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Can you cure a hangover?
If you’ve woken up with a pounding headache, dry mouth, dizziness and nausea after a night of festive drinking, this question may have crossed your mind.
Commonly-known emergency hangover cures may sound tempting, but none are scientifically proven to work.
For example, ‘hair of the dog’, otherwise known as drinking more alcohol, is often called a hangover cure. In reality, it isn’t. Rather than curing a hangover, it can simply delay the appearance of symptoms until the alcohol wears off again. Turning to more alcohol when you’re hungover can also encourage unhealthy habits and alcohol dependence.
So, if hair of the dog doesn’t work then what, if anything, does?
There are no miracle hangover cures, but there are things you can do to avoid a hangover and minimise the effects of drinking.
Here are 4 scientifically-backed ways of avoiding or treating a hangover this Christmas season.
Alcohol makes you pee more, which can lead to dehydration. It’s dehydration that causes many hangover symptoms, such as:
That’s why a potentially effective way of reducing hangover symptoms is to increase your water intake while drinking. A good rule of thumb is to follow every alcoholic drink with a glass of water.
Congeners are toxic chemical by-products that are formed in small amounts during the production of alcohol. Different alcoholic drinks contain different amounts of congeners, but research suggests that consuming drinks with a high amount of congeners can make a hangover worse. This may be because congeners irritate blood vessels and tissues in the brain.
Clear alcoholic drinks such as vodka, gin and white rum contain a low amount of congeners, while tequila, whiskey and cognac are all high in congeners. If you’re sensitive to dark-coloured alcoholic drinks, avoid them to reduce your risk of a bad hangover.
Avoid drinking on an empty stomach as this may speed up how quickly your body absorbs alcohol. Instead, have a meal that includes carbohydrates or fats before drinking alcohol. The food will help slow down the body's absorption of alcohol.
Eating a nutritious and balanced breakfast after a night of drinking may also help a hangover by helping to stabilise your blood sugar levels. Low blood sugar levels are often associated with a hangover and may make you feel worse.
As the severity of a hangover is directly related to how much you have drunk, the easiest way to avoid a hangover is to drink less alcohol. Studies have found that to develop a hangover your blood alcohol must rise to a concentration of 0.11 to 0.12%. Keep your alcohol consumption low and you can avoid the unpleasant effects of a hangover.
Current guidelines recommend that men and women should not drink more than 14 units of alcohol a week. You should spread your drinking over 3 or more days and try to have several drink-free days each week.
*These are just a few ways to improve or prevent a hangover after a night of drinking this Christmas season. But it’s important to remember that while a hangover can feel terrible, it isn’t the only negative consequence of excessive drinking. The best way to minimise the health risks associated with drinking too much alcohol is to drink moderately. Take a look at this article to discover how much alcohol is too much.
Important: Our website provides useful information but is not a substitute for medical advice. You should always seek the advice of your doctor when making decisions about your health.