Hangovers are one of life’s greatest torments. It’s a terrible feeling and one that you can only blame on yourself. It comes at you after a night of hedonistic debauchery, sliding in through the curtains to rouse you in the early hours. It taps at your forehead as you gain a bit of consciousness and says, “Hey, it’s me. I’m bored, so I’m gonna be on your case all day my friend, and there’s nothing you can do about it!”
Yes. You signed a contract with the devil as soon as you took that first sip. Like Robert Johnson at the crossroads, you sold your soul for a good time. The only difference being; Johnson got to play blues guitar for the rest of his days. You just get a case of the blues for a day or two.
Why do we get hangovers?
Hangovers, while still not fully understood, can be put largely down to dehydration. Think about how many trips to the bathroom you took last night. Five? Six? And what did you replace that lost fluid with? Water? I don’t think so. Well, alcohol dehydrates you. A lot. By not compensating with water, you’re setting yourself up for a desperate hangover.
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Others suggest that a lack of salt, sugar and other minerals are to blame for the hangover. Alcohol is a diuretic and, as such, you’re expelling a lot of minerals. These need to be compensated for, and unsurprisingly, beer doesn’t contain the necessary requirements. A late night hamburger on your way home might go a bit of the way to helping you out the next morning, but it’s no guarantee.
Scientists believe that hangovers are merely a combination of dehydration and toxins that the liver dispels when trying to process too much alcohol through the body. This may be why hangovers are more exaggerated with cheaper liquors than they are with your higher quality drinks.
What is the best remedy for a hangover?
The first step to remedying a hangover is to stop it from happening in the first place. Keep hydrating throughout the night, and more importantly, make sure you’re properly hydrated before the drinking even begins.
While there are no proven cures for a hangover, there are plenty of so-called “folk remedies.” With the above in mind, you can safely say that chugging a couple of glasses of water before you go to bed will help you out in the morning. But, it’s very difficult to remember this when you’re stumbling through the house at 5 am.
Most of us don’t even consider the possibility of a hangover once we’re a few drinks in. So, maybe it’s best just to accept that it might happen and be prepared.
As previously noted, you’re probably lacking salt, sugar, and water. Keep sipping on that cup of water that you’re holding in your trembling hand. You’ve got to rehydrate yourself. A Gatorade is also a good choice, as it’s full of sugar and electrolytes which will do you a ton of good.
A good idea is to get something with electrolytes in it but low in sugar. While Gatorade is a viable option, and certainly won’t hurt any. I like to pick up a bottle of Pedialyte (or baby Gatorade as my brother calls it), it’s very low in sugar and still loaded with electrolytes. Smart Water is also a good option.
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Some say that coffee can help, though this does run the risk of generating a bit of anxiety to add to the fear of what you may have done or said the previous night. It’s a totally subjective piece of advice.
We’ve already gone over the reason you should be downing water while drinking. But if you neglected to hydrate between drinks I’ve got a combination that will help ward off that hangover.
Squeeze some lemon into your water. The citrus of lemons stimulates enzymes within the liver and helps speed up the process of expelling the toxins out of your body.
Red Ginseng Tea
There was a study in Korea a few years back that found drinking a half a cup of red ginseng tea helps to fight off alcohol-induced fatigue and stomach pain. I haven’t tried it yet but next time I have some of this lying around I’m going to take a shot of it when I start to get sleepy from drinking too much.
Again, the acidic nature of tomatoes helps boost the function of your liver. And of course, this helps to speed up the recovery process. Plus, tomatoes have a high electrolyte count helping you hydrate faster.
coconut water has proven to be a superior drink. Its electrolyte count is astronomical and it is just as effective at replenishing nutrients as any sports drink on the market. Without the refined sugar of a sports drink. Get you some coconut water, not just for hangovers but for any time you need to replenish your body.
Foods that will help
Depending on your specific type of hangover, the cure can be difficult to achieve. If you’re puking up the contents of your stomach, eating is going to be very difficult. Once you feel your stomach is empty, try smoothing it with some toast or plain waffles, and water. These are possibly the easiest things for you to retain at this point. Got them down? Good. You’ve lined your stomach sufficiently to try moving on to something more substantial.
