Greasy food. Pedialyte. That weird supplement your cousin swears by. For as long as humans have been overserved, they’ve been trying to find a miraculous cure for the hangover that follows.
Does any of it actually work?
We asked Stephen Macari, MD, a Hartford HealthCare Medical Group family medicine physician based in Stamford.
Unfortunately, there is no scientifically proven way to cure a hangover.
“We can’t cure hangovers because, by that point, the cat is out of the bag,” says Dr. Macari.
That’s because alcohol wreaks havoc on the body in a number of ways.
For example, alcohol:
- Dehydrates you
- Disrupts your sleep
- Irritates your stomach
- Causes minor withdrawal symptoms in your brain, which can make you feel restless when the alcohol wears off
These are all very different problems. With all of the above in play, no magic pill — not even that IV hydration van parked outside the bar — could possibly cure it all.
The order of your drinks doesn’t actually matter.
“The biggest myth I hear is, ‘Liquor before beer, you’re in the clear,’” says Dr. Macari. “Unfortunately, it goes without saying that rhyming doesn’t equate to good advice.”
A 12-ounce beer, a 1.5-ounce shot of liquor, or 5 ounces of wine all have similar levels of alcohol in them. So when it comes to how much of a hangover they cause, the real question is how many servings you put away — and how quickly.
“If you don’t want to wake up miserable the next day, drink whatever you are in the mood for — but keep it to a minimum,” says Dr. Macari.
> Related: 6 Signs Your Drinking Might Be More Than Just a Habit
While it’s no cure, you can treat hangover symptoms.
Basically, by the time you have a hangover, your options are these: Suffer through it. Or suffer through it with some help.
To make your symptoms more bearable, follow these tips:
- Drink lots of water
- Take an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory for headache pain
- Choose healthy food
- Go back to bed
In sum, the best hangover cure is prevention.
As the saying goes: Everything in moderation — and hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.
“Drink plenty of water while consuming alcohol, and drink in moderation,” says Dr. Macari. “By the time you feel the hangover, the damage has been done. So the best cure is prevention!”
It might not be the answer you wanted. But it’s probably the answer you expected.
Now, time to break the news to your cousin.