Suffering from a hangover can be a very unpleasant effect of drinking alcohol; for those who enjoy drinking, there are a number of proven ways to reduce the symptoms of overindulgence.
Hangovers hit hard once the body has finished processing the alcohol, often resulting in thirst, nausea, dizziness, headaches or the loss of appetite. (1)
A few studies have been done on methods for preventing or softening the effects of a hangover. (2)
We’ll take a look here at some strategies that may be helpful.
- Drink Only Moderately, or Abstain Completely
Obviously the best way to avoid hangovers is not to drink alcohol.
If you choose to consume alcoholic beverages, the general rule is that the more you drink, the more severe your hangover is likely to be. (3)
Forgoing alcohol completely may not be an option for those who truly enjoy the pastime, whether they imbibe regularly or occasionally.
Nearly a quarter of people who drink alcohol never experience hangovers, even when they consume large amounts. (4)
The amount of alcohol a person can drink without risking a hangover the next day varies greatly; one person might only need to indulge in a drink or two to wake up with a headache, while someone else would have to consume much more to suffer unpleasant side effects.
- Avoid Dehydration by Drinking Water
Because you’re losing more water from your system when you’re drinking, alcohol can contribute to creating a state of mild dehydration.
This isn’t usually the main cause of getting a hangover, but even being slightly dehydrated can lead to headaches, fatigue, thirst and a dry mouth.
Rule out the possibility by drinking plenty of water when you’re indulging in alcoholic drinks. When you finish a drink, get a glass of water and finish it before you have the next drink.
And be sure to remember to drink a large glass of water before you go to bed.
- Avoid Drinks With High Levels of Congeners
What we refer to as alcohol is technically ethanol. Formed in the process of sugar fermentation, ethanol is the active ingredient in alcoholic drinks.
But it’s not the only side product formed during fermentation. Toxic chemicals known as congeners are also present in alcohol in smaller amounts. (8)
Drinks low in these congeners appear to be less problematic when it comes to hangovers than those containing larger amounts.
Bourbon whiskey has an extremely high concentration of congeners. These drinks also measure high on the scale:
- Other types of whiskey
Colorless alcohol usually has lower amounts of congeners. Among the lowest are:
Vodka is the cleanest of these, containing almost no congeners. (11)
- Ease Symptoms With A Drink In the Morning
This remedy is usually called “the hair of the dog,” or “hair of the dog that bit you.” The expression refers to applying a lesser dose of the same thing that got you in trouble.
The body converts methanol into formaldehyde, which is highly toxic and believed to be at least partially responsible for many hangover symptoms. (17, 18, 19) Methanol metabolism can be inhibited by ingesting more ethanol.
Despite the fact that it may work to help prevent hangovers, drinking alcohol in the morning is strongly linked to the development of drinking problems.
It may not raise the risk of becoming an alcoholic to use this remedy once in a while, but if you find yourself considering it as a regular strategy, it may be time to take a serious look at your drinking habits.
- Eat a Good Breakfast
Hangover symptoms can sometimes be due in part to low blood sugar levels, also referred to as hypoglycemia. (23)
Making certain you are well-nourished can go a long way toward improving how you feel. Consider eating a meal before you go to bed, even if you’re not particularly hungry.
- Get Plenty of Rest
The physical metabolism of alcohol can interfere with good sleep, causing restlessness and disruption from normal sleeping patterns, especially if you stay up later than normal while you’re drinking. (27)
This won’t necessarily cause symptoms like headaches, but it can certainly contribute to the irritability and fatigue often experienced with hangovers.
Many people like to plan ahead to make certain they will have the luxury of sleeping in after indulging. This gives the body a chance to recover from the effects of the alcohol.
- Supplements That May Be Helpful
The body’s inflammatory response is a vital mechanism used in repairing damaged tissues.
Prickly pear extract, made from the fruit of prickly pear cactus, can be purchased as a supplement, and may be useful for damping down the effects of a hangover.
The trick is to take it before you drink.
When 55 young and healthy test participants took prickly pear cactus extract five hours before drinking, the risk of developing a severe hangover dropped by 62%. (33)
Summary: To reduce hangover symptoms, avoid dehydration, choose drinks with less congeners, guard against low blood sugar with proper nourishment, and get plenty of sleep; you can also try taking anti-inflammatories or medicinal herbs.