The Best Hangover Cures To Help You Feel Like A Person Again
Your head throbs and stomach turns…
You slowly and painfully open your eyes in your dark bedroom (thank god for those blackout curtains, such a great investment).
Your mouth is like the Mojave desert, barren and dry begging for even just a drop of moisture…
You reach to your side table hoping wasted you remembered to leave yourself a bottle of water the night before. At the least, you hope to find an empty bottle that you pounded before collapsing into bed.
Alas, there is no bottle left there, empty or full!
You are fucking hungover, and the worst part has yet to arrive.
And then the panic sets in. You have work later. You’re supposed to go to lunch with your mom. What are you going to do to take the edge off this epic hangover?
There are many different hangover cures people attest to working. But which ones work and which ones are a bust?
Let’s talk about all our options and see if there is any science behind the cures.
Food Hangover Cures
When hungover, you’ve probably found yourself at the local pizza, burrito, or burger shop getting some greasy takeout. Greasy food has been a long-standing hangover cure that many people swear by. The problem is that this greasy food would actually do you more good before you started drinking.
The magic of greasy foods is its ability to slow the absorption of alcohol. Fatty foods coat your stomach and don’t allow your stomach to suck up all that alcohol so quickly. Slowing the metabolism of alcohol will help your body keep up with all the ethanol breakdown. Much of a hangover is caused by a “spillover” of extra alcohol that your body couldn’t metabolize fast enough.
In many countries, it is not uncommon to eat a spoonful of olive oil before heading to the party. Olive oil contains medium-chain triglycerides that can help prevent alcohol-related fatty liver. It also contains antioxidants shown to reduce the alcohol-induced oxidative stress caused by heavy drinking. If this is unappealing to you (which it sure is to me), just be sure to eat a hearty meal before hitting the bars.
When it comes to a hangover, not all foods are created equal.
Eggs are the superstar of any hangover breakfast. They contain the amino acid Cysteine, which helps to break down acetaldehyde, the chemical left over after drinking that causes so much of your hangover pain. Your body uses this Cysteine to produce a non-essential or conditionally essential amino acid, Taurine, which has been shown to protect the liver against oxidative damage and toxins. Studies indicated that the addition of Taurine supplementation may improve liver function, even in those with liver cirrhosis.
Yogurt and bananas can make for a great hangover breakfast. Drinking depletes our stores of potassium, a very important electrolyte. These electrically conductive ions keep our bodily fluids balanced. Disruptions in this balance can cause terrible side effects such as dizziness, fatigue, shakiness, nausea, and vomiting (sound familiar?). Consider incorporating high potassium foods like, yogurt, bananas, spinach, avocado, and sweet potatoes into your morning hangover breakfast routine.
Can’t stomach solid foods? Consider a salty broth, like miso. Although not a typical breakfast food, miso soup is a great addition to the hangover remedies list. Like potassium, sodium is another electrolyte essential to body fluid balance. The miso, a product of fermentation, can also aid in digestion when your stomach is acting like a rebellious teen…
Beverages To Cure A Hangover
I’m not going to delve too deep into explaining why water is essential in a hangover. We are all adults and surely know that water is soooooo important throughout your day, booze or no booze.
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Alcohol decreases production of antidiuretic hormone, which is why you must fight to “break the seal” whenever you find yourself out drinking (no one likes waiting in those long bathroom lines at the bars). With the increased urination, you will find yourself more and more dehydrated throughout the night. For every gram of alcohol consumed, urine excretion is increased by 10mL.
Getting your water in before you start drinking and during the party is the only sure fire way to prevent most of the gut-wrenching hangover the next day. Not to mention if you pile on energy drinks with tons of caffeine while you are drinking you will be doubling down on the dehydration factor.
I suggest leaving a water bottle by your bed before heading out so drunk you will at the least pound some water before your head hits the pillow. More ideally, try and stagger some water between each drink. It’s hard to remember sometimes, but you will hurt so much more in the morning without that strategy.
Coffee can be a double-edged sword.
If you are a coffee addict, your head may throb in the morning without your daily dose of caffeine. However, coffee will dehydrate you even more the morning after drinking. If you already have a headache, the caffeine causes blood vessel to tighten and can make the pounding in your head worse.
