Everyone has a go-to hangover remedy—burnt toast, greasy food, a Bloody Mary. I even know a guy who swears by the harrowing concoction called “The Bull’s Eye,” raw egg mixed into a glass of OJ. I'll pass. While the placebo effect is powerful, there are better ways to silence the house DJ playing in your skull—ways that actually work.
First, understand that a hangover is caused by more than dehydration—though it does play a large role. Your body metabolizes alcohol into acetaldehyde, which is toxic to brain cells, says Robert Swift, M.D., Ph.D., a professor at Brown University’s Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies. Another byproduct of booze breakdown is adenosine, a neurochemical that dilates blood vessels in the brain and causes a splitting headache. Pile on low blood sugar, a loss of electrolytes, stomach irritation, and poor-quality sleep, and it’s no wonder you feel like feel like you’re the last survivor of a Tarantino movie. (Hurting from more than a hangover? Click here for 10 DIY Fixes for Every Ache and Pain.)
Don’t feel too shabby? You could be lucky; studies suggest that 25 to 30 percent of people are virtually immune to hangovers. That, or you might still be buzzed. It takes a full 8 to 11 hours for your blood alcohol content (BAC) to hit zero after you reach the amount of booze necessary to trigger a hangover. If you raged until last call last night, take precautions now—even if you feel fine.
Follow these research-proven tips to fend off your nausea, pounding head, and general hatred of life.
You’ve heard that dehydration is a major hangover cause, and it’s true. The problem: Too much water will only stretch out an already-irritated stomach, leading to (even more) nausea or vomiting. Instead, gulp 8 ounces of water every hour you’re awake after drinking, Dr. Swift recommends.
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That’d be ibuprofen. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) can risk liver damage after a night of drinking. Because both acetaminophen and alcohol are metabolized by the liver, boozing disrupts your liver from fully breaking down the toxins in the pain pills, Dr. Swift says. And aspirin can upset your stomach.
After a few cups of water, switch to a sports drink. “The extra salt helps your body absorb the fluids more quickly,” Dr. Swift says.
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Need to look presentable today? Steep black, chamomile, or green tea bags in boiling water for 3 to 5 minutes. After you let them cool, lie down and place a bag over each eye for 5 to 15 minutes. The tannins in the tea constrict blood vessels, pulling the skin taught to battle puffiness.
When researchers gave breakfasts to hungover college students, those who ate slowly digestible carbohydrates, like oatmeal, performed better on mood and memory tests than subjects who chose simple sugars. To add protein and digestion-slowing fiber, stir a tablespoon of crunchy peanut butter into plain instant oats.
The amino acid cysteine might help your liver recover from the stress of breaking down alcohol. Egg yolks, yogurt, and poultry are good sources. (Sick of scrambled? Whip up one of these 8 Easy Egg Recipes instead.)
Caffeinated coffee will increase your alertness and ease the dilated vessels in your brain, says Frederick Freitag, D.O., medical director of the Comprehensive Headache Center for Baylor Health Care System in Dallas. Just limit it two one or two cups to avoid caffeine’s potentially dehydrating effects.
Distraction—whether that’s Rock Band, taking down holiday decorations, or working out—will take your mind off the hangover. It won’t solve anything, but you’ll at least feel better in the moment. Try the Triple-Set Scorcher, the body-blasting challenge from The NEW Spartacus Workout—the most popular workout in Men's Health history.
Writing by Amy Rushlow. Research by Amy Rushlow, Brian Dalek, and Sandra Nygaard