Hangovers have plagued society since society first began. And still, in cultures across the world, we continue to drink to excess and regret it the next day.
Research into the phenomenon is sparse and inconclusive, meaning a sure-fire hangover cure doesn’t really exist but what we’ve done is brought everything together, from the scientific theories to the old wives tale to help you get through th
e day after the night before feeling as human as possible.
What causes hangovers?
Everyone experiences hangovers differently – some lucky few don’t ever even get them! But scientists have identified a few common reactions or changes in our body that go hand in hand with too much drink.
Ethanol is a diuretic
The main chemical ingredient in alcohol is ethanol. This toxic chemical acts as a diuretic, meaning when you drink too much of it, you have to pee. The excess of urination during a night of drinking means that your body wakes up super dehydrated and empty of good nutrients. Specifically, peeing too much means your body loses electrolytes, ions which carry the energy necessary for vital functions like muscle contractions and nerve impulses.
Inflammatory response from your immune system
Some scientists have noticed that after you drink, your immune system creates an inflammatory response. Cytokines, molecules produced by the immune system are either inflammatory or anti-inflammatory and it’s the former which you’ll find higher levels of in your body after you drink.
Irritates the lining of your stomach
The toxins in alcohol can irritate the lining of your stomach as well as your digestive system. This is why drinking on an empty stomach can make you feel drunker and worsen your hangover the next day. Alcohol is essentially a socially acceptable poison which is why an upset stomach often accompanies other symptoms on a hangover.
Expands blood vessels
Drinking alcohol expands blood vessels, when this occurs in your head, it can cause splitting headaches. This can be helped in a number of ways, including simple anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen.
Organs affected by alcohol use
Prevents deeper stages of sleep
Although alcohol makes you feel sleepy after a while, the ingredients inhibit deeper stages of sleep. Without REM sleep, you may often find yourself waking up in the middle of the night or simply waking up the next day still feeling exhausted.
This can cause a jet-lag style experience when hungover and can be highly detrimental to performance if you’ve made the mistake of drinking on a work night.
Darker drinks like whisky and rum often have higher levels of congeners such as esters and aldehydes. These chemicals give more fermented drinks their taste, smell and appearance. However, they’ve been proven to increase the likelihood and severity of hangovers. Research shows that purer drinks like vodka and gin actually cause fewer hangover effects but, since everybody reacts differently, these particular poisons could still be causing you great difficulty the next day.
Drop in blood sugar
Due to its toxic nature, the body responds to alcohol by trying to fight it. The body expends so much energy attempting to do this that the production of glucose and the hormones needed to regulate it are interrupted.
A drop in blood sugar can lead to feelings of fatigue, weakness and shakiness common in hangovers.
How to cure a hangover
We’ve put together a small list of tips for before, during and after drinking that are helpful to keep in mind and may lead to minimised hangover symptoms.
Hangover cures before drinking
Hangover cures before drinking
Drink in moderation
The best way to avoid a hangover is to avoid alcohol altogether but failing that, knowing your limits and staying within them can reduce the damaging effects of drinking when you wake up the morning after.
Choose light drinks
Like we said, darker drinks have more congeners which don’t help when you’re feeling rough. Sticking with drinks like gin or vodka can help you feel a bit fresher the next day.
Drinking water in between drinks isn’t actually proven to fully avoid a hangover but staying hydrated through the night can help towards combating some of those main symptoms that come with dehydration.
Don’t drink on an empty stomach
When you drink on an empty stomach, alcohol is absorbed much faster by the stomach, making you feel drunker sooner. Any excess that isn’t absorbed by the stomach then passes into your intestines which can lead to higher levels of inflammation, leading to a sore stomach and even diarrhoea the next day.
Hangover cures before bed
A large glass of water
Similar to drinking water between alcoholic drinks, a large glass of water right before bed can combat some of the effects of dehydration on your body. This tactic is a bit riskier, though, as more water could mean you disturb your sleep needing to pee in the night.
A drunken sleep is a disturbed sleep and fatigue can be one of the harder hangover symptoms to overcome. Sleeping in longer can be a good way to fight this but isn’t really helpful for those who have somewhere to be in the morning.
Hangover cures the morning after
Eating food the morning after a hangover will give your body energy and nutrients that you lost last night. Food can also help to soak up the alcohol not yet removed by your body and alleviate any potential future problems, making your hangover shorter.
