For some, drinking during the holidays is inevitable. Whether it’s out of merriment or simply a way to avoid awkward conversations with family members, it’s easy to overindulge. And overindulging leads to hangovers.
While the simplest answer to how to avoid a hangover is to not drink, we’re not going to tell you to do that unless you want to. Instead, we can help you strategize for the morning after with the most effective hangover cures to get you through the long holiday season.
Hair of the dog (sort of)
If the thought of more booze doesn’t make you sick to your stomach the morning after drinking, you may want to reach for another drink—heck, breakfast cocktails like mimosas and Bloody Marys exist for a reason. And according to Dr. Indika Edirisinghe, a professor of food science and nutrition at the Illinois Institute of Technology, this will provide temporary relief.
“You drink in the night and you don’t remember anything, then in the morning you remember everything, you have all this pain, and the headache, and the drowsiness, but then you drink and you forget everything again,” Edirisinghe says. “That’s not a real cure, that’s short term but it’s going to aggregate.”
So, yes, you’ll feel okay in the moment, which may be all you need in a pinch. But thereafter, you’re going to want to employ a longer lasting cure.
Get back on track
Sometimes once you start partying it’s hard to stop, especially during the wintry stretch between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. But the best way to beat the hangover is to avoid getting caught in the holiday snowball.
Erica Battin, registered dietitian nutritionist at the Center For Lifestyle Medicine at Northwestern Medical Group in Chicago, says to avoid that whole “I already blew it last night, might as well today too” impulse that can easily turn every day into a holiday it isn’t. Instead, go for a walk outside to get your body moving and settle back into your regular routine.
Sometimes the most obvious (and, yes, boring) answer is the best one. Just listen to your mom and drink some water! Almost every hangover symptom is a result of dehydration. Good news for the bubble-lovers among us: Sparkling water does hydrate you like still water does.
And if you don’t want to simply chug gallon after gallon of tap water or La Croix, you can eat your water instead. Reach for water-rich fruits and veggies like watermelon, cucumbers, strawberries, and celery.
These days there are also more and more products designed specifically to hydrate you (and reintroduce electrolytes) as fast as possible like Liquid IV, Cure, and LMNT—even Pedialyte brands itself as both a remedy for sick kids and a hangover helper for adults. If you have the cash to spare, there are even hydration IV services that will medically rehydrate you, though sessions run around $300.
Soda and other nonalcoholic drinks
Newest Hangover Cure? Study Says Sprite
So you don’t want the prolonged pain of more booze or the boring relief of water? There are plenty of other drinks that can help. Chicago Spirit Guide and beverage consultant Nandini Khaund shared her go-to liquid hangover cures.
“Coca-Cola was originally created in 1886 by pharmacist John Pemberton to help wean himself off of morphine,” Khaund said. “Granted, it had cocaine in it, but the fizzy sweetness has a psychological effect that you can’t deny. It makes your stomach feel better, and it really does give you back some of the sugar your blood needs to normalize.”
She also pointed to a nonalcoholic drink from Chicago cocktail bar Cindy’s that featured ingredients common in morning-after mocktails because of their supposed cleansing properties: fresh blueberry, ginger, activated charcoal, lime, and soda.
There are a few reasons you may want to reach for a pickle jar after a night of heavy imbibing. Personal trainer and fitness-nutrition specialist Monica Sehgal told us that it’s an old runner’s trick that can be used for less athletic pursuits.
“When I’m marathon training, I drink pickle juice to prevent cramping,” she said, turning to the drink because of its electrolytes that can in turn rehydrate you.
If you’re dealing with an upset stomach, the vinegar in the pickle juice can balance your stomach acids, calming down unrest. There’s even a company trying to capitalize on pickle juice’s healing power called PickleAde, but if you want to avoid sipping at all, just biting right into a pickle could provide some relief.
Easy-to-cook life-giving foods
“Hangover Helper:” Chili Cheese Toast
During the holidays, you’ll likely be lucky enough to have some leftovers laying around, and it’s definitely important to get something in your stomach the morning after. But if you need to cook something while incapacitated, or have something prepared for the next day before you even start imbibing, there are go-to recipes from around the world to keep in your back pocket.
The Takeout contributor Jesse Valenciana swears by his Hangover-Killer Pozole. It provides hydrating broth, nutrient-packed veggies, and protein-filled meat all in one. (Note: This one takes a while to prepare, so make this before your night out to heat up the morning after.)
The Hangover Helper cookbook also provides some great inspiration. You can’t ever go wrong with the healing power of chilaquiles or a full English breakfast, but don’t discount lesser-known dishes like a Japanese soup based on rice and green tea, a simple Malaysian toast, or a Bolivian pork stew. The best part is, all these recipes can be easily prepared with breaks for lying on the kitchen floor in the fetal position.
No one likes to hear it, and we hate to even deliver this news, but time is really the only foolproof cure for a hangover. In 2018, the BBC reported “very little, other than the tincture of time, seems to work,” noting that “rest, water, and aspirin is likely to be the best treatment for some time to come.” But you might as well try out these other methods while waiting for that time to pass. And when the time passes, you’ll forget the pain of your hangover just in time to start all over again on the next holiday.
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