Your head is pounding, the room is spinning, and the thought of a boozy brunch instantly makes you nauseous? Yep, sounds like one doozy of a hangover.
While the internet is flooded with cures and quick-trick hangover remedies from IV drips to giant greasy cheeseburgers, if you actually have a hangover, you're probably not in the mood for experiments, especially when it comes to eating and drinking. To aid in your relief, nutritionist Keri Glassman, MS, RD, CDN, shares her take on the hangover remedies that are actually worth trying.
What Causes a Hangover?
The short answer? One too many drinks. The long, science-y answer? Acetaldehyde, or the byproduct of alcohol breaking down in your body, and dehydration, Glassman explains. "Alcohol is a diuretic, meaning that it inhibits the pituitary gland from secreting vasopressin (antidiuretic hormone), which then causes the kidneys to reabsorb less water, and instead excrete it out of the body," Glassman says. Meaning, when you drink, you'll pee more often, causing dehydration.
"This loss of water also causes an electrolyte imbalance," Glassman explains. Electrolytes (including sodium, calcium, potassium, chloride, phosphate, and magnesium) are minerals found in your body tissues and fluids. They're responsible for balancing the amount of water in your body, moving nutrients into your cells, helping your cells excrete waste, and leveling out your body's pH.
This combination of dehydration and electrolyte imbalance is the culprit behind not only your headaches but also the shakiness, fatigue, dizziness, and even muscle spasms. "Alcohol can also have an inflammatory effect on your stomach lining and digestive system, which is a common cause of nausea and upset stomach," she adds.
Five Hangover Remedies
Unfortunately, there's no magic elixir that will erase all of your hangover symptoms in seconds. However, these food and drink hangover remedies could give you a leg up in recovery.
Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate
"Some of your headache-y, weak, nausea symptoms are caused by dehydration, so you can help alleviate them by throwing back more fluids," Glassman says. Drink H2O or coconut water, which can help replenish your electrolytes since it's high in the electrolyte potassium. Or follow Glassman's recipe and make yourself a DIY sports drink by mixing water, freshly squeezed juice, a pinch of sea salt, and honey.
Add a Banana to Your Breakfast
"[Bananas] are high in the electrolyte potassium and are also a good idea if you're suffering from an upset stomach," Glassman says, because bananas are easy to digest for most people. Double down on this hangover remedy by blending a banana with an electrolyte beverage. "A coconut water and banana smoothie is a good way to wake up post partying," she says.
Try Ginger Water
Sick to your stomach? Ginger can aid in reducing nausea. Glassman suggests slicing a fresh ginger root and adding it to your water.
Pass on the Hair of the Dog Drink
You've likely heard that Hair of the Dog — aka drinking more alcohol the next day to curb your hangover — is the ultimate hangover remedy. Sadly, it's too good to be true.
"That whole 'Hair of the Dog' thing is a big myth," Glassman says. It might make you feel better in the moment, but if anything, drinking more alcohol will simply delay your hangover. If you do want to have a special beverage at brunch, reach for a virgin Bloody Mary. "The vitamin C found in tomato juice is a potent antioxidant that can help your body fight the free radicals that are produced as your body detoxifies itself from alcohol," Glassman says.
Before you order that everything bagel with veggie cream cheese and a very large coffee, consider trying this tip from Glassman: "Your liver works in overdrive to neutralize the toxin acetaldehyde using an amino acid called l-cysteine," she explains. "Give your liver a hand by having eggs for breakfast, which are a source of l-cysteine."
- Additional reporting by Angelica Wilson