A shower might have more of a placebo effect in curing your hangover but can help you feel clean and energised when you need a pick-me-up. Running your head under a cold shower is one of my favourites the morning after to combat the headache and clear your mind for the day.
Go back to bed
Your body will thank you for getting some extra rest. Combining the troubled sleep, expended energy on dancing and the hard work of your immune system in fighting the poison you’re gleefully supplying it with will all take a toll on your body which can sometimes be solved by a quick recharge.
Similar to the sauna, exercising when hungover gets the blood flowing and produces sweat to bring those nasty toxins out.
Exercising also produces endorphins which can help any negative emotional responses which hangovers can bring on.
Stewing in your own filth can seem like a great idea when you have no energy and are feeling sorry for yourself but stepping into the outside world can be beneficial when your body is struggling against itself.
Whether it’s a 5-mile hike or a walk to the shops, fresh air can feel cleansing, can help to bring your body temperature down and clear your sinuses.
Sauna hangover cure
Sauna hangover cure
Sauna health benefits that might help with a hangover, specify that you need to stay hydrated while using a sauna if you’re hungover because you’re already dehydrated
We might be biased, but the benefits of sauna therapy can have a huge impact across many facets of your life. When it comes to hangovers, everybody reacts to them differently. Some may not like the idea of tolerating high levels of heat when they can’t keep their breakfast down, whereas others might find a good sweat is the best cure for any next-day ailments.
Saunas use heat to penetrate the body and produce sweat which has a detoxifying effect. This can be really helpful on a hangover to get rid of all the toxins your body is still trying to recover from. Additionally, infrared saunas run at a much lower heat so may be more tolerable for those in a fragile state.
Since hangovers cause dehydration and saunas make you sweat, this can be dangerous for anyone seriously dehydrated after a drinking session. We would recommend anybody wanting to treat a hangover with a sauna session fully rehydrate before they step in.
Hangover cure foods
Each of the following foods has properties which can tackle symptoms of your hangover. Combine them in your breakfast for a tailored assault of the common issues that come with your specific hangover experience.
Bananas are full of potassium which is a necessary electrolyte and give you a great energy boost. Fighting dehydration and fatigue at the same time.
Honey is high in fructose which helps to break down alcohol in the body faster. While research has shown that honey isn’t likely to relieve hangover symptoms, it’s a great way to keep your body healthy when you’re done damaging it.
Ginger is an antiemetic, meaning that it can stop you from being sick or feeling nauseous. If this is a common issue of your hangover, consider having some ginger or mixing it into a smoothie.
Though seemingly unorthodox, some believe that burnt toast is best on a hangover. Considering activated charcoal is also pushed as a hangover cure due to its ability to cleanse the body of toxins, some believe that you get the same benefits from the charred bits on your toast.
Eggs (raw or cooked)
Eggs are full of great stuff for when you’re feeling hungover. Amino acids and cysteine can both help your liver break down the alcohol troubling it and even tackle the chemical that leads to headaches.
Whether you’re brave enough to eat it raw or would prefer it as part of a fry-up, getting the goodness of eggs can help sort you out.
Oats are full of nutrients like calcium, magnesium and iron to help you replenish and recover. Porridge can also help to neutralise acids and raise blood sugar levels.
The good fats and other nutrients of the avocado can also restore your body to normal and keep it functioning as normal. Avocadoes and guacamole are also a great way of getting those essential fats into your body while avoiding the traditional greasy hangover foods.
Hangover cure drinks
It’s always a good idea to drink lots of fluids after a night out but here are some helpful drinks that many believe to have special qualities to combat hangover feelings.
Drinking peppermint tea can work in the same way as ginger to settle the stomach, combat those feelings of nausea and soothe an inflamed digestive system.
The juice of the prickly pear is touted as a powerhouse hangover cure able to protect the liver from damage, reduce headaches and feelings of nausea after a night of drinking.
This cure has to be drunk before your start drinking though, so is more of a preventative measure than a cure for when you’re desperate.
There’s a reason Scotland is the only country where Coca Cola isn’t the most popular drink. This sweet orange nectar has way more of a psychological effect on the drinker but is great for restoring energy.
Another energy-booster, Gatorade and other isotonic drinks restore electrolytes to bring you back to normal levels.
An antioxidant-rich juice, kombucha helps the body to detoxify and acts as an anti-inflammatory in the digestive system. This drink makes for a healthy way to tackle your hangover troubles.
While the Scots have Irn Bru, everybody else reaches for coke. While not the healthiest option, coke can be an energy booster and restore some lost sugars. The caffeine can also work to cure headaches.
The star of a Bloody Mary, tomato juice can help the enzymes in your body break down alcohol, working to protect your liver.
In much the same way, orange juice helps the body with enzyme production and is also rich in vitamin C which can keep your body from losing antioxidants.
Touted as a miracle juice, coconut water is hugely popular with celebrities for its massive levels of antioxidants and electrolytes which beat out even most sports drinks.
While it may seem counter-intuitive to drink salt water when you’re dehydrated, a sprinkling of salt in your first glass can actually encourage enzyme absorption and bring you back to life sooner than just regular water. Just one glass with a dash of salt will do.
Coffee is a dangerous one when you’re battling a hangover. Caffeine helps shrink your blood vessels to battle your headache and helps with exhaustion. However, coffee is another diuretic so drinking too much will do no good for your dehydration.
Hair of the dog
If you’re looking for a quick fix or you’re halfway through a weekend away and need temporary recovery, another drink can help offset the effects of your hangover. However, ordering a Bloody Mary with breakfast will do you no good in the long run as hangovers set in when the body’s blood alcohol level comes back to 0 so you’ll just be putting it off to get hit by it just as hard later in the day.
Hangover cure powders/pills
Hangover cure powders/pills
The hangover cure market is worth $1 billion, so companies claiming to sell all-round hangover cures are in fierce competition. Since scientists don’t fully know why hangovers happen, these cures are unlikely to work for everyone, but some more standard pills and powders may have beneficial effects on one or more of your symptoms.
As mentioned, vitamin C is great for helping your body keep in antioxidants and speeds up the metabolism of alcohol in the liver. Getting your dosage from oranges or taking it directly in a tablet before and after drinking might be beneficial.
As a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), ibuprofen can help with your sore stomach and sort out your headache in a pinch. Ibuprofen can irritate the stomach lining, however, so being sparing with the dosage after drinking is highly advised.
Popular in America, Tylenol is an acetaminophen used for pain relief. This type of drug can be really dangerous for those with a hangover, however, as they can be harmful to the liver. When the liver’s already feeling fragile after dealing with the drink, this could cause further damage.
Alcohol depletes your body’s stores of vitamin B so taking supplements can bring you back to normal and help you and your body feel healthier.
The sodium bicarbonate in Alka-Seltzer helps to settle the stomach which can reduce feelings of nausea and help your intestines recover quicker.
Activated charcoal has been used for centuries in detoxifying the body and was used in ancient medicine to prevent poisoning. Due to this, many people believe that taking activated charcoal tablets before a night of drinking can help prevent some of the worst feelings of a hangover the next day.
Milk thistle contains antioxidants like silymarin and silybin which protect the liver from toxins. Due to this, milk thistle supplements might also be a useful preventative to keep yourself in top shape when you wake up.
IV hangover cure
Popular in Las Vegas, California and recently London, the IV hangover cure is a favourite with celebrities.
These treatments work by hooking you up to a bag full of vitamins and pain medication specially designed to target the common symptoms of a hangover. Going for over £100, these pricey treatments may help perk you up, sort your headache out and ensure your body’s filled with just the right chemicals.
However, the actual science is patchy on this subject and users often don’t claim to be 100% cured by them, so the price tag might be enough to put you off. If you’ve got the money and want to give it a go, you might be pleasantly surprised.
Hangover cures around the world
Puerto Rico - Lemon in the armpits
An uncommon treatment and one with little evident success, rubbing a lemon in your armpits is said to be a traditional Puerto Rican hangover treatment. We’d probably recommend a squeeze in your morning drink to get the most of the vitamin C.
USA - Prairie Oyster
Made with a raw egg, Worcestershire sauce, brandy and a drop of Tabasco, this classic American hangover cure isn’t for the faint hearted. While the eggs may have some great hangover-fighting nutrients, drinking more alcohol is never a great idea.
South Africa - Ostrich omelette
Taking the beneficial effects of eggs to the extreme, an ostrich omelette is common in South Africa. An ostrich egg provides as much as roughly two dozen chicken eggs so if you’re egg mad this one might just be for you.
Poland - Pickle juice
A popular hangover cure that puts my stomach on edge even on a good day, pickles are a common theme in this list. The Polish tendency to drink pickle juice may hold water though as the salty brine is full of electrolytes.
Japan - Umeboshi
Yet again pickling is the answer in Japan. Pickled plums are said to improve liver function and help digestion.
UK - Fry up
A salt and grease-filled breakfast might not be good for your heart but can be just the thing to line your irritated stomach and put you on the road to recovery.
China - Green tea
The all-rounder of health nuts, green tea is a great detoxifier, full of antioxidants and has a little caffeine for you too.
Germany - Katerfrühstück
The popular pickles return in the Katerfrühstück, pickled herring wrapped around pickles and onions for a blast of sour taste and heightened electrolytes.
Romania - Ciorba de Burta
Romania’s Ciorba de Burta is a spicy tripe soup which might turn your stomach just at the thought. However, for those who can handle it, tripe is a great source of protein and the spices can help distract your body from the damage from last night.
Mexico - Menudo
Another tripe soup – lovely! The tripe will fill you with proteins and the peppers and cilantro settle your stomach and give you and boost of energy.
Mongolia - Pickled sheep eyeballs
We come to the conclusion of the global pickle obsession in Mongolia, where supposedly a sheep’s eyeballs are all you need after a heavy night on the town. Add them to tomato juice for a Mongolian Mary – or just stick with water.
Peru - Leche de tigre
The Peruvian dish ceviche is a prawn-based dish which includes lime juice, onion, chillies, salt and pepper. Having a shot of the juice, which is known as ‘tiger’s milk’ is supposed to ease your hangover.
Croatia - Burek
A pastry filled with beef or cheese, burek will work in the same way as a full English to soak up the alcohol left over in your stomach.
South Korea - Haejangguk
South Korea’s Haejangguk literally translates to ‘hangover soup’, so they must know what they’re talking about. The basics of this dish are napa cabbage, soybean paste and blood pudding, so may not be your cup of tea (or soup!).
Thailand - Pad Kee Mao
Rice noodles, soy sauce, meat and garlic, this dish’s name means ‘drunken noodles’. The salty soy sauce can help with your electrolyte levels while the rest just tastes great and fills your stomach.
Czech Republic - Utopenci
Meaning ‘drowned men’ utopenci involves more pickles and sausages to give you a greasy, salt-filled breakfast boost to help you get on with your day.
Russia - Sauna
When the Russians are feeling under the weather, they like to take a trip to the sauna – we like these guys!
Italy - Espresso
While coffee may work as a diuretic, there’s not a much better pick-me-up for short-term energy and a quick headache cure than a proper Italian espresso.
Some hangover 'how-to's'
While most of these ingestibles look to tackle the standard symptoms of a hangover like fatigue, headache and stomach irritation, you may suffer from rarer symptoms that can really bring you down after a night out. We’ve gathered some advice for anxiety, diarrhoea and for those with dietary requirements.
How to get through work with a hangover
Our first piece of advice would be to just avoid drinking altogether. Drinking disrupts your sleep, meaning you aren’t well rested the next day, dramatically disrupting your productivity. If you’re the kind of person whose hangover manifests in a sore stomach, nausea, diarrhoea or fever, this is only going to make your day worse.
According to a YouGov survey, around 200,000 British workers turn up to work hungover on any given day and 83% of employees who have been hungover at work believe it affects their performance. This can build a negative reputation around the office which can potentially even affect your career progression.
However, if you have had one too many and are struggling through the day at your desk, here are some tips to follow to keep your energy up until you can crawl back into bed again.
This will be the first step to helping you get back to normal. Have a large glass of water as soon as you wake up and shower off the night before. Rinsing off the night before and restoring your inside water balance will not only help you look fresher, your body will thank you for it.
Using caffeine to cure a hangover is a double-edged sword. Having a cup of coffee as soon as you get into work can temporarily restore your energy and help soothe your headache so your boss’ voice isn’t hammering at your brain. But, once the initial effects wear off, you’ll be left needing to wee much more regularly, dehydrating you even more and you’ll face a pretty nasty energy crash.
Loading up on carbs will be a helpful way of restoring your sugar levels, keeping your energy up throughout the day. Giving in to your cravings will also keep you from being distracted and should allow you to keep on working.
Give your recovery a boost by reading our hangover foods section for inspiration.
The mystical ingredient to most health products, electrolytes are vital for functions such as muscle control, and after a heavy night, your body is all but empty of them.
Whether it’s coconut water, which features more electrolytes than standard energy drinks but a bit of a funkier taste, or a classic bottle of Lucozade to drink or something super salty like pickles to eat, get some electrolytes back in you before you start work.
This step may not give your tired body instant satisfaction but trust us, this is basically peak self care at this point.
As unbearable as it may seem, once you’re in work you need to actually do work. Don’t change your day plans too much – if you have to cancel meetings or phone calls because you’re hungover it could be a major black mark against your name for the future.
If you can, just get your head down with some jobs that are time consuming don’t require too much thought. If you start to feel sleepy, mix it up with some more challenging or entertaining work to get you through the rough patches of the day.
Once you’ve finally escaped work, promise yourself you’ll never drink on a school night again, curl into a ball and get some much-needed deep sleep.
How to cure hangover anxiety
The growing phenomenon of hangover anxiety, or ‘hangxiety’, coupled with the presence of social media can be a dangerous mix. Many people say they wake up with a building dread that they embarrassed themselves, annoyed their friends or upset someone close to them and immediately reach for the phone to check around.
Alcohol is a depressant so waking up the next day with increased feelings of anxiety or depression could simply be a side effect of drinking too much. If this is a frequent symptom of yours, it may speak to a deeper problem that you might want to visit a doctor about.
Though nothing is certain to be effective, many people feel that taking a few deep breaths as soon as they wake up and reminding themselves that this is a physiological response to alcohol can be helpful.
Maybe try exercising to stimulate endorphin production, make sure to stay hydrated and try out some of the healthier hangover cures from this list.
How to cure hangover diarrhoea
Because alcohol is an irritant, it tends to push everything through your body faster. People with bowel problems like IBS may experience diarrhoea as a common hangover symptom but those with healthy bowels can still suffer from this after a hard drinking session.
Ways to avoid this would include a greasy dinner before you start drinking to line your stomach and slow down the journey of alcohol through your body.
The morning after, stick to easily digestible foods like toast, bananas, eggs, rice and chicken and avoid high-fibre foods like grains and cereal, high-fat foods like dairy, beef and cheese and spicy foods like curries.
How to cure a hangover for women
Women are more susceptible to alcohol because they produce less of the alcohol metabolising enzyme dehydrogenase but there’s no special way to cure hangovers for women that will have a different effect on men.
The best advice is to know your limits, try not to go drink for drink with the guys and find a hangover cure that works for you.
Hangover cures on the Keto diet
Since Keto dieters don’t have carbs, drinking alcohol makes you drunker much faster. This is because you won’t have any carbs in your system to soak up the alcohol and your body will start processing alcohol before it resumes processing fat. This can be dangerous in the same way as drinking on an empty stomach but if you know your limits, here are some foods to help the next day without breaking your diet.
Peanut butter is a great keto snack that’s full of good fats and has high calorie content for when you’re trying to avoid junk food. It’ll also make you thirsty pretty quickly which will help with rehydration.
Scrambled eggs and spinach
Eggs will give you all the goodness of amino acids and cysteine while staying keto. Spinach and other leafy greens are packed with vitamins and antioxidants to get your body going and combat the depletions cause by alcohol.
If you can bear it, pickle juice will not only fill you with electrolytes but can also help settle your stomach if you’re feeling queasy.
Hangover cures for vegans
Finding good cravings-satisfying vegan hangover food can be hard so we gathered this short list of ideas that are a bit more out of the box.
Miso soup is full of salts which will help with electrolyte replenishment. Some types of miso have fish in though, so make it yourself or be sure to check before you order!
The anti-nausea effects of ginger can help you keep your food down even if it’s not a hangover-busting dish.
Antioxidants, vitamins and minerals will all help protect your liver, detoxify your body, give you energy get your body back in shape after a bevy-filled battering.
Scrambled tofu (and avocado)
Avoiding eggs, scrambled tofu has a similar texture while still being vegan. Add broccoli, peppers and onions for cysteine, the amino acid in eggs that helps with a hangover. Add some avocado for some good fats as a boost – who needs a fry-up?
Chlorophyll in wheatgrass juice is a great detoxifier to help draw those poisons out when you’re feeling fragile.
Solve your headache and boost your energy, take it black or as an espresso for a faster hit or add almond milk for healthy fats and detoxifying benefits.
For those of us who aren’t part of the blessed few to have never had a hangover, no matter your diet or country of origin, give some of these cures a go next time you feel like you’re dying and see if you can find your ultimate hangover cure.