15 Ways to Prevent and Cure That Nasty Hangover

You know the feeling – you went out last night with the intention of having a few drinks. But a few drinks turned into a few… Simi - June 7, 2018

You know the feeling – you went out last night with the intention of having a few drinks. But a few drinks turned into a few drinks too many. You made it home and fell straight into bed. But when you wake up, it’s with the mother of all hangovers and a headache that makes you feel like death warmed up. With a dry mouth and a pounding head, you get out of bed to find yourself dizzy and ready to throw up for the next 4 hours straight.

You lament, how did I get here? And you do it in silence because any sound, even the sound of your own voice will make you wince in pain. What was I thinking? You abandon that thought because thinking is too hard when you’re just trying to survive. Was it worth it? Well, of course, it was because I had an awesome time, but it also wasn’t because now I wish I’d never been born I feel so awful.

There’s nothing wrong with a night out on the town and a couple of drinks with friends. The key is to drink in moderation and not overdo it. But we’ve all had the experience of having a few drinks, and then a few more, and feeling on top of the world at the time. The realization of the consequences of those extra drinks only kicks in the next morning when we wake up to a world of hurt with the dreaded hangover.

Here are some tips and tricks on what do to before, during, and after drinking to prevent a hangover, or at least to make it less severe. Feel free to test them all! What to do before drinking? Let’s find out.

1. Double up on vitamins

A hangover is not caused by dehydration alone, but also by inflammation of the liver in particular, and the oxidative stress placed on the body as it processes the alcohol. So, to avoid a hangover or mitigate its severity, it’s advisable to take extra vitamin supplements. Look out for the following compounds in your multivitamin as they all have an impact on your hangover.

  1. L-theanine – increases the brain’s alpha (feel good) waves and stimulates the production of glutathione which our livers need when we drink alcohol.
  2. Vitamin D – boosts the immune system which is weakened by the by-product of alcohol called acetaldehyde.

After drinking, you should take some Vitamin C which catches and destroys free radicals because it is an antioxidant and raises glutathione levels. You can also take some curcumin (the yellow pigment associated with curry spice). It’s anti-inflammatory and healthy for the gut which is also affected by alcohol consumption. Some preliminary inquiries have shown that curcumin increases superoxide dismutase which is an important antioxidant.

Before you go to bed, you might also consider activated charcoal as it seems able to absorb acetaldehyde and other toxins that are by-products of alcohol. This has not yet been proven unequivocally, but it’s worth a try. A word of caution: you cannot take activated charcoal within 2 hours of taking other supplements.

A Vitamin B supplement is crucial as well as it breaks down the alcohol in the system. Vitamin B compounds are water soluble. Consequently, their levels become depleted during the consumption of alcohol. So, you need extra Vitamin B to top up your lowered levels and break down the alcohol you’ve consumed. You can even include another dose of Vitamin B when you wake up. Whatever your body doesn’t need it will expel in the urine.

2. Include water in your regimen

It is important to drink water on a regular basis on any given day, but even more so when you introduce alcohol to your body. It is important to drink water because alcohol is a diuretic. This means you will be visiting the bathroom more often than you normally would. The diuretic effects of alcohol mean that fluid is being expelled from the body before it can be used.

These diuretic effects can lead to dehydration. Dehydration symptoms include a headache, dry mouth, and thirst. Sound familiar? These are some of the symptoms of a bad hangover. Fortunately, dehydration is quite easy to avoid. Wise consumption of water will help you avoid that morning after blues.

It is a good idea to drink plenty of water prior to drinking to make sure your body is hydrated. But remember that water hydrates the body temporarily, so a couple of extra glasses of water before you go out is not going to do the trick alone. While you’re out enjoying a few drinks, remember to keep drinking water. Most people recommend that you drink a glass of water between each round of drinks.

It is imperative that you drink water before you go to sleep. But don’t drink too much. Otherwise, you’ll be up and down going to the bathroom the whole night which will interrupt your sleep. If you’ve drunk enough water during the evening, prior to and during drinking, you should only need to drink one glass of water (or two if you’re that thirsty) before going to sleep. Keep a glass of water next to your bed so that you can drink some if you wake during the night or first thing the next morning to deal with that dry mouth and sticky tongue.

3. Top up your electrolytes

Electrolytes are salts that are critical to your body’s functioning. The most common electrolytes you should know about are calcium, potassium, magnesium, and table salt. Once electrolytes get into our bodies, they dissolve into positive and negative charges. These charges regulate the flow of water into and out of your body’s cells. They also spark nerve impulses.

