The morning after a night of drinking can be absolutely miserable. Everything hurts, your head is pounding, and your stomach is queasy. A lot of us have been there, and want nothing other than to stay in bed and sleep it off.
These are symptoms of a hangover and can vary significantly from person to person. Unfortunately, there are no proven cures for hangovers, but there are a number of foods and drinks that may help alleviate the symptoms.
If you're reading this with a headache after a night of drinking, try some of these foods to help ease yourself back into reality...
1. Toast With Honey
Let's start with something that’s easy on the stomach, a simple piece of toast with honey.
The carbohydrates found in toast and honey not only give the body a quick source of energy but they're also fairly easy for us to digest.
What's more, the glucose found in honey can provide you with an added boost of fuel you need to get back on your feet and it can also help raise blood sugar levels. Why is this important? Overconsumption of alcohol lowers blood sugar levels, which contributes to a variety of hangover symptoms, such as a headache, dizziness, and fatigue.
If you’re feeling up for it, try adding a banana to your breakfast. Because alcohol acts as a diuretic, which stimulates the excretion of fluids in the body (making you pee more), you’ll be low on potassium. This essential mineral can be depleted when one takes a diuretic.
Bananas are high in potassium and magnesium, so they may be able to restore your body's potassium levels and help any muscle or stomach aches you may be experiencing.
3. Dandelion Tea
On a similar note, another way to replenish potassium is through drinking a cup of tea infused with dandelion leaves. Dandelion leaves are rich in potassium and also act as a diuretic. This may sound counterintuitive since you're trying to replenish the potassium that may have left your body from drinking alcohol, but dandelion tea can be more helpful than you might think.
While most other diuretics deplete the body’s stores of potassium, dandelion provides the body with more potassium while also helping to flush fluids out of the body. It also strengthens and supports the body's natural detoxification functions, such as the kidneys and liver. Both of which will be weakened by having to process alcohol.
The main goal when hungover is to drink as many fluids as you can and flush the toxins (alcohol) out of your body. Dandelion will not only help you do this but also provide you with vitamins and minerals, such as potassium, that your body needs to recover.
One of the best things you can eat to help alleviate the symptoms of a hangover is eggs. This is because, in addition to containing nearly every vitamin and mineral our bodies need to function, they also contain the amino acid L-cysteine. Studies have confirmed that L-cysteine can help improve and even prevent hangover symptoms, including headaches, anxiety, and nausea. It’s able to alleviate these symptoms because it helps break down acetaldehyde, which is alcohol's metabolite. In fact, acetaldehyde is a top contributor to hangover symptoms, along with low blood sugar, dehydration, and sleep deprivation.
If you aren't a fan of eggs, here are some other foods that contain L-cysteine that you can try:
- Sunflower seeds
Not only is oatmeal easy on a queasy stomach, but it’s also packed with nutrients that are depleted after a night of heavy drinking. Oats are high in B-vitamins, as well as calcium, magnesium, and iron.
They are also a good source of soluble fiber, which can help ease an inflamed and irritated digestive system caused by drinking. Alcohol can cause significant inflammation in the digestive system, so eating oats, along with other inflammatory modulating foods, can help ease inflammation.
Try adding these toppings to your oatmeal to help further alleviate hangover symptoms such as fatigue and inflammation:
- Honey (to raise blood sugar levels).
- Blueberries and/or strawberries (for their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties).
- Ground flaxseed (rich in omega-3, omega-6, and soluble fiber).
6. Dark Leafy Greens
Dark leafy greens such as spinach, kale, chard, and beet greens can be great for helping the body recover from a hangover. This is because they are one of the best natural sources of vitamins, amino acids, and fiber—all of which your body may be craving after a night of heavy drinking.
Where dark leafy greens really shine when a hangover strikes is when it comes to the micronutrients they contain. Being rich in potassium and magnesium means they can replenish levels that were depleted from drinking.
Dark leafy greens like spinach are also one of the most versatile foods on this list. From smoothies to salads, you can eat them in a ton of different forms to help recover.
7. Coconut Water
Hydrating is essential when hungover. Many become dehydrated after drinking because alcohol is a diuretic, and they’re probably not drinking any water with their alcoholic beverage. Being dehydrated greatly contributes to the symptoms of a hangover, including headaches, upset stomach, fatigue, and overall discomfort.
