How to cure a hangover

Jonathan Goodall / 02 December 2014 ( 12 October 2017 )

How to prevent a hangover, plus top tips for curing one.

How to avoid getting a hangover in the first place

Alcohol is absorbed via the stomach into the bloodstream, which is why we feel woozy more quickly on an empty stomach; and we’re also likely to drink faster when we haven’t eaten. Milk lines the stomach, while foods such as bread, pasta and potatoes are particularly good at soaking up the booze.

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A healthy liver can process about one unit of alcohol per hour, so give the poor thing a chance. Try putting your drink down occasionally, and remember that fizzy drinks are absorbed more quickly.

To soften the hangover blow, try to alternate alcohol with soft drinks. Alcohol is a diuretic, so it’s sensible to replace lost fluid as you go while providing the fluid to flush the alcohol, which is a poison, through your system.

Dr Mark Porter's myth-busting guide to alcohol and dehydration

And, if you remember, drink at least a pint of water before going to bed, possibly with an Alka-Seltzer. Hangover headaches are caused by the lining of the brain shrinking through dehydration, pulling the brain away from the skull to which the lining is attached – sort of cranial bungee-jumping.

Mixing your drinks and hangovers

It’s a myth that mixing your drinks gets you more drunk, but it will crank up the hangover. This is because you’ll be consuming more congeners (these are the substances that give booze its colour), which are huge contributors to hangover hell.

The Alcohol Hangover Research Group ranks drinks in escalating order of colour and hangover severity as follows. Note that wine is higher up the scale than some spirits:

  1. beer (which, although coloured, is about 96% water)

  2. vodka

  3. gin

  4. white wine

  5. whisky

  6. rum

  7. red wine

  8. brandy

Your guide to alcohol units and strengths

Have a fry-up for breakfast the morning after...

Alcohol also stimulates our bodies to produce insulin, which reduces sugar in the blood (hypoglycaemia), causing trembling, nausea and hunger. Protein and carbohydrates combat low blood sugar, so a hefty fry-up makes perfect sense, providing you can keep it down. Also, bananas are a good source of potassium, one of the minerals most depleted by dehydration.

...washed down with a 'full-fat Coke' (or other sugary drink)

It is thought that sugary fizzy soft drinks could be more effective than water as they offset the effects of low blood sugar, which might explain the popularity of Irn Bru in Scotland. Sprite made the headlines last October when Chinese scientists found it to be the most effective drink (out of 57 tested) at boosting the enzymes that break down alcohol. I find that ice cream for sugar replacement and blustery cliff-top walks for head-clearing blasts of ozone work best.

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