Hangover Cures: No, They're Not Real — Here's What to Try InsteadDec. 22, 2020 - Katie McCallum
Hangovers happen, but that doesn't mean you won't try to do anything in your power to avoid one. Well...almost anything. Stopping after that second glass of wine would've been your best bet, really.
But, once you know you're headed for a hangover, and even after it's already hit, you've probably tried a "hangover cure" — you're desperate, after all!
"Aside from overdoing it on alcohol, there's a lot that goes into a hangover. The resulting poor sleep and mild dehydration, as well as the breakdown products of alcohol itself — and the effects these products can have on your stomach and other organs — all contribute to why hangovers make you feel so lousy," explains Amanda Beaver, wellness dietitian at Houston Methodist. "And while there are quite a few anecdotal tips and tricks to curing a hangover, these are typically just that...anecdotal."
Here are three common hangover cure myths, why they don't really work and what you should do instead:
Hangover Cure Myth #1: Have a drink the morning after
This is the old "hair of the dog" trick — probably most commonly suggested when you're gathered with a group of friends who share your hangover distress. The idea behind this myth is that more alcohol might be the cure to your current hangover. It's incredibly circular logic when you actually think about it...
"While more alcohol may make you feel a little better in the moment, having another drink can actually prolong your hangover symptoms. In addition, some scientists think this myth may, over time, actually contribute to alcohol dependence," says Beaver.
Hangover Cure Myth #2: Just take some medicine before bed
When you already know you've had one too many drinks, you might be tempted to take a pain reliever or ibuprofen, wash it down with a big glass of water and hit the sheets. When you wake up, the medicine will have done its job, right?
"The first thing to realize is that alcohol and acetaminophen, in combination, can be harmful to your liver," says Beaver. "Ibuprofen is also commonly reached for, but it can actually increase stomach acid release — adding to the irritation your stomach is already facing from the alcohol itself. Before taking any medication, always read the label and ask your doctor for specific direction."
If you do try this hangover cure myth and you do wake up feeling okay, it wasn't the medicine — as these medications typically only last 4 to 6 hours.
"Rather, it may have been due to the water you drank, the food you ate before drinking or even the type of alcohol you had," Beaver says.
Hangover Cure Myth #3: Drink coffee
If you're a coffee drinker, you probably already believe in the power of your morning cup. But, when it comes to hangovers, coffee isn't a cure at all.
"The caffeine in coffee may temporarily help reduce fatigue, but it will not cure hangover symptoms," explains Beaver. "In fact, there's no scientific evidence at this time showing that caffeine has either beneficial or detrimental effects on hangover symptoms."
If you do regularly drink coffee and you feel a caffeine headache coming on, Beaver recommends having a small cup — but don't feel like you need to otherwise.
Here's what you should actually eat and drink when you're hungover
Now that we're done with the hangover cure myths, you're probably wondering: Well what can I do?
Don't worry — Beaver's got you covered.
"When you wake up to a huge headache and immense grogginess after drinking too much, the last thing you want is to make food and beverage choices that make you feel even worse. I recommend trying these tips instead," says Beaver.
Sip a glass of water
When you wake up hungover, especially if you're nauseous, it can feel like putting more liquids into your stomach is the last thing you need. But, drinking can cause mild dehydration, and rehydrating is important for feeling better.
"A glass of water when you first wake up will help you rehydrate from the night before," says Beaver. "If you got to the point of vomiting, drinking Gatorade and Pedialyte are good choices to help replenish the lost electrolytes."
Skip the greasy meals and opt for fast-digesting carbs
"Conventional wisdom tells us eating something heavy like biscuits and gravy, bacon and sausage and burgers can help cure a hangover. In reality, high-fat meals take a long time to empty from the stomach. This could be trouble for our stomach lining, since it's already irritated from the alcohol."
Instead, Beaver recommends choosing fast-digesting carbs if you are nauseous. The types of carbs that are easiest to digest, include:
"If you're not too nauseous, try pairing your carbs with a protein source, such as Greek yogurt or a hard-boiled egg," says Beaver. "I'd also recommend avoiding strong smells that may trigger nausea, eating slowly and opting for room temperature or colder foods."
Make a refreshing smoothie
Liquids tend to empty from the stomach quicker than solid foods, which is a good thing if your stomach is irritated.
"If you're not feeling up for solid foods, make a fruit smoothie using a blend of 1 cup of frozen berries, half of a frozen banana, 3/4 cup of Greek yogurt, 1 tablespoon of nut butter and 1 cup of almond milk," recommends Beaver. "This smoothie will be full of antioxidants, which could help mitigate the inflammatory effects of alcohol."
Cook some eggs and get some vitamin C
Ever heard of a compound called glutathione? If not, you're about to.
"One tool our bodies use to help detoxify alcohol is an antioxidant called glutathione, which can become depleted after a night of drinking. Our bodies make glutathione from protein building blocks, such as those found in quality sources of protein, like eggs," explains Beaver. "In addition, vitamin C plays an important role in maintaining our glutathione levels."
This means that, to help re-establish your glutathione levels and give your body the nutrients it needs, add protein and foods rich in vitamin C to your meals.
"Chicken, salmon, eggs, yogurt, lentils and oatmeal are other good sources of the protein building blocks we need. But eggs are probably the easiest thing to make when you aren't feeling well," says Beaver. "And sources of vitamin C that are also refreshing and rehydrating include strawberries, red bell peppers, pineapple, mango, tomatoes, clementines and raspberries."
Here are some easy ways that Beaver recommends enjoying eggs and fruits rich in vitamin C:
- Scrambled eggs with a side of sautéed spinach and sliced strawberries
- Breakfast tacos with eggs, sautéed peppers and onions and topped with pico de gallo
- A breakfast smoothie made with frozen mango
- A fried egg over avocado toast and a side of crunchy, sliced red bell peppers