Experts know little about what causes a hangover. Some theories say that alcohol disrupts biological rhythms; others that alcohol withdrawal is the culprit. Research suggests that impurities produced when alcohol is distilled can make you feel nauseous. The sweeter the drink, the higher the level of impurities. Malt liquors and red wine are especially toxic.
That headache? It may come from dehydration — alcohol is a diuretic — and your body’s adjustment to your dropping blood alcohol levels after you’ve stopped drinking.
For now there’s only one surefire way to avoid a hangover: Don’t drink.
And there’s one proven cure: Time. It takes 8 to 24 hours for symptoms to disappear.
In the meantime, try these simple, natural ways to avoid the pain, or to tackle headaches, nausea, and general malaise the day after:
1. Drink water
It’s important to stay hydrated while you’re drinking alcohol. That means drinking plenty of water between cocktails. If you bypass that rule and wake up groggy the next morning, drink up to rehydrate and flush the impurities from your system.
2. Drink other fluids, too
Remember: Water isn’t enough. You need to drink electrolyte-rich fluids, too — like sports drinks, coconut water, or bouillon soup — that can restore the salt and potassium you’ve lost.
3. Consume sugar while you’re drinking
Studies show that fructose may speed alcohol metabolism, thus reducing the risk of a hangover. It’s important to eat sugar while you’re drinking, not before, since fructose metabolises quickly. Try plain orange juice between cocktails.
4. Use a hangover face mask
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5. Fill up the morning after
Eat breakfast. Electrolytes in food help replenish a dehydrated system and get calories back into your body. But go easy. While a greasy meal before drinking may help, a hangover needs foods that are easy to digest, like toast and cereal. Some believe that eating burnt toast will help, with the charred carbon crust filtering out impurities much like a carbon water filter. But there’s no research to back it up.
6. Go back to bed
A hangover isn’t caused by lack of sleep, but that makes it worse. Take a long nap the day after: it’s the body’s way of healing itself.