If you didn’t have electrolytes in your system, your cells would die from a lack of fluid or burst from an oversupply of fluid. And in terms of the nerve impulses electrolytes help to control, these include important functions such as the beating of the heart, the respiration actions of the lungs, and the learning capabilities of the brain.

When you drink, your body loses salt and electrolytes which can lead to dehydration. This is even truer if you’re in a hot environment such as a bar or club which makes you perspire. Electrolytes also leave the body during perspiration. That’s why it’s important to make sure you keep your electrolyte levels up. Before you go to bed, take some magnesium. Magnesium is a diuretic which will help to expel fluids faster. It plays a part in energy production and regulating the body’s sleep pattern. Potassium is also important as its levels in your body are depleted as your kidneys process the alcohol.

For the morning after, you can consider drinking a sports drink to replenish your electrolyte levels. But bear in mind the amount of sugar these drinks contain as well. There are plenty of other ways to replace lost electrolytes. A healthy meal will provide you with enough electrolytes. Something as simple as a banana and a glass of milk could do the trick. Coconut water is also a good source of electrolytes.

4. Exercise the alcohol out

It’s probably the last thing you feel like when you wake up with a hangover, but exercise is never a bad idea. The jury is out on whether it’s because exercising helps you to sweat additional toxins out of your body, or because it makes the brain release endorphins which make you feel better. Either way, a lot of people report that a good workout is their hangover cure.

Avoid a workout that is beyond what you normally do. You don’t want to push yourself. In fact, do a gentler workout than normal. There are a few reasons for this. If you have not drunk enough water, you will be dehydrated. Exercise will only worsen your dehydration, leaving you feeling worse than you did before and having the potential for serious consequences. When you have a hangover, you might find yourself to be a bit clumsy.

Being in the gym with lots of heavy equipment could lead to an accident and injury. Then there is the ‘brain fog‘ that accompanies a hangover. You can feel distracted and unfocused. Going for a run might not be the best idea, as you may stray into the road and oncoming traffic. A workout such as stretching, light weight training, or yoga is recommended. If you’re not up to a workout, don’t push your body. The alcohol has already placed stress on the body, and you don’t want to add more.

It is widely believed that you don’t sweat alcohol out of your system during a workout. That’s because your body will already have metabolized the alcohol. But the neurochemicals and hormones released by the brain during a workout are associated with increased energy, motivation, and mood. Whether exercise will work as a hangover cure will depend largely on you and your daily fitness routines.

5. Get enough sleep

Sleep is important after drinking alcohol as it gives the body time to rest and heal itself. After a night out, enough sleep is essential. Insufficient sleep or sleep deprivation will only leave you feeling the effects of your hangover more keenly. Prior to going out and drinking, make sure you have sleeping arrangements in place. If you’re staying over at a friend’s place, make sure your bed is made and ready before you go out. You don’t still want to be looking for pillows after a heavy night!

Try to ensure that the sleeping environment is as conducive as possible. Your body needs darkness to sleep properly. If you’re planning on partying until the wee hours, make sure your room has heavy curtains that will keep the morning hours light out. Where this is not possible, have a sleep mask handy.

Make sure that you’ve had a glass of water and that you have a glass ready next to the bed, so you’re not stumbling about looking for one. Remember not to drink too much water, or you’ll be going to the bathroom a few times. It is vital that your sleep is not interrupted. Interrupted sleep is not quality sleep. You need to sleep in a comfortable bed with good pillows. Otherwise, you’ll wake the next day with a backache and a sore neck as well as all the symptoms of a hangover. Change out of your party clothes and into comfortable sleepwear before you get into bed. Restrictive clothing makes sleep difficult.

When you wake up the next morning, take the time to stretch and give yourself a bit of a lie in before you get out of bed. It’s preferable that you don’t have an alarm on so that your body can wake up when it’s ready, although this isn’t always possible.

6. The hair of the dog

This is a controversial hangover cure, with some people swearing by it and others rubbishing the idea. What is the hair of the dog? Drinking more the next morning after waking up. People believe that you need to drink the same thing you were drinking the night before. So, if you were drinking beer the night before, the idea is to crack open a lager when you wake up and drink it.

