Following from last week’s article on the science behind a hangover, the question now is how do you recover from it? Ideally everyone is looking for a quick and easy fix that will make the headache, nausea and all the unpleasant symptoms magically disappear. But of course, it’s not some magic cure; it’s nutritional science that gives the answers! Hangover remedies include everything from drinking a little more alcohol the next morning, to burnt toast and black coffee, to painkillers. In this week’s article find out which of all the endless theoretical remedies actually have truth behind them…
Black Coffee – Fiction
Caffeine is a stimulant and therefore helps fight fatigue. But when its effect wears off, you may even feel more tired than before. Coffee can help alleviate a pounding head because caffeine is a vasoconstrictor, which means it reduces the size of blood vessels. This counteracts the effect of the alcohol, which makes them swell, making the head hurt in the first place. However, caffeine is also a diuretic like alcohol and can make a drinker even more dehydrated than before. Overall, black coffee isn’t a good hangover cure; in fact it may increase its severity.
Fried or Fatty Foods – Fiction
It is a well known fact that he majority of people crave fast food after a night of drinking. Although eating fried or fatty foods will probably only irritate a drinker’s stomach further, eating them before drinking can actually be helpful. Having a meal prior to drinking helps prevent a hangover, but fatty foods in particular stick to the stomach lining longer and therefore slow down the absorption of alcohol into the bloodstream. So, the effects of alcohol will be delayed as the body will have more time to process the by products and therefore there are more chances of feeling decent the next morning. However, if you are not a fan of McDonald’s at 4am, eating lighter food such as a fruit smoothie will provide energy and alleviate some symptoms by replenishing the electrolytes the body lost from dehydration.
Burnt Toast – Fiction
The reason behind this fictional hangover cure is the carbon in burnt bread. Carbon can act like a filter in the body. While it’s true that activated charcoal (which is a treated form of carbon) is used to treat some types of poisonings, there is no evidence that it can help alleviate hangover symptoms. The carbon/charcoal found on burnt toast is not the same as activated charcoal.
Water – Fact
Replenishing the body’s water supply after a night of drinking is essential as it combats dehydration, and it also helps dilute the leftover alcohol by products in the stomach. Also, non-caffeinated, non-carbonated sports drinks can achieve the same effect because they contain salt and sugar which replace the sodium and glycogen lost the night before. As a prevention method, drinking a glass of water for every alcoholic beverage slows down drinking, providing more time for the body to deal with the alcohol; keep in mind that the body can only process about three-quarters of an ounce of alcohol in an hour. Moreover, drinking a few glasses of water before going to bed helps fight dehydration and will make a real difference the next morning.
Fruit Juice – Fact
Fructose, which is the sugar naturally found in fruit and fruit juice is an energy boost for the body. According to studies it can also speed up the removal of toxins during alcohol metabolism. Drinking a glass of fruit juice the morning after is beneficial because its high vitamin content will make up for the nutrients that were depleted the night before due to alcohol’s diuretic effect. Vitamin supplements high in vitamins C and B are also effective.¬
Bananas – Fact
Eating a banana the morning after a night of heavy drinking provides lost electrolytes, but it also specifically replenishes the potassium lost to alcohol’s diuretic effect. Other potassium-rich foods such as kiwi or sports drinks work just as well.
Eggs – Fact
The first benefit of eating eggs the morning after is that they provide energy like any other food. But eggs also contain large amounts of cysteine, which is the substance that breaks down the toxin acetaldehyde which causes many of the hangover symptoms. Therefore, eggs can potentially help speed up the removal of toxins fro the body.
Drinking more alcohol – Fiction
One of the reasons hangovers are so unpleasant is the liver is still processing the toxins left over from alcohol metabolism. So, contrary to popular belief, drinking more alcohol may make the symptoms seem to lessen at first but will only make things worse because the liver will have even more toxins to deal with.
Painkillers – Fact
It is true that certain painkillers are more effective at combating a hangover than others. For example painkillers that combine substances to combat the pain and caffeine to reduce the size of the pounding blood vessels; however, prolonged combination of alcohol and painkillers has been shown to cause liver damage. Aspirin is a non-caffeinated pain reliever and is also in a class of anti-inflammatory drugs known as prostaglandin inhibitors. High levels of prostaglandin have been associated with increased hangover severity and therefore taking an aspirin can relieve the unpleasant symptoms. However, it is best to avoid aspirin if you have a sensitive stomach.
Over-the-counter Remedies – Fiction
Hangover remedies are classified as dietary supplements which means that they contain mostly vitamins and minerals, they don’t require a prescription, and they’re usually taken in pill form. Despite the many different claims by the manufacturers these remedies are not necessary as long as you make sure you consume enough water to combat dehydration, and fruit juice to replenish the vitamins and minerals that were lost.
In conclusion, the only complete cure for a hangover is time. If, and it’s a big if, you can manage a light workout it may help but remember that your body is already dehydrated so make sure to keep drinking fluids. No matter what a drinker does, the body still has to clean up all the toxic by products left over from the evening before. But the good news is that the remedies mentioned in this article can help speed up the process!
By Kleio Bathrellou
Associate Nutritionist & Certified Sports Nutritionist