Have you had a hangover?

Symptoms typically include headache, drowsiness, concentration issues, dizziness, nausea, the sweats, and anxiety. It feels like crap. And depending on how much you drank, a hangover could last all day, maybe even two.

We love alcohol, it makes us giddy and want to party all night! Ok, ok. Well, the least we could do, if we are just incapable of moderation, is learn how to cure a hangover, right?

Right, well let’s do it.

1. Hair of the Dog

bloody mary drinkAbsolutely brilliant! More alcohol! This can work right, a dream come true!

Well, you’ll feel better with a bloody mary in the system, and they just taste good, you know. The idea is that since you are experiencing a withdrawal of alcohol, replenishing that alcohol will make the hangover go away.

But there’s a big problem. When do we let our bodies clear out the alcohol? Are we just going to carry on drinking forever? Of course not.  It will provide a numbing effect, but all you’re doing is prolonging the inevitable, and it will likely make your headache worse.

So, if you are seeking to abuse alcohol and possible develop an alcohol dependency, or if you are on the quest to clock in the worst hangover of your life, keep on drinking. Otherwise? Steer clear, and avoid.

More drinking is no cure.

2. Coffee

coffee cup
Oh yeah, caffeine. It helps wake me up in the morning and it has numerous health benefits. So can it help me on the mornings where I wake up with a hangover?

Well, it will make you feel more awake, as caffeine is likely to do. But remember, coffee, and caffeine in general, is a diuretic. That means it will dehydrate you further. And assuming you are dehydrated from your hangover, which odds are at about 100% that you are, this may further complicate your predicament.

Further, caffeine is known to both increase your blood pressure, and your heart rate. It is a vasoconstrictor, meaning that it narrows your blood vessels, contributing to the increased blood pressure and heart rate. All of these things can make your headache worse. Not to mention if you are feeling hyper-excited or anxious, it will make that a lot worse too. Alcohol is known to induce anxiety.

If you’re going to take in some coffee to feel more awake, drink a lot of water, and a little bit of coffee. Me? I can’t do it. My stomach is already feeling like a disaster if I’m hungover, and coffee is one of the last things on my mind due to its acidity.

3. Greasy Meal

deep fried food
The traditional thought around eating greasy food with alcohol is that it helps slow the absorption of alcohol. This is true! Greasy food coats your gut and fills you up so that alcohol is absorbed more slowly.

But here’s the thing. When you have a hangover, your body has already absorbed the alcohol. No amount of greasy food is going to change that. Not to mention that with the nausea, greasy food may not be the most appetizing thought!

Now if you had the greasy food before you drank – different story. But if you are already hungover, no it doesn’t always work.

Alcohol blocks the absorption of key nutrients, and you urinate out important electrolytes. So if you can get it down, I’d suggest a proper healthy breakfast like an omelette. But if you are feeling too nauseous, the age old crackers and water, or chicken noodle soup may be for the best.

4. Pain Medicine

pain pills bottle
There are really three main types of pain medicine you are going to try to take to get rid of that hangover headache: Tylenol (acetaminophen) or Advil (Ibuprofen) and Aspirin. One thing to note here is that while these medicines may help alleviate the headache, they can make other things much worse.

  • Acetaminophen – As we know, alcohol beats up on your liver. Acetaminophen also beats up on your liver, so you’d be getting a double dose of liver issues if you mix the two. On top of that, a study at the University of Texas showed that those mixing alcohol and acetaminophen were shown to have an adverse health issue – kidney disease.
  • Ibuprofen – Alcohol irritates the stomach lining, as we’ve all probably experienced, especially with a hangover. The issue with ibuprofen is that it also irritates the stomach lining, which can lead to ulcers, and even stomach bleeding if done too frequently.
  • Aspirin – Similar to ibuprofen, aspirin can cause stomach bleeding. The main issue with aspirin is that it is a blood thinner. Problem is, alcohol also thins the blood. This can result in some serious bleeding issues, as your blood has been thinned by both alcohol and aspirin at the same time, you can have trouble coagulating.

