Everyone knows the feeling. There is a price paid for drinking too much alcohol: a serious hangover with nausea, pounding headaches and extreme thirst. And you can take heart in the fact that you’re not alone. Some 77 percent of all drinkers report suffering from them. And you would be surprised to know that experts know little about what causes and how to avoid hangover.
Water is primarily what the body loses when exposed to excessive alcohol. This is because alcohol washes fluids and thus mineral nutrients out of the body through urine. This loss of fluid disrupts electrolyte levels, which can then lead to the typical hangover symptoms such as headaches, nausea and raging thirst.
The fact is, there’s no silver bullet cure for the side effects of boozing. There’s only one proven cure: Time. It takes 8 to 24 hours for symptoms to disappear.
Now, based on what we know about hangovers after studying it for a while, scientifically speaking, there are a few things you can do to help.
1. Eat a meal with carbs
Drinking on an empty stomach will allow alcohol to absorb faster, so try getting in a good meal with lots of healthy carbs before breaking out the bottle – for instance, order a burger instead of a salad. Some research even shows a stomach full of food may help keep blood alcohol content at a lower level.
Keep in mind that the severity of a hangover isn’t just related to how much you drink, but how you metabolize alcohol — and that depends a lot on what you eat.
2. Take your vitamins
Contrary to popular knowledge, hangovers are not entirely about dehydration. But the main issues are inflammation and oxidative stress. And it’s much easier to prevent a hangover than it is to deal with it the next morning.
Because alcohol is a diuretic, you lose a lot of vitamins and nutrients during a night on the town. The most important of which are vitamins B and C. Those people that use a vitamin B complex — a pill that includes B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), folic acid, B6 and B12, among others — to combat hangovers swear by their effectiveness.
A 2012 research sent subjects a supplement and encouraged them to take a supplement containing vitamins B-1 and B-6 before and after drinking alcohol. Of the subjects who completed the study, 88 percent reported a reduction in hangover symptoms.
3. Dihydromyricetin (DHM) works wonders
Originally a Chinese herbal tea, this Oriental Raisin tree extract has been taken for 500 years as a hangover remedy and headache healer in rural villages. It recently became apparent that there was real merit in DHM and it’s potential as a hangover cure when a UCLA scientist decided to test DHM in rats.
After she injected rats with a dose of alcohol equivalent to 15 to 20 beers in 2 hours by a human, they took about 70 minutes, on average, to right themselves. However, when an injection of the same amount of booze included DHM, the animals recovered their composure within just 5 minutes.
4. Eat Ginger
For centuries, people have taken ginger to reduce nausea and vomiting. The National Institute of Health revealed early research that consuming a combination of ginger, tangerine pith, and brown sugar before drinking decreases nausea and vomiting. Try nibbling crystallized ginger before and after a night of drinking.
5. Drink water
Alcohol is a diuretic, so you end up losing water. The dehydration effect is a large contributor to hangover. Research says that alcohol suppresses the release of the hormone vasopressin, which normally repurposes water released by the kidneys back into the body. With the absence of vasopressin, that water is marked for the bladder and eliminated, causing body dehydration.
So it’s very important to stay hydrated while you’re drinking alcohol. That means drinking plenty of water between cocktails. Try matching each alcoholic drink with one glass of water to avoid that next-day pain. If you bypass that rule and wake up groggy the next morning, drink up to rehydrate and flush the impurities from your system.
6. Avoid drinks with congeners: stick with clear liquor
Congeners are toxic chemicals formed in small amounts when alcohol is produced. Alcoholic drinks with high amounts of congeners seem to increase the frequency and intensity of hangovers, compared to drinks that contain low amounts.
Vodka and gin have fewer toxins and impurities than dark ones like whiskey and rum, toxic by-products of alcohol production. Several studies have compared the effects of vodka (low in congeners) and whiskey (high in congeners). Both the frequency and intensity of hangovers were found to be greater after whiskey than vodka.
7. Skip Champagne.
Science says the bubbles in sparkling wine may accelerate the absorption of alcohol so you get drunker faster. And the problem is that this produces especially bad hangovers.
8. White Willow Bark. For those who suffer from a headache the morning after, white willow bark is for you!
Rich in salicylates, white willow bark is both anti-inflammatory and analgesic (pain reducing) making it a great remedy for hangovers. It is the original aspirin after all, no wonder they call it Nature’s Aspirin.
9. Prepare to get plenty of sleep
Alcohol can interfere with your sleep. It can impair both sleep quality and duration, while disrupting your entire sleep schedule if you stay up too late. Poor sleep contributes to the fatigue and irritability often associated with hangovers.
Getting plenty of sleep after heavy drinking can help your body recover. If you are unable to sleep in and take it easy the next day, then getting drunk may not be such a good idea.
10. Eat eggs. Eggs contain the chemical N-acetyl-cysteine, which can help clear the liver of harmful free radicals.
In addition to all the scientifically-proven studies we listed above, there are others – a prickly pear extract called Opuntia ficus indica, the vitamin B6 analog called pyritinol, and even a Korean Pear juice – that have been reliably shown to help the symptoms of a hangover.
As one can see, our scientific research has shown that although there is no such thing as a hangover cure, there are many simple ways to prevent it. Always remember these 10 tips above for a better next day after overindulgence. Prevention is the key word. After all, once you’re hungover it is usually already too late to do something about it – even your Ibuprofen or Aspirin will not save you entirely.