It may sound crazy, but there is anecdotal evidence that it works. The reason for this is that alcohol changes the way that methanol is processed in the body. When you drink alcohol, methanol is converted into formaldehyde. Formaldehyde is toxic to the body and could be responsible for some of your hangover symptoms. Drinking alcohol which contains ethanol when you have a hangover can stop the conversion of methanol into formaldehyde and allow the methanol to be safely excreted from the body.

A lot more study is needed to determine if this remedy really works. It raises concerns about lifestyle choices and alcohol dependence. There is a possibility that you won’t limit yourself to one drink the next morning, and instead start another session of alcohol consumption. The heavier the bouts of drinking you engage in, the more you are at risk of alcohol dependence.

Most people believe that the hair of the dog only prolongs the hangover and makes its symptoms more severe. However, there are those who say that it is the best hangover cure for them. There is a possibility that the difference is in the way their bodies process alcohol. Either way, if you try it once and find it doesn’t work, it won’t work the second time or the third time. You’ll have to find other ways to cure your hangover.

7. Eat a hearty breakfast

This is a popular hangover cure. It has many benefits after a night out on the town. A lot of people swear by a big breakfast such as bacon, eggs, and sausages. Others find the idea of eating such an oily meal off-putting. It depends largely on your tastes, but the main idea is to eat a big meal after a night of drinking.

One of the benefits of eating a meal is that it can help to maintain your blood sugar levels. When your blood sugar levels are low, the symptoms of your hangover can be exacerbated. These symptoms include nausea and fatigue. When you drink alcohol, you throw off the balance of certain chemicals in the body which leads to metabolic acidosis. This increases the acid levels in the body and puts your pH out of balance. Eating a good breakfast can bring these factors back under control.

Drinking alcohol depletes the body’s supply and reserves of vitamins and minerals. Instead of just taking supplements to replace these, a good breakfast can supply your body with what it needs. Choose a meal that contains a good balance of fats, carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins and minerals to give your body a much-needed boost.

As to the theory behind a greasy, fried breakfast, people believe that such a breakfast ‘soaks up’ any residual alcohol. This is not true, though. In the intervening hours between drinking alcohol and eating breakfast, the alcohol has already been metabolized. And if you think of how nauseous you feel when you have a hangover, the idea of grease can only make it worse. And it can furthermore upset an already sensitive stomach leading to diarrhea or vomiting.

8. Take something for the pain

A popular hangover preventative is taking painkillers that contain ibuprofen before going to bed. Ibuprofen is an anti-inflammatory and gets to work immediately on the inflammation in the body caused by drinking alcohol. Taking an Advil before going to bed can mean a less lethal hangover in the morning. However. Advil tablets tend to last for a short time, so you’ll need to take more in a few hours.

You could alternatively take two aspirin tablets before going to bed, and then have another 2 in the morning. Aspirin contains prostaglandin inhibitors. These are fatty acids that reduce inflammation. Bear in mind though that aspirin can upset the stomach, especially if you take it on an empty stomach.

Before you randomly select a painkiller to help with your hangover, it is important to note that acetaminophen should not be consumed together with alcohol. Both need to be metabolized by the liver. Because the liver is already busy working hard to break down the alcohol you’ve been drinking, it cannot adequately break down the acetaminophen which could lead to liver damage. Acetaminophen is the active ingredient in painkillers such as Tylenol. Paracetamol has the same effect, so avoid it.

It is preferable that you don’t use pain medication to treat a hangover. Any unnecessary consumption of pain medication is not a good idea. Many pain medications can become habit-forming. Pain medication affects the stomach and can upset it, which is the last thing you need after a night out. Exercise caution in the use of pain medication for a hangover and use it as a last resort if nothing else is easing your pain. Read the instructions and take it as prescribed. Make sure you understand the contra-indications and side effects of the pills you take.

9. Drink a cup of coffee

For many, the only thing they can think about when they wake up after a heavy night out is a cup of coffee or a can of caffeinated soda. They see it as a panacea for all the hangover symptoms they have.

Coffee contains caffeine. Caffeine is a stimulant that makes the body and brain experience a heightened sense of alertness and wakefulness. When drunk in moderation, coffee isn’t bad for you. But if you think that 5 cups of coffee are going to cure your hangover, you’re wrong. Caffeine actually causes dehydration, which is one of the largest contributors to a hangover. So, drinking a lot of coffee is going to make you more dehydrated, and the symptoms of your hangover will be worse.