All in all, I’d be wary about any pain medication during a hangover. But if you just have to take something, according to the facts, small doses of Ibuprofen may be preferable to the others. Remember though, it is not without consequences.

5. Sauna

woman in sauna
Sweat out the toxins! Right? No, not really.

The thinking is that you can actually sweat the alcohol out of your system. News flash, alcohol is already being processed in your liver, the damage has been done. Not only that, but you’re really dehydrated!

Steaming in a sauna can cause excessive sweating that can further dehydrate you. You aren’t removing many toxins through your sweat. Sweat is the body’s way of cooling you off, not removing toxins, the liver does that. But the increased dehydration from sweating while having a hangover can lead to some real health risks and possible heart issues. So it’s really not a great idea.

6. Exercise

woman exercising
So this is a mixed bag. If you aren’t feeling like death to the point where you can’t get out of bed, a light workout may be a good idea. It really depends on the severity of your hangover.

Exercise will release endorphins, and you’ll feel better, not to mention you’ll ease the guilt of all those calories from alcohol.

You do have to watch out though, your body is not in a normal state, and as mentioned before, you are dehydrated. So like I said, make sure you aren’t feeling like complete death if you’re going to attempt physical activity.

Low impact, low intensity would be best,  just to stimulate those endorphins. Choose your cardiovascular modality of choice: light jog, brisk walk, easy swim, something just to get you moving. But remember to stay hydrated. And don’t force yourself to work out if you are feeling awful, because your body is telling you no.

7. Water

glass of water
Has anyone ever told you to switch between alcohol and water, and make sure you stay hydrated? Well they were right.

I’ve hammered over and over again that alcohol dehydrates you, a lot. I know that ice cold beer seems refreshing, but it isn’t. You’re pissing away the good stuff, literally.

Actually, the symptoms of a hangover and the symptoms of dehydration are very similar: headache, nausea, fatigue. The hangover comes with some additional problems, namely toxin buildup, but the point is that the dehydration is a large contributor to that awful hangover feeling.

Further, you haven’t had water all night, you were asleep! Even without alcohol the night before you’d need to rehydrate. Now you need to catch up on water, double time.

8. Sleep

sleeping woman bed
When you have a cold or flu, what do you do? You try to get in some food, maybe some chicken noodle soup, and drink plenty of water. But most importantly, you get as much rest as you can. When you are hungover, you are sick. Sleep is one of the best things you can do to help your body repair.

Oh no, I get it, you have to go to work. If you can call in sick, do it, because you are.

Alcohol may make you feel drowsy, but it actually ruins your sleep. Drinking disturbs REM sleep, the deepest and most important stage of sleep, where we store memories and develop our brains.

So that sleep you got the night after drinking? That was weak sleep. Not only do you have a head-splitting hangover, but you are sleep deprived as well. You need to catch up and let your body heal. Sleeping is one of the best things you can do for yourself if you have a hangover.

9. The Real Cure – Prevention

woman drinking water couch
Let’s get real here. By the time you have a hangover, the damage has been done to your system already. If you get a cut on your arm, are you going to come to me and ask, hey, how do I cure this cut on my arm? No, you have to let your body heal.

Really curing a hangover is entirely about prevention. As I mentioned before, a hangover indicates that you are poisoned by alcohol, because, well, it is a toxin. There are things you can do to help, like eat a good meal, stay hydrated, and get rest. These are all things you would try to do if you were sick with a cold or flu. You’re just letting your liver process the crap out of your body and recover.

Be cognizant about your actions while you are drinking. Don’t throw it all into the wind and just smash drinks left and right. Make sure to eat before and while you drink to help slow the absorption of alcohol. And make sure to stay hydrated. A good rule of thumb is a glass of water with each drink.

Drink smart, be healthy, and don’t wake up in a ditch!

Let me know if you have any remedies that work for you, especially if you think some of the ones I said don’t work, actually do for you. Maybe we can find out why!