The quest to cure a hangover is far from a modern-day problem. Back in the day, people used to try everything from owl eggs and deep-fried canaries to tea made from rabbit poop or dried bulls’ penis in order to feel better after a night of imbibing.
Today, we’ve (mostly) put aside tales of pickled sheep eyes and replaced them with greasy fried foods, gallons of coffee and sports drinks. But do these “cures” actually work?
Maybe not, according to a recent joint study from the Netherlands and Canada. Researchers looked at more than 789 students from Acadia University in Nova Scotia and 826 students from the Netherlands to see whether their hangovers were “cured” after they pounded back water or ate greasy food before sleeping after a night of drinking.
The results? Sadly, only those who didn’t drink as much actually had less of a hangover the next morning. Those who got plastered still woke up pretty much feeling like death.
So do any of our traditional hangover “cures” work? Let’s take a look…
Hair of the Dog
Sure, having a Caesar or a cold brew the next morning might make you feel a little bit better at the time. But when you down more booze without giving your body a chance to recover, all it does is temporarily dull your senses and prolong what could be an even worse hangover later on.
In fact, having more booze following a blowout triggers a chemical reaction. Alcohol dehydrogenase, an enzyme in the body, breaks down the ethanol in alcohol into other chemicals that make you ill. When you give your body more ethanol, it focuses on the intake, giving your hangover a break. Once that’s processed, you have even more chemicals to contend with.
Alcohol acts as a diuretic, which is partially why you crave that greasy breakfast after a night of drinking — you’re dehydrated. But pouring grease into your stomach the night before or morning after drinking only serves to add to your woes with heartburn, indigestion and unnecessary fat and salt.
The good news for pizza lovers is that eating some greasy food before a night of drinking could potentially help. That’s because the grease lines the intestines and slows down absorption. But by no means does having a poutine for dinner before a night at the bar mean you can drink even more. As for the next morning? Focus on easy-to-digest foods like toast with honey in order to give your system a bit of a break.
Wouldn’t it be great if we could cure that hangover with one handy little pill? That’s been the thought from many a marketer, but the truth is there’s no evidence that taking a hangover pill does anything restorative. In fact, any “healing” properties they boast are probably due to the directions telling us to drink a tall glass of water with the pill.
If you’re looking to replenish lost nutrients the morning after, we suggest taking a multivitamin instead. At least that way you know what you’re putting in your body.
When we drink, our blood vessels expand, causing classic hangover symptoms like a headache. As anyone who has ever experienced a migraine knows, coffee helps because it narrows those same blood vessels. The problem is that coffee is a diuretic much like alcohol is. So if you’re dealing with dehydration, drinking a boatload of coffee won’t exactly help.
If you are a regular coffee nut, try a small amount the morning after. If you’re not a regular java drinker, opt for more water instead.
Water and Sports Drinks
How many of us have guzzled water before bed or first thing when waking up after a night of drinking? Turns out, even though replacing those lost electrolytes via water or a Gatorade is a good idea, it won’t cure your hangover. That’s because the bottom line is you’ve still ingested poison, and that’s going to take a while to clear out of your system.
If you want to use water as a hangover deterrent, a better idea would be to have a full glass in between every cocktail. Not only will that keep you hydrated, but it will slow down the actual number of drinks you’ll have over the course of a night.
If you’re feeling nauseous, Tums, Pepto-Bismol and other stomach relief medicines could help ease (not eliminate) the symptoms. Likewise for anti-inflammatories such as aspirin and ibuprofen when it comes to those headaches.
If all you have in the medicine cabinet is an acetaminophen like Tylenol, however, it’s best to skip the pills altogether. Your liver, which is already busy processing all of that booze, is more susceptible to the toxic effects of acetaminophen when you’re detoxing.
If you’re feeling well enough to move around the morning following a binge, opt for gentle exercise like stretching or yoga. That will help you limber up and feel slightly more refreshed for the long day ahead.
As for a scorching workout? Keep in mind that you’re probably already severely dehydrated, so getting a sweat on is almost a surefire way to make you feel worse. Today’s one day that it actually might be wiser to spend a couple of extra hours in bed.
Sticking to one particular type of drink
It’s true — red wine could potentially cause a worse hangover than beer. That’s because red wine contains both ethanol and methanol; the liver needs to process both before the body can feel better. As for booze like vodka or whiskey? There’s no research to prove these drinks cause a worse hangover, but you’re more susceptible to getting drunk thanks to their higher alcohol percentage.
The bottom line? The best way to avoid a hangover is moderation. Or, if you know you’re going to have a wild night on the town, it’s probably best to clear the calendar for plenty of rest and recovery the following day.
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