Despite what you may have seen on grocery store shelves or advertised on social media, let’s get one thing straight: There's no magic cure for a wicked hangover.
Unfortunately, the constellation of unpleasant hangover symptoms you may feel after a night of drinking (hello headaches, nausea, fatigue, and more) can last up to 24 hours and there is sadly no scientific evidence that backs the use of any single potion, powder, pill, or supplement as a surefire hangover cure.
Experts aren’t even sure which biological processes cause hangovers to happen in the first place, so landing on a cure has been challenging to say the least.
What experts do know is that your body produces lactic acid as it processes alcohol, and this causes your natural production of blood sugar to take a nosedive (a condition known as hypoglycemia).
When you’re hypoglycemic, you can experience a variety of symptoms that may sound familiar to anyone who’s ever had a hangover: irregular heartbeat, excessive sweating, shakiness, anxiety, and more.
The condition can become severe and lead to dangerous consequences like lack of consciousness, but in mild cases, it’s likely the culprit for at least some of your hangover symptoms.
How Do You Cure a Hangover Fast?
You may not be able to rid yourself of a hangover with the wave of a magic wand, but you can implement some expert-approved morning-after strategies to help you bounce back to life a little quicker.
Here’s what experts say actually works when it comes to healing a dreaded hangover:
“The best way to reduce symptoms is to hydrate — drink plenty of water,” says Dr. Mariam Behbehani, an osteopathic primary care physician at One Medical in Irvine, CA. “Eat bland foods and avoid greasy, fatty foods.”
If you’ve always relied on a burger and fries or another form of fast food to heal your hangover symptoms, you may want to rethink your strategy. These are not the best foods for hangovers.
“Greasy, fatty foods can actually worsen stomach discomfort,” says Dr. Behbehani. “It’s best to stick with bland foods such as toast, bread, and soups to help calm the stomach.”
If a slice of dry toast doesn’t sound like the most appetizing post-drinking meal, naturopathic doctor, nurse practitioner, and health coach, Erica Matluck, has a few more palatable hangover food options to add to the menu.
“Rather than a greasy meal, which often makes us feel bad, focus on a well-balanced meal to support blood sugar levels and detoxification. For example, eggs, avocado, toast, fruit, and a glass of coconut water would be a great breakfast after a big night out,” says Matluck. “Low blood sugar can definitely make a hangover worse, so it makes sense to focus on well-balanced meals with adequate protein, fats, and carbs both before consuming alcohol and the morning after.”
Plenty of people swear a heaping cup of coffee can cure their hangover, and while caffeine may help ease the severity of a headache, in other instances, it can actually exacerbate it. And because caffeine causes your blood pressure to rise and your blood vessels to narrow, it can actually make your other hangover symptoms worse.
“There are no evidence-based studies or research to suggest that drinking coffee will cure your hangover,” Dr. Behbehani says.
If you’re a regular java drinker, however, you may be able to get away with sipping your usual morning elixir without feeling worse — just don’t depend on it to eliminate your icky feelings.
“It really depends on your relationship with caffeine on a regular basis, as well as a variety of other variables,” Matluck says. Instead of spending your cash on a Venti triple-shot latte, get an electrolyte-enhanced sports drink like Gatorade, which may help replace the salt and potassium you lose from drinking alcohol.
Yes, working out is a wonderful habit, but if you're hungover, an intense sweat session may not help matters.
“It really depends on a multitude of variables,” Matluck says. “Generally, exercise is a great way to detox. But if you're already dehydrated and your exercise routine makes you sweat, it could make your symptoms worse.”
However, if lying in bed all day is only making you feel more miserable, you don’t have to avoid movement completely. Just take it easy and listen to your body — and be sure to follow step one and hydrate before you even attempt an activity.
“I would recommend avoiding vigorous exercise with a hangover,” Dr. Behbehani says. “It’s probably best to do some light walking to help with circulation.”
One dangerous, albeit common, mistake drinkers make when they’re hungover is reaching for a bottle of over-the-counter pain medication. That’s a major mistake that could cause serious damage, according to experts.
“If you are taking pain relievers — for example, Tylenol — and alcohol, that combination can be toxic to your liver,” Dr. Behbehani says. “Aspirin and ibuprofen can also irritate the lining of the stomach. Use these medications with caution.
Rather than attempting to medicate your symptoms away, the best thing you can do for a hangover is — you guessed it — sleep. Alcohol absolutely has an effect on sleep quality and duration, and while a bad night's sleep doesn’t necessarily cause a hangover, it can definitely make it worse.
Instead of attempting any of the strategies that supposedly help your body “detox” from a hangover (spoiler alert: most of those are made up), hit the sack early the day after drinking and implement sleep-hygiene tips to ensure you get the best rest possible.
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