The Only Thing You Can Do to Prevent a Hangover


Science has some not-so-good news for alcohol enthusiasts. (Photo: Getty Images)

Eat a high-protein meal, take a multivitamin, drink a lot of water — nearly everyone has a “trick” to prevent hangovers.

And while some hangover-battling moves make more sense than others (avoid dark alcohol?), new research has proven what we all know on some level: You really can’t do all that much to avoid a hangover after a night of heavy drinking.

The only way to avoid a hangover is to not drink beyond your limits.

A group of international scientists from the Netherlands and Canada have surveyed the drinking habits of nearly 800 college students to try to learn more about hangovers. They presented their findings at the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology conference in Amsterdam.

Researchers asked 780 Canadian students to share their drinking habits over the previous month, including how many drinks they had, what timeframe they had the drinks in, and the severity of their hangover afterward. Scientists then calculated the students’ estimated Blood Alcohol Concentration.

The majority of those who said they don’t experience hangovers (which, by the researchers’ estimation, is 25 to 30 percent of all drinkers) had an estimated blood alcohol level of less than 0.1 percent, indicating that they might not have been drinking as heavily as they thought. That level, researchers say, might not be enough to produce a hangover the next day.

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In a corresponding study, researchers asked 826 Dutch students about their most recent heavy drinking session, and whether they had food or water after drinking. Nearly 55 percent ate after drinking and were asked to rate their hangover, from “absent” to “extreme.”

Despite conventional wisdom, the severity of their hangovers wasn’t very different from those who ate nothing after drinking.

“Currently, there is no hangover cure of which the effectiveness is supported by scientific research,” lead author Joris Verster, PhD, an assistant professor at Utrecht University who has conducted several studies on hangovers, tells Yahoo Health.

Surprisingly, he says your immune system may be involved in your hangover development, which has also been noted by research. A study published in the journal Alcoholfound that excessive drinking can increase concentrations in a person’s blood of the immune system’s inflammation-fighters cytokine and interferon-gamma. However, more research on the relationship is needed to determine the role a person’s immune system plays in battling a hangover.

Of course, hangovers happen — and women are often more susceptible than men, women’s health expert Jennifer Wider, MD, tells Yahoo Health.

She explains why: Women’s bodies produce less of the enzyme alcohol dehydrogenase, which is needed to metabolize alcohol. As a result, their blood alcohol level is higher after drinking and can increase the changes they’ll experience a hangover.

Related: Should You Try An I.V. for Hangovers?

“When you look at hangovers, some studies have shown that common hangover complaints — including headaches, fatigue, nausea, and vomiting — are worse in women who had drunk the same amount as men,” she says.

Wider and Verster both note that there may be some limitations on the study’s findings since it is self-reported — so you may not be completely helpless in the face of a hangover if you realize you’ve had too much to drink.

If you find yourself in that situation, Wider recommends drinking water to help combat dehydration and taking a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug such as ibuprofen to ward off a headache.

But both experts agree there is one very obvious way to feel better the morning after. Says Verster: “The only way to prevent a hangover is to consume less alcohol.”

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