Certain foods, supplements, and over-the-counter products can help get rid of a hangover. Some practices may even help prevent you from getting one in the first place.
From pounding headaches to stomach pain, fatigue, and irritability, many of us are all too familiar with the long list of hangover symptoms that often follow a night of heavy drinking.
Although there’s no shortage of purported hangover cures — such as chugging a glass of pickle juice or rubbing a lemon in your armpit before drinking — only a few are backed by science.
Fortunately, there are several ways to relieve symptoms of a hangover, as well as steps you can take to prevent or limit it.
This article looks at 6 easy, evidence-based ways to prevent or relieve a hangover.
1. Avoid drinks with congeners
Through the process of ethanol fermentation, sugars are converted into carbon dioxide and ethanol, also known as alcohol.
Congeners are toxic chemical byproducts that are also formed in small amounts during this process. Different alcoholic beverages contain varying amounts (
Some studies have found that consuming drinks high in congeners could increase the frequency and severity of hangovers. Congeners may also slow the metabolism of alcohol, which can prolong your symptoms (
Drinks that are low in congeners include vodka, gin, and rum (
Meanwhile, tequila, whiskey, and cognac are all high in congeners, with bourbon whiskey containing the most (
In one older study, 95 young adults drank enough vodka or bourbon to reach a breath alcohol concentration of 0.11%. Those drinking high congener bourbon experienced worse hangovers than those drinking low congener vodka (
According to another small study in eight people, higher rates of alcohol elimination could be associated with decreased hangover severity. In other words, the faster your body can process the alcohol you drink, the fewer hangover symptoms you may experience (3).
Choosing drinks that are low in congeners could help speed up the metabolism of alcohol and therefore reduce the incidence and severity of hangovers. However, more recent, high quality studies are still needed.
Choosing drinks that are low in congeners, such as vodka, gin, and rum, could decrease the severity and frequency of hangovers, but more research is needed.
2. Stay hydrated
Drinking alcohol can lead to dehydration in a few different ways.
First, alcohol has a diuretic effect, meaning that it increases the production of urine. This can lead to the loss of fluids and electrolytes that your body needs in order to function properly (
Second, consuming excessive amounts of alcohol can lead to vomiting and diarrhea, causing further loss of fluids and electrolytes (
Although dehydration is not the only cause of a hangover, it contributes to many common hangover symptoms, including increased thirst, fatigue, headache, and dizziness (
As such, increasing your water intake may alleviate some symptoms of hangovers — or potentially even prevent them altogether.
When drinking alcohol, a good rule is to alternate between a glass of water and an alcoholic drink. Though this won’t necessarily prevent dehydration, it can help you moderate your alcohol intake.
Stay hydrated throughout the following day by drinking water whenever you feel thirsty.
Drinking alcohol can cause dehydration, which may worsen certain hangover symptoms. Staying hydrated could reduce hangover symptoms such as thirst, fatigue, headache, and dizziness.
3. Get plenty of sleep
Alcohol can cause sleep disturbances and may be associated with decreased sleep quality and duration for some people (
Though low to moderate amounts of alcohol may initially promote sleep, studies show that higher amounts and chronic use can disrupt sleep patterns (
While a lack of sleep doesn’t cause a hangover, it can make one worse. Symptoms such as fatigue, headaches, and irritability can become worse as a result of a lack of sleep (
Getting a good night’s sleep and allowing your body to recover may alleviate your symptoms and make a hangover more bearable.
Alcohol consumption may interfere with your sleep. A lack of sleep could then contribute to hangover symptoms such as fatigue, irritability, and headaches.
4. Eat a good breakfast
Eating a hearty breakfast is one of the most well-known remedies for a hangover.
One reason is that a good breakfast can help you maintain steady blood sugar levels. Although low blood sugar levels are not necessarily the cause of a hangover, they’re often associated with it (
Low blood sugar could also worsen certain hangover symptoms, including nausea, fatigue, and weakness (
In fact, some research suggests that maintaining adequate blood sugar levels could mitigate some of the bodily changes that occur with alcohol consumption, such as the buildup of acid in the blood (
Excessive drinking can throw off the balance of the chemicals in your blood and cause metabolic acidosis, which is characterized by increased acidity. It’s often associated with symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and fatigue (
In addition to helping reduce certain hangover symptoms, eating a healthy breakfast can provide important vitamins and minerals that may become depleted with excessive alcohol intake.
Though studies evaluating the effects of specific foods on hangover symptoms are limited, some studies suggest that L-cysteine — a type of amino acid found in eggs, yogurt, and oats — may be beneficial (
Eating more zinc-rich foods — such as nuts, seeds, eggs, dairy products, and whole grains — may also be associated with decreased hangover severity (
Eating a good breakfast can help maintain your blood sugar levels, provide important vitamins and minerals, and reduce the symptoms of a hangover.
5. Try certain supplements
Though research is limited, some studies suggest that certain supplements could ease a hangover.
The following supplements have been researched for their ability to reduce hangover symptoms:
- Red ginseng. One older study found that supplementing with red ginseng reduced blood alcohol levels and hangover severity (
- Prickly pear. Some research suggests that this type of cactus could help treat hangovers. A 2004 study found that prickly pear extract decreased hangover symptoms. It even halved the risk of experiencing severe symptoms (
- Ginger. An older study found that a ginger, brown sugar, and tangerine extract improved certain hangover symptoms. According to test-tube and animal studies, compounds found in ginger may also protect against alcohol-induced liver damage (
17, 18, 19).
- Borage oil. One study found that a supplement containing both prickly pear and borage oil, an oil derived from the seeds of starflower, reduced hangover symptoms in 88% of participants (
- Eleuthero. One study found that supplementing with eleuthero extract — also known as Siberian ginseng — alleviated several hangover symptoms and decreased the overall severity (
Keep in mind, though, that research in humans is lacking and that most available studies are outdated. Therefore, further studies are needed to evaluate how effectively supplements may reduce hangover symptoms.
Some supplements, including red ginseng, prickly pear, ginger, borage oil, and eleuthero, have been studied for their ability to decrease hangover symptoms. Still, more research is needed.
6. Take a pain reliever
Over-the-counter pain medications, including nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), could help relieve certain symptoms associated with hangovers.
In fact, NSAIDs such as ibuprofen and aspirin are often used to reduce pain and treat issues that frequently accompany hangovers, such as headaches and muscle aches (
What’s more, one small study found that a medication made with a type of NSAID called naproxen and a type of antihistamine called fexofenadine significantly reduced hangover severity compared with placebo (
However, you should not use these medications if you’re experiencing symptoms such as nausea or stomach pain, because they could irritate your digestive system and worsen your symptoms (
Additionally, keep in mind that pain relievers containing acetaminophen, such as Tylenol, could increase the risk of liver damage when combined with alcohol. Do not use these to treat a hangover (
NSAIDs may help treat certain hangover symptoms and could reduce the severity. However, never use acetaminophen to treat a hangover, and avoid NSAIDs if you’re experiencing digestive symptoms such as nausea or stomach pain.
While there are many well-known hangover cures out there, few are backed by science.
Still, there are several evidence-based ways to avoid or limit the unpleasant symptoms that typically follow a night of drinking.
Strategies include staying hydrated, getting plenty of sleep, eating a good breakfast, drinking in moderation, limiting high congener drinks, and taking certain supplements or medications.
Just one thing
Try this today: Pairing alcohol with a hearty meal and plenty of water is a great way to moderate your alcohol consumption. It can also help you stay hydrated and increase your intake of vitamins and minerals to help prevent or limit a hangover.