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10 Scientifically Backed Cures For That Crushing Hangover
It started as such a good idea. You and a couple friends out on the town, enjoying some drinks, good music, and catching up. But somewhere along the way, one drink turned into three, which turned into flaming tequila shots, which turned into a beer chugging contest, and now you feel like your head’s in a vice.
Every time you move, you feel as though Mike Tyson just landed a jab straight to your forehead.
No judgement here. We get it. You know you should drink responsibly, but sometimes things get a tad out of hand. What starts as fun and games ends in you clutching the toilet like it’s your only child.
Here’s a short video if you need a quick refresher on what causes hangovers:
When it comes to curing yourself of the liquor sweats, you’ve got two options:
So without further ado, here are 10 science backed hangover cures. We’ve broken down into pre-drinking cures and post-drinking cures.
Cure #1: Drink Tons of Water
News flash: drinking tons of alcohol will result in you getting seriously dehydrated. I know it’s hard to believe, but doing vodka shots isn’t great for the water levels in your body. Yes, vodka is a clear liquid, just like water, but that doesn’t make them the same.
The tissues surrounding your brain are loaded with water, and when you get dehydrated these tissues shrink, which literally puts pressure on your head. That blinding headache is partially due to the fact that you’ve been sucking the water out of your head, which in turn creates that terrible squeezing in your head.
So what’s the solution? Drink water like you’re on Survivor. For every alcoholic drink, consume a glass of water. Continue drinking (water!) through the next day to keep your brain tissue nice and moist.
Cure #2: Slam Back The Gatorade
Gatorade or Pedialyte may be even better than water when it comes being a drinking wingman (wing drink?). In addition to simply becoming dehydrated, drinking also causes you to lose electrolytes, a compound essential for the functioning of your body.
Gatorade, Pedialyte, and even coconut water are loaded with electrolytes, making them ideal drinks for that weekend bar crawl. Consider alternating between water and sports drinks when guzzling the beer.
Cure #3: Never Drink On An Empty Stomach
If you want to get hammered at a frighteningly fast pace, don’t eat anything before you start drinking. Why? Because when you drink on an empty stomach, your body absorbs the alcohol more quickly.
As the University of Minnesota notes:
When food is ingested, the pyloric valve at the bottom of the stomach will close in order to hold food in the stomach for digestion and thus keep the alcohol from reaching the small intestine. The larger the meal and closer in time to drinking, the lower the peak of alcohol concentration; some studies indicate up to a 20% reduction in peak blood alcohol level.
In other words, don’t drink on an empty stomach unless you want to be emptying the contents of your stomach a short time later.
Before you go out on the town, eat a solid meal that has a decent amount of carbohydrates. If you don’t, you’re going to be telling everyone they’re your best friends in an hour or less.
Cure #4: Go For The Rum and Coke
It turns out that calories in your drink can be just as helpful as calories in your stomach. By adding sugary beverages, like soda or juice to your drinks, you can also slow down the absorption of alcohol.
As NPR noted:
Cecile Marczinski, a cognitive psychologist...found that the average breath alcohol concentration was .091 (at its peak) when subjects drank alcohol mixed with a diet drink. By comparison, BrAC was .077 when the same subjects consumed the same amount of alcohol but with a sugary soda.
One thing to note here. Diet Coke and regular Coke aren’t equal when it comes to preventing that debilitating hangover. Because of the sugar, regular Coke is much more effective.
So instead of straight rum, go for the rum and Coke. Of course, does anyone other than pirates drink straight rum? Regardless, put some sugar in that drink.
Cure #5: Stay In The Clear
As a general rule of thumb, the darker the alcohol, the worse you’re going to feel the next day. Now to be clear, if you’re consuming massive amounts of alcohol, you’re going to feel terrible no matter what color it is. Don’t fool yourself: if you slam back 10 glasses of white wine, you’re still going to feel like you were put into a trash compactor.
But darker alcohols like red wine rum contain more congeners, which are a compound produced during fermentation. More congeners usually equals a worse hangover. Keep it light my friend, keep it light.
Cure #6: Reach For That Top Shelf
Yes, top-shelf liquor costs a lot of money. But if you want to avoid a colossal hangover, you’re better off sticking to those top-shelf brands? Why? Because the best liquor has usually been distilled more times than the cheap stuff, which filters out those nasty congeners (see above).
Yes, you’ll pay about double for a night of drinking, but that may be worth it considering that you’ll be holed up in a darkened room the next day.
If you can’t afford the expensive liquor, you could bring a Brita pitcher and filter it yourself...but you’ll look like a moron. Your call. Hangover or moron.
Cure #7: Grab Those Flintstone Vitamins
Contrary to what your frat brothers told you, a 6-pack of beer is not part of a well-balanced diet. In fact, drinking actually pulls essential nutrients out of your body, such as B12 and folate.
To stave off that hangover, try taking a multivitamin prior to drinking. Additionally, consider taking a B12 and folate supplement.
Cure #8: Pop Some Pills (The Legal Kinds)
We all know that you get confused when you drink too much. That’s why you end up standing on a table singing, “Hooked On A Feeling”. But it turns out your body also gets confused.
When you consume too much alcohol, your body releases something called cytokines. These cytokines are part of your body’s immune response, which kicks when your body things you’re hurt. Which, technically speaking, you sort of are. The end result is inflammation and puffiness in various parts of your body.
So what’s the cure? Take a standard anti-inflammatory drug like ibuprofen or tylenol. Just stay away from aspirin because it can actually make your feel even more nauseated.
Cure #9: Guzzle That Fruit Juice
Fruit juice has two positive effects when it comes to relieving the sensation that you have an iron poker in your brain. First, when you drink it causes your blood sugar to drop, which in turn contributes to your hangover. Fruit juice bumps that blood sugar level back into normal ranges.
Second, there is some evidence that the sugar in fruit juice burns alcohol, restoring you more quickly to your pre-drinking levels.
Cure #10: Get The Heart Rate Up
If you’re feeling like garbage, exercising is probably the last thing you want to do, but there is some evidence that it can speed up your hangover recovery. Increasing your heart rate and blood flow may increase the rate at which your body clears the toxins, which can minimize the duration of your suffering.
Plus, exercise releases endorphins, which always make your feel better.
The only sure way to avoid a hangover is to not drink at all. But that leaves you as the designated driver...every time. If you want to serve in that role, go for it, but if not, you’re going to need to take preventative measures before drinking and emergency maneuvers the next morning.
Some day science may invent a true cure for the hangover, thus making all these partial solutions unnecessary. But until then, grab that water, down those vitamins, and rub that lemon on your armpit.
Dr. Steven Elsbecker is an Austin, Texas local who loves practicing medicine almost as much as he loves all things Austin from live music to cycling to 6th street.