Got a hangover? Here’s what works — and what doesn’t — according to experts
When it comes to recovering from a hangover, everyone has their go-to regimen, whether it’s chowing down on a greasy breakfast, popping over-the-counter pain relievers, or even hitting the gym. But not every “cure” works — and some can leave you feeling even worse.
Yahoo Life reached out to Dr. Alok Patel, a physician and medical contributor, and Liz Weinandy, a registered dietitian at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, to find out which remedies help — and may hurt — your hangover.
Remedy: Eating a big, greasy breakfast
Munching on a greasy hamburger while you’re drinking can help you prevent a hangover, but experts don’t recommend it to get over a hangover the next day. “Eating foods high in fat means they empty out of the stomach longer, and this can help if you eat greasy food at the same time as drinking,” Weinandy tells Yahoo Life. “It helps slow down alcohol absorption in the stomach if a person has food in their stomach at the time they drink.”
However, eating greasy, fried food the next day to help cure a hangover can make stomach and gastrointestinal symptoms worse, says Weinandy. “A person might feel better just from eating something after drinking, but a greasy meal isn’t recommended,” she points out.
Patel agrees, telling Yahoo Life, “The greasy breakfast might actually induce more nausea, indigestion or reflux and make you feel worse.”
So what should you eat instead? Weinandy recommends consuming complex carbs, “especially ones like fruit that are high in fluids and potassium to help replace lost fluids and electrolytes.” Hydrating watermelon, along with mangoes, grapes and oranges are good options. But if you’re really feeling ill, the Cleveland Clinic recommends sticking with bland foods that are easy for the body to digest, such as toast, rice or bananas.
Remedy: Load up on caffeine
Verdict: Yes — but with a caveat
Caffeine, such as from coffee or tea, can help a hangover headache, according to Patel. Weinandy adds that it can also help you feel more alert when you’re a bit groggy after a late night out. “It won’t ‘cure’ a hangover,” says Weinandy, “but it can help with the tiredness.”
Just don’t go overboard with the caffeine. “One caution is that large amounts of caffeine can act as a diuretic on the body,” Weinandy says, which can leave you even more dehydrated. “But this is not an issue with moderate coffee or tea intake and if the person is drinking other fluids in addition to the caffeinated beverage,” she explains.
Another reason to watch your caffeine intake: Patel points out that “coffee can also really upset your stomach and can make you feel jittery and can mess with your heart rhythm, which is already under attack from the alcohol.”
Remedy: Take over-the-counter pain medicine
Verdict: Yes — but with a caveat
“Over-the-counter pain meds can definitely help ease some symptoms,” says Weinandy. But choose wisely. Experts recommend skipping acetaminophen (the active ingredient in Tylenol). According to Harvard Health: “If alcohol is lingering in your system, it may accentuate acetaminophen's toxic effects on the liver.”
NSAIDs, which are nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories such as ibuprofen and aspirin, can help — but these pain relievers aren’t problem-free. “Ibuprofen can mess with your stomach,” explains Patel. Weinandy recommends people “steer clear of aspirin since the liver has to metabolize it. The liver is already working overtime trying to metabolize alcohol and adding aspirin on top is not a good idea.”
Weinandy recommends sticking with ibuprofen. “But make sure to eat and drink with it since NSAIDs are hard on an empty stomach,” she notes.
Remedy: Spend the day in bed
Alcohol can disrupt your sleep, leaving you feeling fatigued the next day. If you’re in bad shape, Weinandy says to go ahead and spend the day in bed. “Since tiredness is one of the main symptoms of a hangover, it may be better for most to rest,” she says.
While Patel agrees that resting in bed “might make you feel a little bit better,” he recommends moving your body if possible. “If you get up and start moving, your body produces endorphins and you breathe more. That actually might help the hangover more than you think.”
Remedy: Sweat out the ‘toxins’
Don’t count on a workout to get you over your hangover any faster, say experts. “I hate to break it to you — there’s no evidence that says you’re sweating anything out that’s going to help your hangover,” says Patel. “You’re probably just going to make yourself more dehydrated and feeling more sluggish,” says Patel.
Weinandy agrees, saying, “It doesn’t seem like a good idea if someone is already dehydrated and they try to ‘sweat out’ the alcohol — that could make dehydration worse.”
Remedy: Hair of the dog
Drinking more alcohol to combat a hangover is “like adding fuel to the fire,” says Weinandy, and often makes the symptoms of a hangover even worse, especially when it comes to dehydration and fatigue.
As Patel puts it: “Drinking more alcohol when you’re hungover is only preventing the inevitable — you’re still going to feel sick. You’re just pushing it back.”
Remedy: Drinking water
Experts say drinking water is one of the best ways to help a hangover. “A major side effect of drinking too much alcohol is dehydration,” explains Weinandy. “Drinking alcohol causes a person to urinate more, and it upsets the fluid balance of our bodies. Drinking a lot of alcohol, therefore, can lead to dehydration, especially if a person has thrown up or had diarrhea as symptoms. Drinking fluids, even just plain water, can really help.”
Patel agrees, saying, “Hydration is a good thing. If you’re hungover, drink water.” He also recommends taking in some electrolytes, such as by drinking Gatorade or Pedialyte, to restore your body’s electrolyte balance.
But as Patel puts it: “Truth be told, we probably shouldn’t be preventing all hangovers — we should be listening more to our bodies and just drinking less in general.”
Video produced by Kat Vasquez.
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