Drinking alcohol, especially too much, can be accompanied by various side effects. Splitting headaches, sickness, dizziness, dehydration: anyone who's ever drunk too much knows the consequences. Dehydration is what causes many of the symptoms of a hangover. Hangover cures are generally a myth. There are no cures for a hangover, but there are things you can do to avoid one and, if you do have one, ease any discomfort.
Tips to avoid a hangover
Limit Your Alcohol Intake
Don't drink more than you know your body can cope with. If you're not sure how much that is, be careful. The easiest way to reduce hangover symptoms is to reduce your alcohol intake, as both the severity and incidence of hangover symptoms increase in line with the amount of alcohol you consume. In one study, researchers followed 112 young adults on vacation and found that those who drank more heavily had more hangovers, with 68% of heavy drinkers reporting a hangover. Additionally, hangover severity increased throughout the week-long vacation as prolonged heavy drinking continued. Many factors, including body weight, gender, when you last ate, what type of alcohol you drink and how long you spend drinking, can affect your blood alcohol concentration, or the percentage of alcohol in your blood. Interestingly, studies have found that you must reach a peak blood alcohol concentration of 0.11–0.12% to develop a hangover. Some individuals may experience a hangover after as few as 2–3 drinks, while others may require much more. Meanwhile, approximately 23% of all drinkers are resistant to hangovers altogether. However, for most individuals, the most sure-fire way to prevent a hangover is to drink in moderation. Don't drink on an empty stomach. Before you go out, have a meal that includes carbohydrates (such as pasta or rice) or fats. The food will help slow down the body's absorption of alcohol.
Avoid Drinks With Congeners
Through the process of ethanol fermentation, sugars are converted into carbon dioxide and ethanol, also known as alcohol. Congeners are toxic chemical by-products that are also formed in small amounts during this process, with different alcoholic beverages contain varying amounts. Some studies have found that consuming drinks with a high amount of congeners could increase the frequency and severity of a hangover. Congeners may also slow the metabolism of alcohol and cause prolonged symptoms. Drinks that are low in congeners include vodka, gin and rum, with vodka containing almost no congeners at all. Meanwhile, tequila, whiskey and cognac are all high in congeners, with bourbon whiskey containing the highest amount. One study had 95 young adults drink enough vodka or bourbon to reach a breath alcohol concentration of 0.11%. It found that drinking high-congener bourbon resulted in worse hangovers than drinking low-congener vodka. Another study had 68 participants drink 2 ounces of either vodka or whiskey. Drinking whiskey resulted in hangover symptoms like bad breath, dizziness, headache and nausea the following day, while drinking vodka did not. Selecting drinks that are low in congeners may help reduce the incidence and severity of hangovers. Don't drink dark-coloured drinks if you've found you're sensitive to them. Drink water or non-fizzy soft drinks in between each alcoholic drink. Carbonated (fizzy) drinks speed up the absorption of alcohol into your system. Drink a pint or so of water before you go to sleep. Keep a glass of water by the bed to sip if you wake up during the night.
If you wake up the next morning feeling terrible, you probably didn't follow our advice. Dealing with a hangover involves rehydrating the body to help it deal with the painful symptoms. The best time to rehydrate is before going to sleep after a drinking session. Painkillers can help with headaches and muscle cramps. Sugary foods may help you feel less trembly. In some cases, an antacid may be needed to settle your stomach first. Bouillon soup, a thin vegetable-based broth, is a good source of vitamins and minerals, which can top up depleted resources. Its main advantage is it's easy for a fragile stomach to digest.
You can replace lost fluids by drinking bland liquids that are easy on the digestive system, such as water, soda water and isotonic drinks.
Things to avoid
"Hair of the dog" – drinking more alcohol – does not help. Drinking in the morning is a risky habit, and you may simply be delaying the appearance of symptoms until the alcohol wears off again. If you've had a heavy drinking episode, hangover or not, doctors advise that you wait at least 48 hours before drinking any more alcohol to give your body time to recover.
Sometimes, of course, a hangover makes that advice easier to follow.
The Bottom Line
While there are many well-known hangover cures out there, few are actually backed by science. However, there are several science-backed ways to avoid the unpleasant symptoms that follow a night of drinking. Strategies include staying hydrated, getting plenty of sleep, eating a good breakfast and taking certain supplements, all of which could reduce your hangover symptoms. Also, drinking in moderation and choosing drinks that are low in congeners can help you prevent a hangover in the first place.