How to prevent, remedy a hangover

[Note: I am not a doctor, so the following advice is given solely based on experience, research, and common sense. Drinking too much can lead to serious health risks, including alcohol poisoning, liver damage, or death. You should value the expertise of a medical professional over the advice of a blogger.  

If you or someone you know (or found) has drunk too much and is unconscious, vomiting uncontrollably, having seizures, has pale/bluish skin, and/or is unable to articulate, seek medical attention immediately either by going to an emergency room or calling 911.

Seek medical attention if you are concerned at all about yourself or someone else after a night of drinking.]

There is a lot of speculation about how to deal with a hangover, but after much research and life experience, I’ve gathered a comprehensive list of prevention and post-hangover techniques and remedies (inspired by a certain person who I live with who decided to get unfortunately hammered this past weekend).

I’m going to divide these remedies into two categories: Hangover Prevention and Hangover Remedies. Definitely try to avoid a hangover at all costs before and during a night of drinking.

Hangover Prevention

1. Be hydrated. This might seem like a no brainer, but people forget to stay hydrated while they drink and before they start drinking. This means avoiding coffee, soda and other caffeinated beverages during the day, and drinking a lot of water throughout the pre-drinking part of the day.

Drinking one 8 oz. glass of water for every one serving of alcohol (one 12 oz. can of beer, one 1 oz. shot of liquor, one 5 oz. glass of wine) while drinking alcohol is a great prevention trick. Also, drink a lot of water before you go to bed. Fight the urge to sleep, and drink at least a glass of water before you crash for the night.

2. Eat food. I cannot stress how terrible it is to drink on an empty stomach. I did it once before, and I’ll never do it again. Without any food in your stomach to help absorb the alcohol, your body is going to get drunk faster — and you’ll almost definitely be vomiting later. And not just that one instance that sometimes makes you feel better after a night of drinking, but an entire night/morning/following day of constant vomiting.

Not only should you always have food in your stomach before you start drink, but it doesn’t hurt to have some food after a night of drinking, too. Fried and fatty foods are best for both instances, as they “grease” and stick to stomach lining for longer, slowing the rate that the alcohol is absorbed into your system.

3. Count your drinks. Most people know their limit (e.g. more than five drinks, and I’ll be hungover tomorrow), but they lose count or don’t bother to keep track of how much they’re drinking.

I know people who put bottle caps in their pockets to keep track, but if you’re drinking from cups or shot glasses, try to keep a mental or physical (use a pen and draw on your hand if you need to) note so you know when to slow down or stop.

4. Know what doesn’t work for you. Some alcohol affects different people differently, and you might have noticed that certain alcohol always makes you sick. For me, whiskey always makes me feel awful, and tequila doesn’t sit well with a lot of people. If you know a certain type of alcohol is bad news, stay away from it completely.

5. Pop an Ibuprofen or Aspirin before bed. Taking an over-the-counter mild pain reliever like Ibuprofen or Aspirin before you go to sleep isn’t a bad idea. It has worked for me, and a lot of people say it prevents that pounding headache that so often comes with a hangover. Avoid OTC headache meds that have acetaminophen — like Advil — because they will tax your already taxed liver after a night of drinking.

Hangover Remedies

1. Time. Although there are things you can do to quell an upset stomach or stop a pounding headache, a bad hangover that’s accompanied by intense aching and vomiting will almost positively not go away until it’s run its course.

It makes sense — your body has likely been absorbing alcohol for about 12 hours, if not more, between the moment you start drinking and the moment you wake up. If it took 12 hours for your body to start rejecting the alcohol you’ve ingested, it will take some time for it to recover.

2. Liquids. Your body is dehydrated from alcohol, and you need to replenish your fluids to start feeling better. This might mean water, but sometimes even water can be harsh on your stomach. Gatorade, ginger ale, and soda water are all great alternatives.

Gatorade is full of electrolytes that your body lacks after a night of drinking, and ginger ale and soda water work to settle an upset stomach. In fact, another remedy is taking ginger root, slicing it into very thin pieces, and then sucking on the ginger like a mint. It’s a bit spicy, but ginger is a well-known cure for an upset stomach.

