The quest for a hangover cure has been going on for ages. The ancient Romans ate deep-fried canaries. The Egyptians hung shrubs around their necks. And Wild West cowboys swore by rabbit dung. Today, we’re still groaning out of bed and grasping for relief (albeit with less wacko measures)—trying everything from “the hair of the dog” to an ice cold shower. But what actually works? We thought New Year’s Eve was a good a time as any to give you a hangover prevention and alleviation game-plan.
First, know that to prevent (and minimize) a hangover, you need to carefully calculate your steps the night before. Kick things off with a healthy, potassium and protein-packed dinner, avoiding sugar and excessive carbohydrates. Drink tons of water and sprinkle salt on your food—you need to stock your body with electrolytes. And when you start to imbibe, employ the adage of “one glass of water per drink.” You’ll be thankful.
What you drink (and obviously, how much of it), also matters. The sugary and sweet concoctions (sorry, Cosmo lovers) tend to give us more trouble in the morning, as does mixing different types of liquor. It’s also generally true that the darker the alcohol you’re drinking, the worse off you’ll be. Brown liquors like brandy, whiskey, and scotch tend to have higher amounts of congeners (a compound that’s a product of alcohol fermentation), a key culprit in making hangovers nastier. Sticking to the lighter-colored booze may help a little.
Still, rough mornings happen to the best-intentioned of us. But tempting as it may be, don’t go out and down a bunch of Bloody Marys and fatty pieces of bacon as the solution. It may lessen the pain temporarily, but you won’t escape anything. More alcohol and greasy food will just delay what’s coming, or even worsen headaches and nausea. You’re just adding in more toxins for your body to process.
Here are some more productive things to try:
Drink your way back to health (but not with alcohol)
When you wake up, it’s coffee time. Caffeine can act as a vasoconstrictor and eases the dilated blood vessels, alleviating headache symptoms. Then just keep drinking that water. Your headache/misery is directly related to the fact that you’re super dehydrated. Electrolyte drinks or coconut water are also good choices—but make sure you’re grabbing ones with low sugar contents. Another way to rehydrate yourself back to health is with bouillon broth, which can help you get back all that salt and potassium you lost the night before.
Detoxify your liver
Your liver is doing a lot of heavy-lifting, so give it some TLC. Kombucha is packed with nutritional content and compounds that can help cleanse the liver. And beets, carrots, dandelion, turmeric, and milk thistle (which you can find at health food stores) also help to detoxify things and reduce inflammation. If you’re feeling well enough to whip something up, the website Urban Remedy has liver tonic recipe to try.
Stock up on bananas. They’ll help you get potassium back into your system, and because they’re high in fructose, may help you burn the alcohol off quicker.
Go back to sleep
We’re sorry to have to say it, but the only true “cure” for a hangover is time. These other remedies can help with alleviating symptoms, but they’re not going to banish the pain altogether. So might as well just go back to sleep and ride it out. You’ll feel better soon.