If you HAVE TO, I suggest you dose yourself with small amounts of coffee with water in between. Have a glass of water with a half cup of coffee instead of going straight for the full cup. If your hangover is more of the sleep deprivation kind, go for the coffee, but beware of the risk of feeling panicked from the coupling of stimulants and exhaustion.
Also beware that you are more at risk for post-drinking headaches if you are one to turn red from drinking, are prone to migraines, or you’re a woman…
Before I began asking around and researching, I never would have thought to grab for a coke when hungover. However, apparently among celebrities, it is the hangover cure they swear by.
Affectionately called “The Black Doctor,” many have claimed that Coke is the best cure for the low blood sugar felt when hungover, the carbonation will ease an upset tummy, and the caffeine will wake you up.
Not shocked that Coca-Cola found it way into the list of hangover cures given its beginnings as a “brain tonic,” to be used as a cure for ailments and touted as “a wonderful invigorator of sexual organs.” While I don’t find Coke much for sexual stimulation, I may give it a shot for curing my next hangover…
Worth mentioning that a Chinese study found that consuming sprite or soda water after you have stopped drinking alcohol can help increase the production of ALDH, which is a secondary option for ethanol breakdown when one consumes excessive alcohol. This process will help your body to remove the alcohol more quickly, leaving you less hungover.
This is one hangover cure I can swear by. For that matter, coconut water is great for any dehydration-related issue (the miracle when my skin just won’t budge in the dryness factor).
Coconut water has a plethora of benefits from help with weight loss, antioxidant properties, kidney health, and heart health. While not proven to be more hydrating than water, coconut water is delicious and the added bonus of potassium (the same amount as a banana) helps replenish lost electrolytes from drinking. A little bit of sugar to help with the hangover hypoglycemia doesn’t hurt either.
Just a quick science moment: This hypoglycemia is caused by a buildup of lactic acid and a decreased glucose production (for my readers that want to know WHY).
Coconut water is about as effective as sports drinks for a hangover, but I suggest coconut water for those who like a less artificially flavored beverage. Sometimes my hangover just can’t handle pounding back fake orange flavor…
Bitters and Soda
A tried and true hangover cure in the bartending community, bitters and soda is great for an uneasy stomach.
We kind of already covered why soda is good for a hangover, but why the bitters?
Bitters are alcoholic, so there is a bit of a “hair of the dog” effect (getting to that cure shortly, don’t worry). Angostura bitters contain 44.7% alcohol by volume (don’t drink it from the bottle, you will be disgusted), so the small dose of alcohol will help ease your body back into sobriety.
I can’t quote a study here to prove that this is a good hangover cure, but I can personally attest to its ability to make a queasy stomach better quickly when you need to be at work or just simply need to feel better.
Hair of Dog
We have all been there. It’s brunch, you didn’t manage to shower, or even put makeup on. You are hungover and debating whether to start the drinking cycle again.
Tough brunch decisions…
Next thing you know you have had 2 mimosas and the hangover seems like ages ago…put off for another time later in the day.
Hair of the dog is actually a shortening for the phrase “Hair of the dog that bit you,” relating back to the old belief that if you were bitten and contracted rabies that a potion created that animal’s hair, it would cure you. While the cure for rabies sure doesn’t work this way, it appears that hair of the dog for a hangover cure works.
Alcohol causes chemical changes in the brain and some of these changes cause feelings of pleasure. When you are hungover, the addition of alcohol again to the body can cause the activation of these pleasurable neurotransmitters again, leading to good, happy feelings.
I should note that the hair of the dog method is only putting off the inevitable, and you still need to deal with your dehydration. But when you just can’t see the light at the end of the hangover tunnel, sometimes this method is a good option on occasion.
Activities That Help with Hangover Pain
While not the first idea that comes to mind when hungover, many swear by hitting the gym or going for a hike when hungover.
Using exercise to get out of the hangover funk is quite effective. Your body is trying to get rid of all those toxins left over from drinking the night before, and exercise will speed up this process (if you can stomach it).
If you make it to the gym, but running and stair-stepping seems like a one-way tickets to puke town, you can also consider sitting in the sauna for a bit. Be sure to bring a water bottle with you whether you exercise or sauna it up, since you are most definitely still dehydrated from last night’s party.
