Time flies when you’re having fun — and the cocktails can flow almost as quickly. But when you’ve had one too many (and we’ve all been there!), you pay the price the following day with the pounding headache, extreme thirst, nausea and fatigue of a hangover. In most scenarios, we suffer through. But what if foods and drinks could alleviate the torturous symptoms? Turns out they can! We asked experts for the best foods for hangover. Read on for their advice.
What is a hangover?
A hangover is “characterized by the physiological state the day after a single episode of heavy drinking when the alcohol concentration in the blood approaches zero,” explains Richard Bloomer, PhD, MS, BS, dean of the College of Health Sciences and the R. Brad Martin Student Wellness Center at the University of Memphis. “The effects are not specific to a dehydrated state, as often claimed. Alcohol metabolites, inflammation, oxidative stress, neurotransmitter alterations and mitochondrial dysfunction are likely involved in the pathology that causes a hangover,” he adds.
If it sounds like it’s wreaking havoc on our bodies, it is! Hangovers can bring with them a bevy of painful symptoms, including fatigue, weakness, thirst, headache, muscle aches and nausea. Many people also experience stomach pain, vertigo, sensitivity to light and sound, anxiety, irritability, sweating and increased blood pressure, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAA). Symptoms can last up to 24 hours and can vary from person to person.
How to prevent a hangover
The best way to prevent a hangover is to limit your drinking. But there are a few tricks that can ward off a hangover. Here, a few easy ones to try:
Choose your liquor wisely
The type of alcohol you choose can affect how bad your hangover is. For example, according to the NIAA, “congeners are compounds produced during fermentation that contribute to the taste and smell of alcoholic beverages. Darker spirits such as bourbon, which tend to have higher levels of congeners than clear spirits, could worsen hangover symptoms for some people.”
Avoid “diet” mixers
Mixing spirits with diet soda isn’t a great idea, according to a study in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research. Cocktails made with diet soda sent subject’s BrAC (breath alcohol concentration) 18% higher than those made with regular. “When alcohol is mixed with a sugar-sweetened beverage, the stomach treats it like food, keeping it there to begin digesting it,” says study author Cecile A. Marczinski, PhD. “But when alcohol is mixed with a diet drink, the stomach sends it to the small intestine more quickly” and so the intoxicating effects are felt faster. Your best bet: ask for a fresh juice as a mixer to get extra nutrients.
Opt for ‘clean’ wines
Anything that contains sulfites could give you a headache if you’re sensitive to the preservatives. It’s best to look for drier wines like those labeled “brut” or “extra dry” or so-called “clean” wines without any added sugar and additives, like Scout & Cellar.
Also smart: Watch your wine pours. A serving of wine is 5 ounces. “But unwary wine drinkers can easily pour more than one serving at a time, and depending on the size of the glass, you could end up with a double serving,” says Cindy Geyer, MD, a functional medicine physician at The UltraWellness Center in Lenox, Massachusetts.
Her advice: Fill your wine glass to the halfway mark. “This cuts down on overpouring and the overimbibing that can result.” Indeed, a study in the International Journal of Drug Policy found that wine drinkers who use the half-glass rule automatically serve themselves 18% less than those who don’t. Another helpful tip: Place your glass on the table when pouring — this strategy is shown to reduce overpouring by 12%.
Take your vitamins
If you regularly take vitamins and supplements, you may be setting yourself up for less severe hangovers. A 2019 Journal of Clinical Medicine study showed that people who took vitamin B and zinc regularly were less susceptible to hangovers.
Get your electrolytes
Electrolytes, or essential minerals like sodium, calcium and potassium, are vital to many critical functions in the body, and they can also counteract the effects of alcohol. That’s why experts recommend getting your fill both while you’re drinking and the next day (more on that later.)
“Alcohol dehydrates us, and when we are dehydrated, it’s not water our body is missing…it’s electrolytes, so just replenishing with water isn’t enough,” says Carrie Lupoli, MA, MEd, certified nutritionist, founder of Disruptive Nutrition and co-creator of PFC3.
Instead, Lupoli advises adding an electrolyte boost to your cocktails using powdered mixes like Liquid IV (Buy on Amazon, $22.28). Or you can make your own: Click through for the simple recipe and learn how electrolyte water can help you lose weight.
