How to Cure a Hangover

Fried eggs and toast

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Drinking alcohol to the point of intoxication may lead to a hangover. While drinking modestly or not at all are the best ways to prevent a hangover, after one begins, there are steps you can take to minimize the symptoms and ease your discomfort.

There is no true "cure" for a hangover—other than time—but there are remedies that can offer you relief. However, some of the widely used, traditional hangover remedies do little to relieve symptoms, and some of them can actually make the situation worse.

Helpful Hangover Remedies

Your hangover symptoms should naturally subside between 24 to 72 hours after consuming alcohol—though the exact amount of time will depend on how much alcohol you consumed and other individual factors. While you can't make your body metabolize alcohol faster, there are remedies that will help you feel better while you wait.

Water or Sports Drinks

Alcohol has a diuretic effect, meaning it increases your body's urine production. Excess alcohol can also cause vomiting and diarrhea, which worsen your body's water loss. This can cause dehydration and, in turn, may lead to some of the most uncomfortable symptoms associated with hangovers like headaches, dizziness, and lightheadedness.

The quickest way to relieve those symptoms is to rehydrate by drinking lots of water. Some people may also turn to sports drinks like Gatorade to replace electrolytes. While there's no evidence that these drinks will reduce the duration or severity of your hangover, they can help you rehydrate.

Pain Relievers

Aspirin and ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin) may reduce a hangover-induced headache and muscle pain. However, they should not be used if you are experiencing abdominal pain or nausea. These medications, called non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), are gastric irritants and can compound gastrointestinal symptoms.

Acetaminophen (Tylenol) should not be taken during a hangover. Alcohol can increase the toxicity of this medication and cause serious harm to your liver as a result.

If you're experiencing gastrointestinal symptoms during your hangover, like nausea or indigestion, antacids may help.

Nutrition

Eating a healthy meal may help you combat some hangover symptoms. Alcohol can disrupt your blood sugar levels, which can lead to symptoms like sweating, fatigue, and shakiness. Eating a fiber-rich breakfast may help you correct your blood sugar levels (and could improve your mood as well).

If you can't handle the idea of eating anything solid while experiencing severe hangover symptoms, try some bouillon soup. It also can help replace salt and potassium lost during a drinking binge.

There is some evidence that vitamin B3 (also called niacin) and zinc may reduce the severity of hangovers. While it isn't clear whether these nutrients will impact a hangover that's already in progress, eating a diet rich in vitamin B3 and zinc may be associated with fewer, less intense hangovers.

Sleep

Even though alcohol may initially help you fall asleep, it ultimately disrupts your ability to get a good night's rest. If you're able, try to get extra rest during your hangover. Consider waking up briefly to drink extra water or have a snack before heading back to bed. Sleep may also reduce some of your discomfort and help you wait out your symptoms.

Hangover Remedies to Avoid

While there are several common myths about how to cure a hangover, none of these have scientific support. Some may even be harmful to your health.

The Hair of the Dog

The practice of having a drink the next morning to ward off the effects of a hangover doesn't work in the long run, contrary to popular belief. It may lessen the symptoms in the short term, but giving the liver more alcohol to metabolize will only increase your discomfort later and lengthen the amount of time you have to wait until your hangover ends.

Additionally, getting into the habit of having a morning-after drink may lead to more alcohol consumption and can contribute to eventual alcohol dependence.

Black Coffee

Coffee may relieve the feeling of fatigue associated with a hangover and help alleviate the headache symptoms by constricting blood vessels, but that relief is only temporary and the symptoms will return. Coffee also acts as a diuretic, which means it further dehydrates the body.

Pain Relievers Before Bed

Taking preemptive pain relievers before going to sleep may seem to make sense, but this approach to hangover prevention fails for two reasons:

  • The effects of the pain reliever will usually wear off before the onset of hangover symptoms. It would be better to take the medication after your symptoms begin.
  • Your liver metabolizes many over-the-counter pain medicines, including NSAIDs and acetaminophen. This puts stress on your liver while it's already metabolizing alcohol and, in the case of acetaminophen, it is potentially dangerous.

Fried or Greasy Foods

If you eat fatty foods before drinking, the oils can coat your stomach lining and slow down the absorption of alcohol. This can help reduce the severity of a hangover. However, eating greasy food the morning after a drinking bout won't impact your hangover, and it may even add to your gastrointestinal problems by irritating the stomach and intestines.

Burnt Toast

Activated charcoal (also called activated carbon) can act as a filter in the body, and it's often used to treat some types of poisonings and overdoses. While it may seem logical that the carbon found on burnt toast might act the same way, it's not the same material.

Activated charcoal is processed in a specific way to increase its ability to absorb toxins; however, the carbon found on burnt toast is not processed in the same manner, and it contains other compounds. Additionally, activated charcoal may not be effective at absorbing alcohol after your body has already begun metabolizing it. In fact, over-the-counter products sold as hangover cures that contain activated charcoal are intended to be taken before drinking, not after the hangover begins.

A Word From Verywell

Drinking as much water as possible while you're consuming alcohol and before you go to bed will relieve a great deal of the hangover symptoms caused by dehydration. While there is no cure-all treatment for a hangover, you can increase your comfort by treating your individual symptoms while you wait for the hangover to end.

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