The Search for Hangover Remedies: Myths and Facts Revealed

You can’t lift your head off the pillow. You hope it’s a pillow, but the pillow feels a bit like Fido. Your head and neck feel like rocks, your mouth feels like it’s made of 100 percent cotton and your stomach feels like you’ve been on the Tilt–a-Whirl all night. I must’ve had one too many, you think. You clap twice and turn on the lights. The light hurts, you pull the covers over your head with a groan, stick your arms out, and clap them back off, deciding its better to just keep your eyes shut and not move a single aching muscle—the bathroom can wait—you hope. You vowed just last weekend never to party too much again. Drinking too much leads to hangovers, hangovers lead to this.

What is a Hangover?

That nasty, sick feeling that you get after you wake up after drinking too much the night before is a hangover. Hangovers technically are the remnants of your body trying to rid itself of a toxic substance—what it perceives as poison—in this case, alcohol. You might say that alcohol is not a poison, that when you have a few drinks with dinner, you don’t get a hangover the next day. That’s because your body was able to manage the amount of alcohol you consumed. However, if you raise the stakes, and your alcohol intake was too high for your liver to adequately keep up in digestion... then experts often refer to what your feeling as the body's reaction to a poison, and a mild withdrawal from alcohol. How do you feel?—common symptoms are nausea, headache, a heightened sensitivity to sound and light, fatigue, dehydration, and body aches.

  • What is a Hangover?: From Stanford University, info on what hangovers are and there causes.

  • Hangovers: Information on what a hangover is, symptoms, and some things that won't and might help it.

  • What is a Hangover and Can I Prevent It? The only surefire way to prevent a hangover is not to drink.

  • How Hangovers Work: Three out of four alcohol drinkers have experienced a hangover. One in four college students have at least one hangover weekly.

  • Alcohol and Your Body: Alcohol, a depressant, slows down your motor skills, your reaction time, the way your mind and intellect work.

  • Anatomy of a Hangover: The mechanics of a hangover includes pituitary disturbance, diuretic effect, and acetaldehyde production. Red wines, bourbons and other dark alcohol often produce more pronounced hangover symptoms as they contain higher concentrations of congeners or alcohol impurities that give different drinks, different flavors.

Hangover Remedy Myths

You just want it all to go away. Maybe you need a hair of the dog that bit you. Maybe all you need is a cold shower. Or maybe you should have taken that acetaminophen last night or finished that pizza in the fridge. All myths. Drinking the morning after doesn’t work, it just prolongs the agony, pushing the worst part of your hangover to later when the alcohol in your blood levels offs and goes down to zero. Coffee is a diuretic. You’ll just be wide-awake with the same hangover, maybe a bit nastier due to more dehydration.

As far as popping a few Tylenol or pain reliever when you get home after imbibing a wee bit too much, don’t do it. Acetaminophen is processed in your liver and so is alcohol. Your liver metabolizes alcohol first, so the acetaminophen gets processed in an alternative way, which may cause your liver to become inflamed—and maybe permanently damaged.

If you're so sick that you're throwing up, it means your stomach is very irritated, and drinking water is not going to help—any fluid intake will cause more vomiting, as a spasm reaction will take place.

Suggested Hangover Remedies

Although there is no true cure to a hangover, there are methods that are not just popular, but have scientific reasoning as to why they may help alleviate your symptoms, and get you through this rough patch...

Upon waking up you need to rehydrate—when you’re dehydrated, your head and body aches, your mind gets foggy and you get woozy, any of this sound familiar? A cocktail of Gatorade and water to replace lost electrolytes and rehydrate you should help, V8 juice is also a great remedy, since it’s packed with vitamins and salt.

Also, experts suggest you eat a healthy meal when you wake up in order to replenish blood sugar which has dropped from the alcohol. One good suggestion as far as this goes: eggs. Just thinking of eating eggs when you’re queasy, may cause you to want to hurl, but get this: eggs are full of cysteine. Cysteine breaks down acetaldehyde (a harmful chemical created as the liver metabolizes alcohol). Also, Bouillon and bananas work wonders for replacing depleted potassium from drinking.

Time and water are the best remedies for a hangover. There can't be enough said for resting it off. To make it a little easier, perhaps an over-the-counter medicine for your stomach, there are many brands of antacid available. Also, after processing the alcohol during your slumber, taking a pain reliever could help to relieve your symptoms.