When it comes to hangovers, everyone
has a swear-by-it remedy, from bingeing on cheeseburgers and fries (grease
supposedly lines the stomach and slows alcohol absorption) to gulping spiked
orange juice or a Bloody Mary
(hair of the dog). Hundreds of others are free for the taking online, so why
not pick one and get moving the day after you've had a few too many?
Because "in terms of anything
that's proven to, quote, cure a hangover,
there isn't anything," says Michael Fingerhood, an associate professor of
medicine at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in
Baltimore. In 2005, researchers scoured studies as far back as the 1950s that
addressed preventing or treating hangovers. They unearthed just eight that were
worth a closer look, none of which could convincingly demonstrate success for
their hangover tricks (such as taking a supplement of prickly-pear cactus or a
yeast-vitamin pill), according to the report published in the British
That doesn't mean you have to be
miserable all day, though. Experts say some old standbys will at least take the
edge off a hangover and end it a little faster:
Drink lots of water.
It's hardly groundbreaking advice, but it should be a top priority. Alcohol
makes you urinate. That can lead to dehydration, prompting the hallmark dizziness
and lightheadedness of a hangover.
Eat, but don't binge.
Crackers and toast can boost blood sugar that may have dipped while drinking, contributing
to your fatigue and overall weakness, according to the Mayo Clinic. Also consider pretzels and a banana
to replace the salt and potassium lost through urinating so much. No
cheeseburger feast—most of us lack the stomach for it the day after.
Get your body working faster.
When alcohol gets into the system, says Thomas Tallman, a staff physician in
emergency medicine at Cleveland Clinic, "it's got to be
metabolized. There's no way around it." The fructose in sports drinks, fruit juice,
and honey may help burn the alcohol more quickly. So will exercise, if you can
force yourself to get moving, says Tallman.
Retreat under the covers. You
may have gotten your usual eight hours, but it was probably interrupted by a
few trips to the bathroom and a lot of tossing and turning, decreasing the
quality of your snooze. Think ahead and consider taking a nap before a night
out, says Fingerhood.
Take a pain reliever, but sparingly.
They'll likely alleviate a headache, but aspirin can upset an already irritated
tummy, and acetaminophen could lead to liver damage, according to the Mayo
Clinic. Don't go over the recommended dose. In fact, try half a dose and see if
But how about a little foresight to
avoid a hangover in the first place? Think of it as doing "damage control
while you're drinking so you feel less horrific the next day," says Leslie
Bonci, a registered dietician and director of sports nutrition at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.
Start by pre-setting a limit before you head out, says Peter Nathan, a
community and behavioral health professor emeritus at the University of Iowa in
Iowa City who has studied alcohol consumption for 40 years. He advises telling yourself:
"I'm going to have no more than two or at most three drinks during the
three hours of this party. And if I do more than that, that's an error in
judgment and I can't make it." Don't let peer pressure think you need to
keep up with a binge drinker, says Nathan, who has most recently researched
binge drinking among college students. "It's important that they not
keep up," he says. The body can typically metabolize an alcoholic drink—a
glass of beer, a one-shot mixed drink—each hour. Women are generally in
hangover danger after three to five drinks in a night; for men, it's five or
six. If you're prone to get to these thresholds, try
"mocktails"—tonic and lime, water, juice—between drinks. And keep
eating. Food slows down alcohol absorption and provides a little distraction.
Customize your request.
Ask the bartender for a little
more orange juice and a little less vodka, suggests Bonci. "Nobody's going
to think you're a wuss if you do that," she says.
Darker-colored alcoholic beverages—bourbon, scotch, tequila, brandy, ales—have
a greater amount of chemicals called congeners, which are more likely to cause
a hangover, according to the Mayo Clinic. But light or dark, excess alcohol can
lead to a perfectly awful day after.