’s metabolized into the toxin acetaldehyde—one of the main culprits of hangovers as well as liver damage. So, a good hangover remedy is one that would decrease the amount of time that the body is exposed to acetaldehyde. N-acetylcysteine helps breaks down acetaldehyde.
Red ginseng significantly reduces plasma alcohol levels after drinking alcohol. This has been studied in Korea where red ginseng is common. It is believed that red ginseng tea can help relieve a number of hangover symptoms. This is likely due to the antioxidant effect of red ginseng.
10- Prickly pear
The extract product of the plant has been shown to reduce some hangover symptoms.
Take away points
The best way to treat a hangover is to avoid it all together by drinking in moderation. One way to limit how much alcohol you consume is to have a glass of water for every alcoholic drink you consume. This serves two purposes, it keeps you hydrated and reduces how much alcohol you can drink and the volume of liquid fills your stomach, the desire to drink goes down.
Ultimately, the only proven method to get over a hangover is time. It just takes time for your body to recover.
Please remember that medical information provided by us must be considered an educational service only. This blog should not be relied upon as medical judgement and does not replace your physician’s independent judgement. Please seek the advice of your physician.