Last Updated on November 30, 2020
If you clicked on this article, chances are it’s because you’ve experienced the misery brought on by a night of too many drinks—and you never want to feel that way again.
While there’s no true “cure” for hangovers, there are a few things you may already have in your home that may ease your suffering. We’ll also share some tips on how to prevent that horrible feeling in the first place.
What is a Hangover?
A hangover is the set of unpleasant symptoms you feel after a night of heavy drinking. If you’ve had one (or a few) too many, you may have experienced some of the following:
- Dry mouth
- Nausea or vomiting
- Depression and anxiety
- Increased heart rate
- Decreased concentration
These symptoms can be attributed to factors like dehydration, poor sleep, and the chemicals released by alcohol’s breakdown process. Although hangovers often feel like they’ll never end, most go away without treatment within 24 hours (unless a person has alcohol poisoning).
The Simplest Hangover Remedies
Many hangover remedies involve steps you should take before the hangover actually happens, such as:
- Sipping water to keep hydrated between drinks
- Eating before and after drinking
- Choosing clear alcohols with low levels of congeners
- Limiting the quantity you consume
Some evidence also suggests that drinking Korean pear juice before alcohol can reduce hangover effects and blood alcohol levels.
If it’s too late for any of these, however, there are still some things you can do. While there is no foolproof cure, different remedies can treat the different factors causing that pounding in your head.
Below are some of the best options you may already have in your house:
While this may not be the most creative remedy, it can be a big help. Alcohol can cause neuroinflammation, leading to a throbbing head, and other body aches. Ibuprofen is one of the better inflammation treatments in your cabinet.
Interestingly, some research also suggests that the inflammation caused by alcohol abuse may be linked to depression. If this is true, taking ibuprofen may also help with the morning-after blues.
While dehydration may be over-hyped as a factor in hangover symptoms, it can still have an effect. Pedialyte—an electrolyte beverage originally marketed for sick, dehydrated children—has recently been touted as a hangover remedy. In fact, adults now reportedly make up a third of Pedialyte’s customers. The combination of potassium, sodium, and sugar in this beverage can help replenish your body, and ease dehydration-related pain. If you don’t have any of this beverage on hand, electrolyte sports beverages can have a similar effect, although they contain more sugar.
Many hangover symptoms are not caused by dehydration, but by the body’s breakdown of alcohol. In a 2013 study, researchers in China tested 57 different beverages, and found that Xue bi, a Sprite equivalent, helped speed this process up.
How can soda help a hangover? When alcohol is metabolized, it produces the chemical acetaldehyde, which is then metabolized into the less toxic compound acetate. Acetaldehyde is a major culprit in hangovers, so the faster this conversion happens, the quicker you’ll feel relief.
The discovery that Sprite speeds this conversion caused a flurry of media coverage, some of it probably exaggerated. However, anything you can do to get acetaldehyde to leave your body quickly is worth trying.
A Breakfast High in Cysteine
Cysteine is an amino acid that also helps break down acetaldehyde. As we’ve discussed above, the faster this process happens, the better you’ll feel. Foods high in this amino acid include eggs, meat, oatmeal, and yogurt. Of course, if you have a really bad hangover and can’t hold down any food, this remedy won’t be your solution.
The Best Way to Prevent a Hangover
As you may have gathered, there’s no magic hangover cure. And it probably doesn’t come as a surprise that the best way to prevent a hangover is to drink less. But although this is obvious, it can be difficult to heed this advice when you’re out having a good time with friends. To make it worse, some evidence suggests that hangovers may be a risk factor for alcohol use disorder (e.g., drinking to “get rid of” or put off your hangover).
If you’re caught in a cycle of drinking and hangovers, or are having trouble cutting back, you can now get affordable help without even leaving your home. Ria Health’s telemedicine app combines evidence-based medication and counseling to help you drink less or quit. Get in touch today, and find out how you can make hangovers a thing of the past.