You know when you hear the words “let’s do shots!” that it’s probably going to be a long night. A fun night, but a long night. Or maybe you just had a really shitty day at the office and all you end up doing is bingeing an entire season of something on Netflix while simultaneously bingeing on a bottle of cheap whiskey.
Whatever the events leading up to it, the next morning is always the same: a hangover that feels like someone beat you over the head with an aluminum bat. You’ve got the taste of vomit in the back of your throat, and when you finally open your eyes to the fresh hell that is the morning, you realize you have no damn clue where your phone is. The next few hours for you could feel like you’re attempting to scale the Wall with Jon Snow (especially if you were partying like a Lannister the night before), but thankfully there are some things you can do to make that climb back to humanity.
Legend has it that hungover Mongolians brightened their mornings with pickled sheep eyes and tomato soup. Perhaps the idea was to get so sick from the remedy that you forget about your hangover (but hey, pickle juice and Bloody Marys are common go-tos, so maybe they were on to something).
Unfortunately, hangover cures haven’t progressed much since ancient times. There is no compelling evidence that any traditional remedy has a profound healing effect. Still, trying a few hangover remedies is better than wallowing in boozy despair. For help understanding how to cure a hangover, we’ve once again called upon the wisdom of registered dietitian and food blogger Tali Sedgwick.
Drinking Water and Electrolytes
As you might have learned above, alcohol will dehydrate you in a hurry. One of the most obvious hangover cures is also the most important: drinking plenty of water. Alcohol is a diuretic, which has a profound effect on your blood sugar. “Your body responds to alcohol like ‘Oooh, a lot of simple sugars coming in, I better pump out the insulin,’” says Sedgwick. “It’s that insulin response that lowers your blood sugars.” Sports drinks, fruit juice, coconut water, Pedialyte, and similar vitamin-rich options can replenish lost electrolytes and bring your blood sugars back up to speed.
Getting Lots of Sleep
If you party until 4 am, you shouldn’t expect to wake up at 6 am. The only true hangover remedy is time, and it’s best to spend that time in bed (according to science). “Sleep is helpful because it gives your body more time to metabolize the alcohol,” Sedgwick says. Since alcohol negatively affects REM sleep, you’ll likely have trouble sleeping through the night after drinking heavily. If possible, try to steal a few naps during the day. Your boss won’t mind — just tell him you’re hungover.
Eating Eggs and Toast
Food is usually the last thing on a hungover person’s mind. Still, choking down carbohydrates is essential for restoring your normal blood sugar levels, no matter how bad your nausea, stomachache, or other symptoms are. You don’t have to sit down for a five-course meal; in fact, that’s probably a bad idea. Instead, nibble on crackers, toast, and other bland foodstuffs until you feel good enough to eat real food — greasy comfort food, preferrably. Sedgwick also recommends eggs. “Eggs are rich in cysteine, which helps break down one of the byproducts of alcohol called acetaldehyde. So the feeling of wanting a big, eggy breakfast actually makes sense.”
What Doesn’t Work
Exercise is good for you the vast majority of the time. However, it certainly won’t make your hangover feel any better. “I tell this to my diabetic patients all the time: Go for a walk after a meal to bring down your blood sugars — exercise naturally does that,” says Tali. “If you combine exercise and alcohol, however, it can actually make your blood sugars go even lower, and make you feel worse.” There’s also the danger of further dehydrating yourself. Fortunately, you probably won’t feel much like exercising after hugging your toilet all morning.
Hair of the Dog
The “hair of the dog” doctrine is a myth perpetrated by eternal partiers looking for an excuse to keep drinking. “I don’t know who came up with that one; it doesn’t make sense,” says Tali. “Your body’s having a hard time dealing with all this alcohol, so you going to give it some more? No.” While the sugar in alcohol can momentarily boost your blood sugar, it will just end up going down again. Tali has a potential explanation for this faux cure: “I can see somebody having a swig of the beer bottle next to their bed and feeling better for a minute, because of the blood sugar issue, but you’re better off having anything with sugar than another swig of alcohol.”
Everyone dreads the morning after a raucous party, and the phrase “I’ll never drink again” may pass your lips in between gushes of regurgitated alcohol, but we all know that’s a damned lie (sorry, liver). You probably don’t remember much of the evening before, but you recall enough to know that you’ll be doing it again soon. Instead of hanging up your shot glasses and joining the temperance movement, learn how to cure a hangover and prepare yourself for next time.