How to Cure a Hangover

Forego the myths and try these methods instead.

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The only way to prevent a hangover is to drink in moderation or stay away from alcohol entirely. But it can be easy to overindulge—and then wake up the next day with nausea, headache, and fatigue.

Alternating your drinks with water or another nonalcoholic beverage can help you slow down and stay hydrated. But if you still wind up with a hangover, there are remedies.

Have a Nonalcoholic Drink in the Morning

Hydrating yourself, and not with a Bloody Mary, is step one. "The worst thing to do is to have another (alcoholic) drink," said Charles Cutler, MD, an internist with Einstein Healthcare Network in East Norriton, Pennsylvania.

Despite the wives' tale, drinking alcohol in the morning may temporarily help your symptoms, but it could actually hurt in the long run. Hangovers make you feel horrible because alcohol is toxic, Dr. Cutler explained, and you need to give your body a chance to recover. That morning drink could lead to an even worse hangover the following day.

Sip on a Caffeine-Free Drink

Another common practice is to load up on coffee, but that may not be a great idea either.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), "(c)affeine has no effect on the metabolism of alcohol by the liver and thus does not reduce breath or blood alcohol concentrations or reduce impairment due to alcohol consumption." Additionally, caffeine can cause your blood pressure to rise—and so can alcohol, per the American Heart Association.

Therefore, opting for caffeine-free choices, especially those with electrolytes, would be your best bet. "Juice, water, Gatorade, all those things—they're going to make you feel better," said Dr. Cutler.

Eat a Non-Greasy Breakfast

No scientific evidence exists that a heaping helping of bacon and eggs will ease hangover anguish. "Greasy food is just going to give you heartburn," said Dr. Cutler, who recommended sticking with easy-to-digest foods such as toast or cereal. "You want to get calories right back into your system."

With that in mind, you may want to think about eating before a night of drinking. There are good and bad food options, but generally, a good mix of protein, fats, and carbohydrates will decrease the time it takes for alcohol to be eliminated, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Consider Alka-Seltzer

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), alcohol can cause an irritated stomach lining and increased stomach acid release. The well-known antacid Alka-Seltzer (as well as generic and store-brand antacids) contains sodium bicarbonate (baking soda), which can help lower acid in the stomach. Also, the brand has an antacid product specifically marketed for relief from hangovers.

Still, other ingredients in Alka-Seltzer, notably aspirin and citric acid, may irritate your stomach after a night of heavy drinking, so it's best to exercise caution and talk with a healthcare provider to determine if this option is right for you.

Choose Multivitamins Over Hangover Pills

There are lots of hangover "cures" on the market, but very little evidence to back up claims. "Hangover pills that have been studied are not effective or only help against a few complaints…but not all," said Joris C. Verster, PhD, an assistant professor of psychopharmacology at Utrecht University in the Netherlands.

Dr. Cutler suggested taking a multivitamin instead to restore the nutrients your body may have lost during a binge, such as salt and potassium.

Take Certain Types of Pain Relievers

For hangover headaches, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory pain relievers (NSAIDs) may provide some relief. These include Advil (ibuprofen) and similar drugs and Aleve (naproxen). Talk with your healthcare provider to ensure that these are an appropriate option based on your health.

Of note, MedlinePlus advises against using pain relievers with acetaminophen as an ingredient, such as Tylenol. Liver damage has been associated with acetaminophen use in some people.

Go Easy on the Exercise

What you really need is rest, said Dr. Cutler.

"Remember: If you've been drinking heavily, you could be a little dehydrated, you could be metabolically behind on your nutrition, and exercise is going to require hydration and nutrition," said Dr. Cutler. "Exercise is always the right thing to do, but I don't think (on) the morning you wake up with a hangover, exercise is what you need."

Get Some Sleep

People sleep poorly after a night of drinking. A May 2019 study published in the Journal of Clinical Medicine indicated that consuming a lot of alcohol can lead to less-efficient and low-quality sleep.

Alcohol will put you to sleep quickly, but when it begins to wear off several hours later, the withdrawal your body feels can disrupt sleep and jolt you awake. Although sleep deprivation won't cause a hangover by itself, it definitely can make the symptoms feel worse.

If you have the luxury of "sleeping it off" the next day, do so. Your foggy brain and achy body will thank you. "The body's got an amazing capacity to heal on its own," said Dr. Cutler.

In the end, the only surefire treatment for a hangover is time, and not too much of it. Recovery from a hangover may happen in as little as 24 hours.

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