If you're planning on a big night out for New Year's Eve, dietitian Julie Upton, MS, RD, of Appetite For Health is here to offer five hangover helpers that may help ensure that you'll feel human the next day.
Google "hangover help," and you'll get more than 30 million results, most of which will provide little — if any — help. In fact, a scientific review of the most popular hangover "cures" published in the British Medical Journal reported that the so-called cures like specific foods — including pickled herring, miso soup, Orange Fanta, pills, or powders — provide little (if any!) relief.
Most people who drink will have a hangover at some point. The symptoms associated with a hangover — throbbing headache, nausea, dry mouth, dizziness, and fatigue — are thought to stem from alcohol withdrawal, high acetaldehyde (a byproduct of alcohol metabolism), congeners (a byproduct present in red wines and dark liquors), and low blood sugar. A sobering fact is that abstinence is the only way to 100 percent guarantee that you won't get a hangover. Here are five ways to help prevent or manage a hangover if you have one too many.
Hydrate . . . Then Rehydrate
Alcohol acts as a diuretic, so to help prevent a hangover, staying hydrated is key. Drink plenty of water before, during, and after you drink alcohol. Instead of the 1:1 ratio of an eight-ounce glass of water for every alcoholic beverage, try a 2:1 ratio of water to alcohol. If your mouth feels like the Sahara when you wake up, rehydrate with liquids that provide carbs and electrolytes to get blood volume levels elevated more quickly than water alone and to lift blood sugar levels. Try sports drinks, broth-based soups, fruit or vegetable juices, fruit smoothies, Pedialyte, or coconut water.
Choose the Right Drinks
While all types of alcohol can lead to a hangover, darker drinks like red wine, whiskey, bourbon, and brandy contain congeners that make hangovers more severe. Choose white wine and clear spirits instead. It has also been found that mixing hard liquor with fruit or vegetable juices may provide some protection possibly by offering fructose and glucose. Fructose, which is the main sugar in fruits, vegetables, honey, and agave, has been linked with speedier metabolism of alcohol, which can reduce hangover risk. In addition, alcohol lowers blood sugar levels, so eating simple carbs helps return blood sugar levels to normal.
Take Aspirin or Ibuprofen
An aspirin or ibuprofen (don't take Tylenol, as it's harder on your stomach) can help with your headache and other hard-night-related aches and pains.
Eat Eggs and Toast
While people claim eggs and toast help the body "soak up the alcohol" so you feel better, the fact is eggs are rich in the amino acid cysteine, which may help the liver break down acetaldehyde, the byproduct of alcohol metabolism that makes us feel ill. And toast is carb-rich to help boost blood sugar levels that have plummeted from too much alcohol.
If you have the luxury to do so, the best remedy for a hangover is sleep. Alcohol disrupts sleep and robs you of precious REM sleep time, so you don't feel rested when you wake up. Additional zzz's are just what the doctor ordered.