If your stomach’s not the problem, but more so the headache and nausea, a good bacon and eggs breakfast will help you out. The salts and protein will offer some beneficial nutrients to ease you back into the day.
Otherwise, when you’re ready, eating some greasy fast food will actually really help. All that salt and fat will go a long way if you can keep it down. Most of us won’t be able to stomach anything for the majority of the day. Nibble away at small things—gummy bears, toast, crackers, whatever. Then, when you’ve at least soothed a headache and tender stomach, eat a burger or some pizza, later on, to help with nausea you no doubt still feel.
Grab a pack of instant oatmeal in the morning to quell that shakiness and nausea you’re feeling from last nights binge. Oatmeal has essential nutrients like calcium, B vitamins, iron and more. It even helps to neutralize those acids produced by your body working in overdrive to get rid of the toxins in your body. You’ll get a quick energy boost that will help you get through the next few hours.
Chicken Noodle Soup
There’s a reason we recommend chicken noodle soup to children when they get sick. But there is no reason we shouldn’t take that advice as adults. Chicken soup is a great way to replenish the sodium we lost the previous night. Even better, chicken is loaded with cysteine (our livers best friend) to get us back to feeling normal.
Pickles aren’t my first choice when it comes to hangover remedies, in fact, they are the absolute last resort for me. But they are saddled with salt and electrolytes, much like Gatorade and Pedialyte. Pickle juice works as well, maybe even better. So man-up and drink that nasty salty water, to quickly get over your hangover.
The leafy goodness of spinach and all other leafy greens are filled with folic acid, vitamin C, and sulfur. The nutrients that cut hangovers off before they can fully set in. Have a small salad in the morning with spinach as the main ingredient. The fiber will help you stay full without having to eat a ton of it too.
Why watermelon? Easy.
It’s loaded with the amino acid L-citrulline, potassium and magnesium. These nutrients (mainly l-citrulline) promote blood circulation, speeding up the process that your body processes out toxins and detoxes itself. Plus, it basically edible water, so you’re hydrating at the same time.
Rich in cysteine (helps to break down toxins) eggs give you the protein you need to get your body back on track. Mix some spinach and tomatoes in there for an even more potent hangover stopper.
Potassium is maybe the most important nutrient you can replenish in your body after a night of boozing. Frequent urination expels a lot of potassium eat a banana with your omelet and oatmeal in the morning. Combined with a few bottles of water and you are well on your way to getting over your hangover.
Hair of the Dog
There is one other way to ease the effects of a hangover. There is some evidence that suggests when you have a hangover the quickest way to take the edge off is to take another drink.
This is called “hair of the dog”. This comes from an ancient belief that the best thing to cure an ailment is more of what gave you that ailment in the first place. This sounds counterproductive sure, but there is some validity to it. That being said there isn’t much science to back this theory up.
This is a theory I’ve had for quite some time. In fact, if I ever had too much to drink on a work night and woke up feeling queasy, I’d sometimes take a small drink. It worked okay but really didn’t do much more than postpone the awful hangover feeling. It’ll work in a pinch if necessary.
Ultimately, prevention is the best cure.
So, whilst there’s little clinical evidence to support any of this advice, from experience, we all have our little ways of getting through the hangover. A nice breakfast, lots of water or Gatorade, and an all-around lazy day of self-pity are probably the best things you can do.
If you’re clever, the best thing to do is have a substantial meal before you start drinking. This helps to slow down the body’s absorption of alcohol and will definitely help prevent the assault on your body and mind the next day. Grab a McDonalds on your way to the bar, or cook yourself a bowl of pasta at home. Anything substantial enough in your stomach prior to that first drink is going to help.
Remember, staying hydrated at all times almost guarantees that you’ll wake up from your night of partying without nagging hangovers. Drink plenty of water throughout your days, and you’ll always be ready for a night of boozing fun.
Good luck, my friends! Party hard. But party responsibly.
Want more home remedies and advice? See my posts on what soups are best for a sore throat, and which foods will make you poop!
OK. You probably don’t want to hear about this now but… I found the best flasks for Scotch. Y’know, for next time.