Don’t have a gym membership? Get some fresh air and go on a hike or walk on the beach. You will feel both mentally and physically better. Or you can be a total beach bum and sweat out the alcohol while out sunbathing. Just don’t forget your water bottle and sunscreen. A sunburn when hungover is the worst!
The true winner of the hangover cures world. Sleep is pretty much the best hangover cure option, but often not the most accessible.
I always say my hangovers are so much worse when I have to be somewhere like work or that meeting I didn’t mean to schedule at 9am (kicking myself the whole time). This is because the best way to feel better after a night of boozing is getting some more sleep.
When you sleep with alcohol still in your system, your sleep can be negatively impacted. In order to feel refreshed in the morning, your body needs to move through each sleeping stage. When you have been drinking, you can skip the important REM cycle of sleep and fall straight into deep sleep. Your brain can send out conflicting information, making your body think your should get more sleep but wake up at the same time.
When you don’t have to be anywhere when hungover, you should plan to sleep it off and drink plenty of water. An simple, yet effective solution.
After a night of sweating it up on the dance floor with a few too many cocktails, showering is a must to kick that hangover.
Taking a cold shower can wake you up, and get the adrenaline going to help you be more tolerant of the negative feelings that hangover is drowning you in. If you have a nasty headache, it can also help the pounding in your head.
Every time I have put off showering to stay in bed, I later regret that decision as I emerge a new person post-shower. Half the battle of your hangover is regaining the feeling that you are human again, so get up and get clean, BEFORE you crawl back into your dark hole that is your bed…
Pills and Drugs to Fight a Hangover
The aches and pains of a hangover can really put a damper on your day. But you have to be careful, your liver is already working overtime from all that alcohol.
So which pills should you take or avoid?
Advil (ibuprofen) is a pretty safe choice for that morning after headache. However, the 1-2 pill dose sometimes isn’t enough to make the headache disappear and in 6 hours time, the effects have worn off.
Tylenol (acetaminophen) will quickly take off the edge of your headache, but be very careful. Acetaminophen can cause serious (and sometime deadly) liver damage when there is alcohol present in your body.
Aleve (naproxen) is a good choice if you are feeling nauseous and need the pounding temples of your head to chill out. This option also has less risk of liver damage and the effects will help you out for 12-24 hours, much longer than Advil or Tylenol.
With pain pills, just be careful about dosing and be thoughtful of your liver. If you plan to continue to abuse your liver once you’re not hungover any more, this is something to keep in mind…
While most people don’t have a banana bag as an option (unless you are a doctor or in Vegas), it is something worth talking about. A banana bag is a an IV fluids bag that contains electrolytes and vitamins (heavy on the magnesium and thiamin) used to rehydrate and nourish the nutrient deficient drinker.
Fun fact: It’s called a banana bag because of its bright yellow color not because of its shape)!
You most likely only experience this treatment if you are in the hospital with alcohol poisoning (don’t do that, it’s awful and really uncool) or if you are rich and can afford the treatment when you make your annual trip to Las Vegas resorts on the strip.
Hangover Cure Shots
They don’t work.
There is no miracle shot or pill.
I’m not going to waste any of your time talking about these “miracle” cures that are all bullshit. Don’t waste your money…
So what is the best hangover cure?
There isn’t a ton of research going on in the hangover world. So we can only do our best to try and decipher which hangover remedies are best and which are just bullshit.
My suggested best cure? Be smart when drinking and stay hydrated. Prevention is your best option.
My, “oops you forgot to have water last night and the world feels like it is ending,” best cure? Shower, sleep, water, and a healthy egg based breakfast. OH and some bitters and soda at work if you must…
These are the things that have truly worked for me, but I’m sure you have some hangover cures I didn’t get to on this list.
What are your tried and true hangover cures? Or what did you try that totally didn’t work? Or made it worse?!? Tweet me your favorite hangover cure or tag me in a picture on Instagram of your favorite hangover breakfast or hair of the dog!
And don’t forget, sharing is caring. You wouldn’t want to leave your friends in the dark about these hangover cure tips, so please spread the word: