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Hangover Cures: Myth vs. Fact


The first thing that’s important to remember is this: alcohol is, fundamentally, a poison. There’s no magical fix-all solution to a hangover, regardless of what your friend who swears by tomato juice and Panadol may think. That said, however, certain foods and drinks are better for refueling and rehydrating the body than others. Take a look at our investigation into the best – and worst – ways to banish thumping headaches and sandpaper throats, as well as a little bit of the science behind it.

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Fact. Obviously.

Dehydration is pretty much the main factor in why drinking alcohol often makes us feel terrible the next day. Alcohol has a diuretic effect, which explains the notorious dry-mouthed, fuzzy-headed combination that many of us have come to recognise all too well after a night of overindulgence. As a result, the best defence against a hangover is, quite simply, to stay hydrated. Try alternating alcoholic drinks with non-alcoholic ones – ideally, water – throughout the night to stop yourself feeling like you’ve spent several weeks in the Sahara the next morning. If you realise by the end of the night that you’ve neglected to hydrate, don’t worry – you can still curb the morning’s hangover by drinking water before you go to sleep, and you should continue to do so the following day.




It’s fairly easy to see the reasoning behind the technique of popping a few paracetamol before bed when you’ve been drinking – evidently, the aim is to pre-empt the hangover by setting off the painkiller before the pain has even kicked in. Despite this method’s practitioners’ best intentions, however, we’d strongly advise against it. For one thing, medication can interact with a body under the influence of alcohol pretty adversely; acetaminophen-based drugs, for instance, can cause serious liver damage when combined with alcohol, whilst an aspirin-alcohol cocktail puts you at risk of internal bleeding. Wait until the morning, and if your head is still pounding after you’ve had some water and a bite to eat but you’re not experiencing any abdominal pain, take an ibuprofen with water for a little relief.




It’s definitely advisable to have food in your stomach if you’re planning a heavy night. Eating a decent meal with fatty and carbohydrate-rich foods either before or during your night out is pretty much guaranteed to make you feel better the morning after. The food slows alcohol absorption, as well as giving you something to do besides chain-drinking.




Some swear by the hangover-reducing effects of a strong cup of black coffee in the morning, but sadly, this cure is a myth. Just like taking a painkiller, caffeine might help to relieve a side effect of excessive drinking – sleep deprivation – but doesn’t actually contribute anything to solving the crux of the problem. In fact, coffee is, like alcohol, a diuretic, so the more you drink the more dehydrated you’ll be. Moreover, coffee’s a vasoconstrictor, so even the most delicious-smelling cappuccino will only exacerbate headaches.  If your theory is that drinking coffee will speed up your metabolism and thereby allow your body to process alcohol more quickly, the disappointing fact is that if you managed to drink enough espressos to do that, you’d probably give yourself heart palpitations and wind up in hospital.




A greasy hungover fry-up staple, eggs are actually a really great choice for re-fueling the body when you’re feeling fragile. Eggs are packed with amino acids like cysteine and taurine, which can respectively break down acetaldehyde, the nasty side-product of the liver’s breaking down of ethanol, and improve liver functionality. Eggs also contain a non-essential amino acid called cysteine, which should counteract the poisonous effects of the acetaldehyde you’ve taken on in large doses the previous evening. If you’re not sure what your stomach can handle when you wake up, eggs are a good bet. They’re light yet packed with protein, and so versatile that they can be made into something delicious in just a few minutes, which is good for those who see lying on the couch as a much more attractive prospect than slaving away in the kitchen with a hangover.




Some sneer at people who drink isotonic sports drinks after a heavy workout or on a hangover, insisting that water will hydrate you more effectively and for far less money, yet research from scientists at Leeds Metropolitan University have found evidence that suggests that they might be worth the extra cash after all. These researchers lauded isotonic sports drinks for the tiny particles of carbohydrate contained in them that were found to help rehydrate the body up to 40 percent more effectively than water. Dehydration depletes your body’s stock of essential electrolytes, including magnesium, potassium and chloride, and sports drinks can help to rectify this and restore your blood sugar levels. If you’re looking for another alternative to simply drinking water, you might also want to try peppermint or ginger teas, which have been found to reduce nausea and ease stomach pain – something you’ll probably feel very grateful for the next time you wake up feeling fragile.




This expression finds its provenance in an old theory that a wound inflicted by a rabid dog could be treated by applying some of the dog’s hair into the wound; that is, that a solution to a problem can be found with more of the problem. Sadly, whilst many will swear on the rejuvenating powers of a Bloody Mary, there’s no scientific basis that says that this is a good idea. In fact, you’ll just dehydrate yourself further and put yet more strain on your liver. A shot of alcohol can perhaps help take the edge off your symptoms in the morning, but later in the day you’ll no doubt feel even worse, so you’re basically just delaying the feeling better part. You might, however, want to leave the Bloody Mary but take the tomato juice, as tomatoes contain fructose, vitamin C and an antioxidant called lycopene that reduces inflammation in the body, which will lead you well on the way to recovery.

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