Since most of us like our coffee with generous helpings of sugar and caffeinated sodas contain a lot of sugar, there is an influx of sweet stuff into the body. The problem is that alcohol contains a lot of sugar on its own, and now you’re contributing to the overload. Increased amounts of sugar in the body require it to work harder to process it. This type of dietary behavior is what leads to prediabetes and Type 2 diabetes.

The short-term kick from a cup of coffee must be regarded as simply that: short-term. While you may feel much better after drinking a cup of coffee, this sense of well-being is temporary. But caffeine remains in the body long after its effects as a stimulant wear off. Having one cup of coffee to kickstart your day and clear your head is not a bad idea, but don’t rely on it to cure your hangover if you drink more of it. Drink water after having a cup of coffee to stay hydrated, especially since your body is already battling dehydration.

10. Avoid drinks with congeners

Congeners are chemicals that are toxic to the body. They form during the fermentation process when sugars are converted into carbon dioxide and ethanol (we call it alcohol) or during the distillation process when ethanol (alcohol) is separated from water. The volume of congeners contained in alcohol depends on the nature of the alcohol. It is believed that when you drink alcohol that contains a lot of congeners, you increase the odds of experiencing a hangover or making the symptoms of a hangover more severe.

It is theorized that congeners slow the metabolism of alcohol in the body. This slowed metabolism will prolong the symptoms of your hangover, leaving you feeling worse for wear for longer. Drinks with larger volumes of congeners include tequila, whiskey, and cognac. Bourbon whiskey contains the most congeners of all alcohol types. Drinks that have few congeners include gin, rum, and vodka. Vodka, in fact, contains virtually no congeners at all.

Some studies have been done on the matter. In one of them, some participants drank 2 ounces of bourbon whiskey, while others drank 2 ounces of vodka. The next day, those who had drunk bourbon reported hangover symptoms like dizziness, nausea, severe headaches, and halitosis. Those who had drunk vodka did not report such symptoms. The conclusion is that drinks high in congeners cause hangovers. Further study is necessary.

Dark-colored drinks such as red wine, port, and brandy are associated with increased quantities of congeners. Avoiding these drinks when you’re out drinking has the potential to make you less hung over the next morning than your friends who didn’t. If they are your drink of choice, try to reduce the number of drinks you have. Or maybe it’s time to try something new…

11. Avoid smoking

For smokers, a night out with alcoholic drinks is the time they’ll smoke more cigarettes than normal. But smoking and drinking are not a good combination if you want to avoid a hangover. The theory behind this is that the nicotine receptors in the brain can affect the body’s response to alcohol. This includes triggering the release of dopamine, a chemical which, when released, creates a feeling of satisfaction. Another theory is that smoking releases cytokines. The brain only releases them after an injury during normal circumstances. Cytokines cause inflammation, causing that familiar pounding headache and nausea.

In a study, college students were asked to document their smoking and drinking habits over a period of 8 weeks. They also had to provide data about their hangover symptoms. They completed online surveys to submit this data. When the data was analyzed, it was determined that those who drank and smoked on the same day reported a hangover the next day, which was made worse if they smoked the next day as well.

The fact that smoking makes a hangover worse should give smokers pause for thought in addition to all the other health risks it poses. It appears that smoking can affect the functioning of the brain and have long-term effects.

Aggressive anti-smoking laws in many countries make smoking in bars and nightclubs illegal. But if you’re in a place where you can smoke freely, the temptation to do so is somehow affected by the intake of alcohol. For most smokers, it’s a habit that’s hard to break. The minute they drink, they crave a cigarette. But before you light up, remember that in the morning your brain and body won’t thank you for it. Or best of all, consider stopping altogether.

12. Eat before you go out

Drinking on an empty stomach is dangerous. It speeds up the rate at which you become intoxicated, and it can damage the stomach and digestive system. Eating a solid meal prior to drinking will affect the way your body metabolizes alcohol. And the way your body metabolizes alcohol can determine the severity of a hangover. A full stomach slows down how fast your body absorbs alcohol. If it is not being absorbed quickly, but it is moving through your system quickly owing to its being a diuretic means that you’ll expel more alcohol from your system without even having absorbed it. This will lessen your hangover symptoms.

Nibbling on a salad so that you’ll fit into that little black dress is not going to do it. Experts recommend that you eat red meat as it is rich in protein and Vitamin B. Vitamin B and the amino acids in proteins are good for breaking down the alcohol you drink and disposing of its nasty by-products.

