“I will never take another drink for as long as I live!” So goes the mantra of anyone who has ever woken up with a hammering headache and a stomach rolling around like an old sneaker in a washing machine. First advice: If you feel as if you have to throw up, don’t resist the urge. Vomiting is the body’s way of ridding itself of toxins. And don’t reach for a painkiller. Acetaminophen, and possibly aspirin and ibuprofen as well, can harm your liver if you’ve been drinking. To shorten the ugly shadow of a hangover, try the hangover cure tips below. As for brave resolutions . . . well, if you do drink again, take steps to limit the alcohol’s impact on your system.
You had too much to drink last night, and you’ve woken up with a wicked hangover. Your head is pounding. You’re drenched in sweat. You feel like throwing up. Maybe you feel shaky or anxious too. What’s going on? The alcohol in your system has left you dehydrated and depleted of minerals. It’s also caused the blood vessels in your head to dilate; that accounts for the headache. Finally, alcohol makes your blood abnormally acidic (a condition called acidosis), which causes nausea and sweating.
Hangover Cure: First Steps for Fast Relief
- As soon as you wake up, drink two 8-ounce glasses of water to undo the dehydration.
- Have a large glass of grapefruit, orange, or tomato juice. Juice contains the simple sugar fructose, which speeds the metabolism of alcohol.
- If you drink coffee, have a cup or two as soon as possible. Caffeine is a vasoconstrictor, meaning it narrows the swollen blood vessels in your head. Just be sure not to go overboard. Like alcohol, caffeine is a diuretic, and if you drink too much, you’ll become even more dehydrated.
- Kudzu is a traditional Chinese remedy for alcohol poisoning, usually taken in a “morning after” tea. You can pick up kudzu extract at a health-food store. Follow the dosage directions on the package. Or you can try Intox RX, HepatoGen or another kudzu-based hangover cure available at the drugstore.
- Once you overcome the queasiness, fix yourself a nice bowl of hot chicken soup or bouillon. Either one will help replace the salt and potassium the body loses when you’ve been drinking.
- A banana milk shake is an especially good way to replace potassium and other nutrients lost during a night of heavy drinking. Combine a half-cup milk with a banana and 2 teaspoons honey. Whirl it all in a blender, and drink up. Banana is a good source of potassium, which was lost in your urine. And honey is rich in fructose.
- If you feel well enough, eat a light meal—fresh fruit, crackers with honey. Fruit and honey are good sources of fructose. Save the bacon and sausage for another day.
Should I call the doctor?
Even without treatment, a hangover should last for no more than 24 hours. If you’re still feeling bad after that, call a doctor. Of course, if you can’t remember what happened while you were drinking, or if you get hangovers on a regular basis, you may have a drinking problem. Call your doctor to discuss treatment options.
Nix It with Nux
The homeopathic remedy nux vomica is considered an antidote to alcohol hangovers. Dissolve 3-5 pellets of the 30C potency on the tongue every four hours.
Although your instinct might be to stay in bed, you’re better off if you can take a brisk walk or go for a run. That will boost your production of endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers. Heavy drinking can lower endorphin levels.
The Power of Prevention
- If you’re headed to a social occasion where alcohol will be served, eat something—ideally something a bit greasy—before you go. The fatty substances help coat the intestines, slowing the absorption of alcohol. Slow absorption means less chance of inebriation, and a smaller chance of developing a hangover the following day.
- If you drink hard liquor, favor vodka over bourbon, rum, or cognac, and white wine over red. Clear liquors like vodka don’t contain congeners—naturally occurring compounds that contribute to morning-after nausea and headache. White wine contains fewer congeners than red wine.
- Drink slowly. Your body burns alcohol at a pace of roughly one ounce an hour. Give it more time to burn that alcohol, and less will reach your brain.
- Alternate alcoholic drinks with soda, juice, or other nonalcoholic drinks.
- Avoid champagne or any other alcoholic drink with bubbles in it (say, a rum and Coke). Effervescence puts alcohol into your bloodstream more quickly.