Besides vitamins and electrolytes, water is vital. “With each drink consumed, ingest 12 to 16 ounces of water. Then, ingest another 16 to 32 ounces of water before bed,” advises Dr. Bloomer.
Best foods for a hangover
“There is no known cure for hangovers. Certain approaches may curb symptoms, but results depend on the person and how they respond,” Dr. Bloomer tells First for Women. One of the best approaches is eating certain foods, which may help alleviate some of the symptoms. We asked Lupoli and Mackenzie Burgess, RDN, dietitian and nutritionist for WHOLLY, to give us the rundown.
Once of the best things you can do is to eat a healthy breakfast. You could worsen matters if you’re inclined to reach for something greasy, warns Lipoli. “Gluten, dairy, sugar and grease will wreak havoc on your gut and spike your blood sugar,” she says. “All of those things will make recovery much worse, with digestive issues and energy crashes adding to the misery. ”
Instead of reaching for buttered white toast and bacon, choose a balance of complex carbs, fiber and protein. “A great example would be whole-grain toast topped with smashed avocado and an egg. This combo will help keep blood sugars stable, promote digestion and refuel your body with nutrients,” adds Burgess. What’s more, each of these foods boasts hangover-curbing benefits:
Avocados lower blood alcohol levels
Besides being chock-full of healthy fats and a superfood, avocado has another superpower: “Avocados are filled with essential nutrients like fiber, potassium and B vitamins, and are rich in healthy omega-3 fats, which some research shows fats may help lower blood alcohol concentrations,” says Burgess.
Eggs minimize alcohol’s effect on the body
Protein-packed eggs also contain L-cysteine, a type of amino acid. Some research has demonstrated that L-cysteine lowers concentration of acetaldehyde, a harmful by-product produced when the body metabolizes alcohol.
Whole grains lower blood sugar levels
If we think of eating bread to ‘absorb the alcohol’ as a myth, there is some truth to it. “Whole-grain foods like bread, oats, quinoa, sorghum or other whole grains provide complex carbohydrates that can help maintain blood sugar levels, which are often disrupted by alcohol,” advises Burgess.
Watermelon and bananas boost hydration
Alcohol is a diuretic, meaning it increases urine production and can potentially lead to dehydration. And while you definitely want to replenish electrolytes, it’s also a good idea to ensure you’re staying hydrated. “Alongside water, try enjoying foods with a high water concentration, like watermelon, which is 92% water. Bonus points for opting for a watermelon mocktail before you enjoy a cocktail,” says Burgess. Click through for delicious watermelon mocktail recipes.
Also smart: Snack on bananas. Rich in potassium, a mineral that aids in the function of our nerves, muscles, and heart, bananas can potentially help counteract the diuretic effects of alcohol, which leads to dehydration, says Burgess.
Best drinks for a hangover
Just like foods, some drinks can quell the symptoms of a hangover.
DIY electrolyte water
While most people reach for drinks like Gatorade or Pedialyte, Lupoli says those are not good choices when dealing with a hangover. “The problem is that many think of sports drinks when we talk about electrolytes, but they are filled with sugars or sugar substitutes that will actually make the hangover worse,” she says. First thing in the morning, Lupoli recommends washing down your Tylenol with an electrolyte mixture. To make your own, combine 2 cups of water with the juice of ½ a lemon, ¼ teaspoon of Himalayan or sea salt, and 2 tsp of raw honey, then blend and drink.
Ginger tea, touted for its anti-nausea effects, can soothe the upset stomach associated with a hangover. To make it, Burgess says simply steep sliced or grated ginger in boiling water for 10-15 minutes, strain and enjoy.
Coconut water is a suitable replacement for regular tap water, says Burgess, because it’s naturally filled with electrolytes like sodium, magnesium and potassium. Researchers from the Institute of Chemical Technology in Mumbai, India, recently looked at the best methods to help bodies metabolize alcoholic beverages faster and, therefore, help us feel better quicker. The findings? It’s as easy as mixing up a refreshing drink of coconut water, pear and lime juices. The team explained that two of the enzymes in those ingredients are exceptionally beneficial for breaking down alcohol in our system.
For more alcohol tips, click through the links below!