Hangover cures that really do work are hard to come by, especially when so many that abound—from hair of the dog to chomping down a fry-up—are shrouded in myth and pseudoscience. If you ask the NHS, they’ll tell you that a bona fide hangover cure doesn’t actually exist (we tried). But while there might not be a works-for-everyone magical solution for that pounding headache, there are certain tricks that could indeed help to take the edge off. We’re not just talking about headache tablets.
While chugging plenty of fluids is a given to rehydrate your body (one of the main causes of a hangover is the way alcohol saps your body of water), we’ve tapped four health experts for additional tips and tricks that might help you shake off that morning-after fug.
Hangover Cure: The Nutritionist
From a nutritional point of view, what’s the best way to get over a hangover?
The best way to cure a hangover is to support your liver, skin, and state of mind. I would recommend the following:
- Increase fresh fruit and vegetables, especially plenty of leafy greens. Try adding spinach to your smoothies, load salad into sandwiches and make a healthy soup or stew.
- Although the body craves sweet carbohydrate-rich foods, try and have a balance of carbs, protein, some fat and some fruit and veg with each meal. The body needs the full range of nutrients the day after.
- Hydrate, especially if you have had one too many alcoholic drinks. Water is invaluable for flushing toxins out of the body, promoting proper waste metabolism, circulation and pH balance. Include cold-pressed vegetable juices, herbal teas and hot water infused with fresh lemon.
Can you really eat your way out of a hangover?
Are there any supplements that can help?
- Milk thistle has silymarin and silybin antioxidants help protect your liver from toxins and the effects of alcohol.
- Glutathione is shown to reduce the acetaldehyde toxicity that causes hangover symptoms. Include an array of raw fresh, organic fruit and vegetables the day after.
What’s your own go-to hangover cure?
A box set and the sofa! Following that, I’ll always have a green smoothie as I know that way I’m getting a good dose of nutrients and I find it easier to digest.
Hangover Cure: The Trainer
How effective is a good sweat session in beating a hangover?
The toxins produced by alcohol are mostly metabolized by the liver, but the remainder needs to be excreted through breath, urine, and sweat. Exercising when you’re hungover allows the body to expel those more rapidly, but be warned: it can be a double-edged sword.
Because you’re dehydrated and the body isn’t able to metabolize carbohydrates in the normal way, exercising can exacerbate that, which could cause muscle cramps, electrolyte imbalances and also increase your risk of muscle strains or injury. I’m all for sweating it out, but the best way to do it is to make sure you replenish your electrolytes first—you don’t need anything too sugary, a fresh mixture of fruit sugars and salt will do the trick (see my go-to recipe below).
Hands down the best kind of exercise to do for a hangover is cardio. You want something that will increase your circulation, respiration and get you sweating as much as possible to help your body expel those toxins, just make sure you hydrate and refuel afterward to help stabilize electrolytes and blood sugar. Because your senses can be impaired from a hangover, I wouldn’t recommend doing heavy weight sessions as you’ll be at a higher risk of injury.
Anything else we need to keep in mind when sweating it out?
Many health experts advise aggressive hydration after a night out, which means water, electrolytes and total avoidance of substances that exacerbate dehydration—no coffee! While caffeine may instantaneously make you feel better, it will only worsen your symptoms overall. To reduce inflammation and pain, try echinacea extract. It has been shown to inhibit the production of inflammatory cytokines, so if you’re looking for a natural alternative rather than loading up on painkillers, this is your go-to.
What’s your own go-to hangover cure?
I love the juice of 1/2 pink grapefruit (which will also support liver function) and some Himalayan sea salt in a glass of water. Another great hangover helper recipe is 1 date, 1/2 avocado, 1 ripe banana, a good quality protein powder (like Vega), the juice of 1/2 lemon or grapefruit, and a handful of kale. It has all the components you need to help get you over the hump. Use coconut water as your base for potassium and electrolytes.
Hangover Cure: The Pharmacist
Are there any hangover cures that are effective from a medical point of view?
While the NHS does advise approaching all hangover “cures” with caution (and perhaps more than a pinch of proverbial salt), Niamh does have a few hangover prevention tactics to suggest:
- Only drink as much as your body can handle.
- Between every alcoholic drink make sure you have a soft drink, avoid fizzy drinks as this actually helps the alcohol absorb faster.
- Make sure to have a pint of water before you go to bed.
- Make sure you eat a proper meal (including carbohydrates—yay!) before you have a drink
- Stay away from dark alcohol to decrease the likelihood of a hangover, think G&T over rum and Coke.
- Don’t mix your drinks, pick one and stick to it.
- Get a good night’s sleep
- Track your alcohol units with a drink tracker app.
- Give your liver a break and leave 48 hours between nights out.
Is there anything (cure-related) you specifically would not advise the day after drinking too much?
Be cautious of anything that advertises as being able to cure your hangover! There is no magic “cure”—you’re feeling rough as your body is dehydrated and needs to recover. Prevention is definitely better than cure, so drink plenty of liquids and get a good night’s sleep. Also, bear in mind that for both men and women, the recommended amount of alcohol is 14 units per week. This equates to 6 pints of 4% beer a week, 6 glasses of 13% of wine or 14 glasses of 40% spirits. If you plan on drinking your full 14 units per week, make sure to spread them out rather than drinking them all in one night.
What’s your own go-to hangover “cure”?
If I’m going on a night out, I always make sure to drink plenty of water throughout the night and definitely before I go to bed to help minimize the hangover the next day.