The best science-backed hangover remedies

By Alistair Gardiner
Published November 25, 2020

Key Takeaways

We’re all familiar with the visceral markers of a hangover: headaches, nausea, shaking, fatigue, and (sometimes) diarrhea. There are also a number of physiological symptoms that you may not have consciously identified before. These include a rise in systolic blood pressure, increased heart rate, and overproducing sweat-glands. Additionally, the hungover may feel overly sensitive to light and sound, or the spinning sensations of vertigo.

The causes of a hangover are varied and haven’t been the subject of many comprehensive studies. What is known is that alcohol is metabolized into acetaldehyde, a substance that’s toxic at high levels. Combine this with alcohol-induced sleep deprivation, dehydration, and low blood sugar levels, and you can begin to piece together what causes the symptoms of a hangover.

Unfortunately, this article won’t provide you with the cure for a hangover. As of yet, scientists have not found a true antidote for hangovers. But, there are a number of science-backed steps people can take to ease the symptoms experienced after a heavy night of drinking.

Before we get to the remedies, there’s a commonly cited hangover cure that needs to be debunked: hair of the dog. Hangover symptoms are often described as a form of withdrawal, which explains why having more booze the following day may sound like a good idea. All it does, however, is perpetuate a cycle.

So, skip the Bloody Mary and try one or more of the five following science-backed hangover remedies:

Start by hydrating

To start with, you’ll want to pour yourself a large glass of water. Drinking booze often involves a lot of urination, because alcohol inhibits the release of the hormone vasopressin, which usually decreases the volume of urine made by your kidneys. If your hangover symptoms include lots of sweating or vomiting, you’re going to be even more dehydrated.

Staying hydrated while you are drinking can help mitigate hangovers, too. Studies have shown that drinking water alongside alcohol leads to a far less severe hangover the following day. But if you neglected the H2O last night, drinking water this morning is likely your best way to begin alleviating the effects of a hangover.

Have a good breakfast

If you can stomach it, eating some food could be a great step toward feeling more human. Drinking alcohol lowers blood sugar levels, which may be among the causes behind the fatigue and headache symptoms, as well as the dizziness and shaking, of a hangover. As such, medical advice points toward carbohydrates as a good solution. So, grab some toast and juice—you’ll thank yourself later.

There are also a number of other items on the breakfast menu that may help to alleviate some of those hangover symptoms. As mentioned above, many of these symptoms are thought to be caused by alcohol’s metabolite, acetaldehyde. According to a study published in the Alcohol and Alcoholism journal, the amino acid L-cysteine may help solve this.

The study analyzed the impact on hangover symptoms of consuming L-cysteine supplements in varying quantities. The researchers found that the supplement was effective in preventing or alleviating a number of hangover symptoms, including nausea, headache, and anxiety.

L-cysteine can be found in foods like eggs, nuts, and dairy. So, a bowl of cereal or some fried eggs for your breakfast is likely a good idea. Also, N-acetylcysteine, the precursor to L-cysteine, can be taken as a supplement.

Foods to focus on if breakfast isn’t your thing

A big fried breakfast as a hangover cure isn’t for everyone. But you don’t have to load up your plate with eggs and toast in order to feel better. There are a number of other supplements and foods that can offer help with hangovers.

According to one recent study, if you pack your diet with foods rich in B vitamins and zinc, you’re less likely to have severe hangovers. Both nutrients are essential in breaking down alcohol into acetaldehyde, and acetaldehyde into acetate—which may result in not feeling quite as worn out after a night of drinking. Foods that contain zinc include meat, shellfish, and legumes. Foods rich in B vitamins include fish, avocado, whole grains, and mushrooms. Add these to your shopping list, and you may be helping to avoid the next hangover.

Other foods that may act as a hangover remedy, according to studies, include red ginseng, ginger, and borage oil-based supplements.

Steer clear of the whiskey

While any heavy drinking will result in feeling a little ropey the next day, studies suggest that not all hangovers are created equal. Some research has shown that clear liquors tend to cause fewer and less severe hangovers than dark ones.

The reason for this is that, while clear liquors are ethanol-based, darker beverages contain more compounds called congeners, including methanol. Although these compounds haven’t been found to impact levels of inebriation, one study found that they do seem to make hangovers worse.

So, if you’re going to drink and want to temper the impending hangover, stick to vodka and gin, rather than the likes of whiskey, red wine, and tequila.

Get more sleep…or just don’t drink

If all of the above sounds too much, you can always just crawl back into bed.

Research shows that alcohol is associated with poorer sleep quality, which likely accounts for some of the symptoms of a hangover, like fatigue. On the other hand, getting more sleep alleviates some of these symptoms—even in those who consume significantly more alcohol. One study looked at nearly 600 university students and found that, following a night of drinking, those who got more than 7 hours of sleep reported having a less severe hangover.

That said, there’s really only one true way to stop yourself from getting a hangover: stop drinking.

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