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Hungover? Science Weighs In On The Best Cure(s)

My own personal secret? Iced black coffee and a McDonald’s Happy Meal. (Plus, sometimes, morning beer!) But let’s see what the experts have to say.

Why Do We Get Hungover?

We all know what it feels like to wake up with a throbbing head. Dry mouth. And a sudden wave of nausea. Ugh. Before you even have time to remember what happened last night, you have a new problem to deal with: the dreaded hangover.

Hangovers occur due to a convergence of factors: mild dehydration, disturbed sleep, gastrointestinal irritation, general inflammation, and mini-withdrawal. And the only surefire way to avoid to avoid those symptoms is to not drink altogether. But, since we all know that’s not going to happen, it’s worth learning what scientists suggest.

How To Cure a Hangover

One of the most common suggestions for hangover prevention is to drink water while you’re drinking booze. Alcohol is a diuretic, meaning it prevents the body from absorbing water. It also contributes to the overall loss of water through excessive urination. (You know the drunk pee: breaking the seal.)

Hydration

Speaking to Popular Mechanics, Jesus Chavarria, a clinical psychologist at The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, also confirmed the need to drink more water. “Most people don’t drink enough water while they’re drinking, or any kind of liquid besides the liquor that they’re drinking,” Chavarria said. The publication also adds that electrolyte-heavy beverages like Gatorade or Pedialyte can help.

As for greasy food — the poor man’s ultimate cure — there’s little scientific evidence in favor of its benefit. “It might make you feel a little bit better, but it’s going to be more placebo than anything else,” Chavarria said. (Nooo, don’t tell me that!) Chavarria also explained that since liquor disrupts your usual blood sugar levels, the body can crave greasy food when hungover, or even when you’re still drunk. However, unhealthy binges are not actually a good way to stabilize blood sugar. Bummer.

Herbal Remedies?

Daryl Davies, a professor of clinical pharmacology at the University of Southern California, also contributed to the Popular Mechanics article. Davies studies a chemical from the Japanese raisin tree called dihydromyricetin (DHM) and says it to be a promising herbal alternative for treating hangovers.

DHM speeds up how the body processes of alcohol, according to Davies, and it’s included in several over-the-counter pills: Drinkwel Better Mornings, PartySmart, Morning Recovery, and more.

Hair of the Dog

I’m a fan of the hair of the dog: Bloody Marys, Mimosas, Beermosas, Irish coffees… when you wake up on the couch, feeling like crap, you might as well try to keep the party going. And indeed, prolonging drunkenness can postpone hangover symptoms. However, eventually you’re going to come down. “At some point, the Reaper’s going to get paid, and you’re going to have to feel it,” Chavarria said. Morning-after drinks can also contribute to heavier fatigue.

Painkillers

Ibuprofen or aspirin definitely help curb a hangover headache, but anything with acetaminophen — like Tylenol — should be avoided until the alcohol is fully cleared out of your system. Otherwise, you’re risking serious liver damage. Davies warns of this in Popular Mechanics.

An earlier study, from 2011, also advocates for aspirin — combined with coffee. After testing on rats, Dr. Michael L. Oshinsky of Thomas Jefferson University came to the conclusion that caffeine really does help. “If you drink a small amount of alcohol, three or four hours later, drink some coffee,” he said. “Or take caffeine in some form, like an Excedrin that has caffeine in it.” Combined with aspirin, pounding headaches were severely diminished in test subjects.

Sleep

Naturally — eventually — your hangover will exhaust you. When that happens, let your body drift into a helpful, if troubled, sleep. It’s a surefire way to4 escape those pesky hangover symptoms! And maybe, for next weekend, you’ll have learned your lesson.

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