Last night’s party was wild, but now it’s the next morning and you’re feeling every single brew, cocktail, and bubbly you put to your lips. The truth of the matter is, you’re not the first — nor will you be the last — person to suffer at the hands of a hangover.
About 76 percent of adults experience some type of hangover following a night of drinking. As soon as the pang in the back of your head hits, the first question is usually, “How much did I drink?” That is usually followed up by the more important, “How do I get this pain to stop?”
Hangovers are more than disgorging the contents of last night’s drinks into the nearest bucket. Symptoms can include dehydration, fatigue, muscle aches, dizziness, and heart palpitations.
Laura Veach, director of specialized counseling intervention services and associate professor at Wake Forest School of Medicine, has been working to better understand just how hangovers occur through research.
“Just in the previous decade, we are seeing more sophisticated clinical and preclinical research advance our understanding of all that is involved in a hangover,” said Veach. “Briefly, we have indications that the immune system and an inflammation response is involved when that hangover alarm goes out, from the central nervous system, when the blood alcohol concentration finally gets to zero,” she said. “The absence of alcohol in the body at that point is often where the hangover symptoms are at their worst.”
So how can you end these symptoms and get on with your day? Before you reach for the Tylenol or “hair of the dog” cocktail, take a stab at some less problematic cures and some preventative measures for the future.
Prevent the hangover from starting
The number one way to avoid a hangover is to avoid drinking or to consume alcohol in moderation.
Studies have suggested that the type of alcohol you drink can affect the intensity of your hangover. If you’re a fan of dark liquors, like bourbon and whiskey, prepare for the hangover to hit harder than your vodka and beer guzzling buds. Congeners occur in alcohol fermentation and tend to be found in larger amounts inside dark drinks.
“At least two studies show more severe hangover symptoms occur when drinking liquors with very high congener content, but more research is needed since, for example, not all bourbon whiskey is made in the same process,” Veach said.
Consuming a large amount of alcohol creates an obvious risk of hangover but also drinking on an empty stomach is problematic. Consider having a meal before a night of drinking or even sneaking in saltine crackers between shots. The food helps to slow down the rate that your body absorbs the alcohol and can also add key vitamins and minerals that alcohol can deplete.
Treat the hangover
Your body absorbs alcohol which prevents the absorption of vitamins and nutrients. To help jumpstart your recovery, consider shoveling some good food into your system. Vitamin A, B vitamins, zinc, and potassium are a great way to head back toward normal health.
Vitamin A is found in eggs, meat, and vegetables that are yellow and orange. Animal protein is great for restoring zinc. If you’re a vegetarian, nuts, whole grains, and beans will also do the trick. Getting a boost of potassium is as easy as grabbing a banana or having a slice of avocado toast.
If you can’t stand the idea of getting out of bed for food, try grabbing a bottle of water to rehydrate. Majority of people are chronically dehydrated and alcohol increases that internal drought. Adding water can ease a bit of the head and body pain that comes with hangovers. If you have some time to spare, consider heading back to sleep to rest off some of your symptoms.