Several studies have shown that coconut water may even be better at hydrating you than drinking water. This is due to the fact that coconut water is packed with electrolytes such as potassium, magnesium, sodium, and calcium.
What's more, the high vitamin C content in oranges can also keep the body's glutathione levels stable. This is important because glutathione decreases after drinking alcohol, yet it plays an important role in the detoxification of ethanol.
Making a smoothie might be the last thing on your mind when you're hungover. That being said, it could be the best way to jumpstart your recovery. The reason being is simple—many of the foods we covered above can be incorporated into a delicious (and nutritious) smoothie. Not only that, but a smoothie packed with the right fruits and vegetables is a great way to rehydrate and receive high amounts of vitamins and minerals.
Here’s an example of what you could include in your smoothie to help your hangover:
- Coconut water for its electrolytes
- Yogurt for its L-cysteine and probiotic properties
- Banana for its potassium and magnesium
- Blueberries for their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties
- Strawberries for their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties
- Dark leafy greens (such as spinach, chard, and/or kale) for their high amount of minerals, vitamins, and fiber
- Oranges for its vitamin C content
- Ground flaxseed because it's rich in omega-3s, omega-6s, and soluble fiber (anti-inflammatory)
Combining everything into a smoothie could be your ticket to a smooth hangover recovery. However, with hindsight being 20/20, the best course of action when it comes to a hangover is to prevent it in the first place.
How To Prevent A Severe Hangover
One of the best ways to treat a hangover is to prevent it from becoming severe in the first place. The most obvious way is to always drink in moderation.
However, for those who are sensitive to the effects of alcohol, even that might not even be enough. The most important way to take care of yourself while imbibing is to drink plenty of water as well as eat before and while you’re drinking. Doing so regulates the amount of alcohol your body needs to process so it doesn't get "overloaded".
Drinking on an empty stomach will worsen symptoms of a hangover, as there isn’t any food to slow the rate of absorption. By drinking plenty of water while drinking, you’ll help prevent yourself from being dehydrated the next morning. This can significantly decrease hangover symptoms.
It’s also important to get as much sleep as possible. This can be extra hard after a night of drinking because alcohol has been shown to disturb the sleep cycle and even lead to sleep apnea. Hangover symptoms can be further exasperated when one doesn’t receive an adequate amount of sleep.
"Hair Of The Dog" Won’t Help
There’s this common myth that to relieve a hangover you should drink more alcohol, called "hair of the dog". While that may provide temporary relief, it will only prolong the experience.
It’s simple when you think about the science behind why one’s body is responding the way it is. Alcohol, more specifically the metabolite acetaldehyde, is toxic to the body and is fatal in large amounts (i.e. alcohol poisoning). Part of the discomfort one feels after a night of drinking is a result of this metabolite, and so the main object in relieving symptoms is to flush the toxicity out of one’s body and to slow the rate of absorption.
The other factors that contribute to feeling miserable are dehydration, sleep deprivation, irritated gastrointestinal system, and inflammation.
By drinking more alcohol, you’ll only be adding more for your body to process, which results in having prolonged (and possibly even worse) hangover symptoms later on.
Take Care Of Yourself
If you’re currently dealing with a hangover, congratulations on having the motivation to read this article to the end! Also, the best thing you can do is to take care of yourself physically and mentally. Take it easy, rest as much as you can, and know that this experience will pass. Along with the physical symptoms of a hangover, it’s also normal to feel depressed, anxious, irritable, and stressed.
Falling into a pit of these emotions can make the hangover that much worse, so I encourage you to get outside, breathe some fresh air, eat nutritious foods, and keep hydrated.
It’s also important to consider the effect of alcohol on one’s body. If you notice hangovers are a regular occurrence, it may be time to evaluate why that is and to make some lifestyle adjustments.
What Works For You?
There isn’t nearly enough research on the subject of hangovers to have a firm grasp on what truly alleviates symptoms. Hopefully, though, this will change in the coming years.
That’s why we want to hear from you. What’s your main go-to food or drink after a night of indulgence? What do you do before or after to help yourself? Let us know in the comments below!