Eating a healthy meal that is balanced and nutritious provides the body with additional vitamins, minerals, and electrolytes that it needs as these compounds are depleted when you drink alcohol. A meal in your stomach is also likely to keep you more hydrated than if you haven’t eaten.

The buzz you get from drinking on an empty stomach may be attractive to you, but it is harmful to your body. Anyway, the aim of going out and having a few drinks is not to get intoxicated early and reach your peak well before the height of the party. A solid meal in your stomach will ensure you enjoy the party from start to finish and don’t suffer the morning after with a mean hangover.

13. Limit how much you drink

As with anything, moderation is important when it comes to drinking. If you want to avoid a hangover, the best way to do it is to drink in moderation. You also need to look at what your drink of choice is and how much alcohol it contains.

How much you have had to drink is measured by means of a blood alcohol level test. The richer the concentration of alcohol in your drink of choice, the sooner your blood alcohol will rise. Your blood alcohol level is affected by how much you weight, whether you are male or female, when you ate your last meal, and the duration of your drinking session. So, the blood alcohol level of a 110-pound female drinking whiskey on an empty stomach will differ from a 250-pound male drinking cider on a full stomach.

There are those who that believe if you engage in regular bouts of drinking, over time your body will become accustomed to it and you won’t have hangovers anymore. This is not true. If you’re predisposed to a hangover, and you drink a bit too much, you will get a hangover every time. For some, 2-3 drinks will give them a hangover, for others, it will be more. Some people seem to be immune to hangovers completely.

The only thing that will happen if you drink on a regular basis is that your body will crave more and more alcohol and it could become an addiction. If you’re drinking to socialize and enjoy yourself and you do it in moderation, you might get a slight hangover, but nothing too severe. If you’re drinking to get drunk every day, you’ll get more severe hangovers, and you’ll wind up being alcohol-dependent.

14. Stay away from the bubbles

The carbon dioxide in champagne and other sparkling wines causes alcohol to be absorbed more quickly into the system. This leads to a higher blood alcohol level than you’d have if you’d drunk non-carbonated wine. This rule applies to all sparkling wines, and even soda water and soda mixes. Anything carbonated makes your body absorb alcohol into the bloodstream faster. So, no, you weren’t imagining it when your New Year hangover and the hangover after your best friend’s wedding were worse than the usual hangover you have after a night out. It’s the bubbles that did it.

Because the alcohol in drinks with bubbles is absorbed into the bloodstream quickly, you will feel intoxicated sooner and the effects in the morning will be acuter.

Alcoholic beverages with carbonated bubbles such as champagne and sparkling wine contain more yeast than regular drinks. Extra yeast is added during the fermentation process. This is how champagne was discovered in the first place. The added yeast means more sugar and more alcohol in the contents of champagne and sparkling wine. Too much sugar can make a hangover worse. The Brut and Extra Brut sparkling wines contain less sugar. They may be less palatable than the real thing, but they’re bound to spare you that pounding headache.

Carbonated alcoholic drinks such as champagne and sparkling wine make you feel fuller than other drinks do. You will feel less thirsty. This can lead to dehydration as you may not feel the need to drink water. And dehydration is a one-way ticket to a hangover. So, when you raise a glass, be mindful of the fact that too much champagne or sparkling wine can lead to a hangover. Limit yourself to one glass for the toast and move on to something else.

15. Try natural hangover remedies

If you visit your local drugstore, you’ll find a shelf devoted to hangover cures. They range from those that promise to improve liver function to those that claim they’ll keep those hangover symptoms at bay. It is advisable to view such products with a degree of skepticism. Bear in mind that there is no magic bullet that will prevent a hangover or cure a hangover. If there was, no one would ever get a hangover.

These remedies contain a variety of herbs and other natural products. Some contain aspirin while others contain caffeine. Each one has a different list of ingredients. If you intend to buy such a product, read the label and make sure there are not any ingredients that you are allergic to or have an intolerance for. Also, read the dosage instructions and make sure that you adhere to them. Just because a product is herbal doesn’t mean it’s impossible to take too much of it and cause yourself potential harm.

Some people have a particular brand of hangover remedy that they swear by. Don’t assume that because it works for them that it will work for you. You may have to try a few remedies out, and you might find that none of them are really effective in seeing you right the morning after.

Hangover remedies should be used in conjunction with other hangover prevention and cure strategies to give you the best possible relief the next time you let your hair down that night and pay the price the following morning.