Even if you are vomiting, you need to keep taking in fluids. Even if you can’t keep them down and they come right back up, keep drinking them. Not only are you giving your body something to throw up so you don’t start hacking up bile (which is erodes your esophagal lining and corrodes your teeth), but your body still benefits from the hydration, even if it’s only for a few moments or minutes. (Note: If you’re throwing up bile, it’s your body’s way of trying to get every last speck of alcohol out of your system. It’s not pleasant, but it’s not uncommon after a night of heavy drinking.)

Coffee and soda are NOT liquids you want to be drinking after a heavy night of drinking because they dehydrate your body.

3. Avoid salty, greasy foods. If your hangover involved seeing your alcohol come back up, then your stomach has gone through enough — don’t test it with greasy or salty foods. Salty foods are dehydrating, and greasy foods — although good pre-hangover — are not good medicine for a weakened stomach.

Try dry toast or unsalted crackers if you’re having trouble keeping food down, as well as non-citric-acidic fruits like bananas (especially are good for energy) or apples. Although some people swear by a greasy cheeseburger after a night of heavy drinking, I’m sure a person with a serious hangover won’t be craving one.

4. Sleep if you can, stay awake if you’ve got the dizzies. If you’re really hungover, chances are you didn’t actually sleep after your night of drinking. When your alcohol drinking stops, your body overcompensates and produces a natural stimulant that isn’t released while you’re drinking.

Because of this natural stimulant, your body stays in the light stages of sleep and doesn’t make it to the deep, refreshing REM stages of sleep. This is why you could be “asleep” for hours after drinking and wake up feeling exhausted. Try napping or sleeping during the day to regain lost sleep.

If you can’t close your eyes without feeling nauseated, try watching TV until you can finally get some rest without getting the urge to, or actually, throwing up. Do what it takes to keep fluids in your body, even if it means forgoing sleep for a little bit.

Hangover Myths

The old saying “Beer before liquor, never been sicker; liquor before beer, you’re in the clear,” or the idea that you can avoid a hangover by not mixing types of alcohol, is an old myth. Drinking too much is drinking too much, and if you go overboard, it won’t matter what you drank or what order you drank it in.

There’s also the “Hair of the Dog” myth, that if you temper your hard-partying with a can of beer in the morning, your body will slowly withdrawal from the alcohol and you won’t feel hungover. I think this is crap, as the last thing I want when I’m hungover is more to drink, but some people swear by it.

Lots of people have weird, superstitious tricks that always seem to work — my mom knew someone who always drank half a can of Mountain Dew after he was done drinking but before he went to sleep. He left the can on the counter, and when he woke up the next morning, he drank the rest of the Mountain Dew can. He never got a hangover, but I’m not sure how the science behind that trick works.

________________________

All in all, the best way to avoid a hangover — aside from abstaining from alcohol — is to use preventative measures, before and during your night of drinking, that will stave off a hangover. Eat, drink water, and know how much you’ve had to drink.

The next day, rehydrate and get some rest. Know that you can’t speed up or get rid of a hangover like you can get rid of a headache, so sometimes it just takes time to really recover and feel better. If you can’t do the time, don’t get wasted in the first place.

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4 Responses to “How to prevent, remedy a hangover”

  1. Best Hangover Cures Hangover Cures and Tips Says:

    […] How to prevent, remedy a hangover « i, sandwich […]

  2. Dan Clarke Says:

    Dehydration is a common effect of a hangover. This can be reduced by drinking a lot of water. I drink a lot of water and lemon juice to get rid of a hangover.

  3. REB Says:

    I appreciate you writing this article to help the hangover people, but I must say…
    1. do NOT have a tylenol/ibuprofen before bed, it is worse for the poor liver than all the alcohol you (we) have consumed.
    2. hydration is more important than time. you will feel too sick to drink, but if you just “sleep it off” and never drink water, you won’t feel better until 24 hours later. DRINK WATER and don’t stop drinking it… unless it’s quite clear you are going to vim, in which case…
    3. LET YOURSELF THROW UP. you will be immediately cured.
    4. greasy food is good. before bed and once you wake up.
    5. hope you had fun. feed guilty, learn lessons, and be better next time 😉

  4. REB Says:

    also, beer before liquor is key.

    hair of the dog is awesome if you’ve been drinking beer.

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