Hangover cures: Fact or fiction?
Can vitamin C, a strong coffee or the ‘hair of the dog’ really ease a hangover? Dr Sarah Jarvis tells us which hangover cures may help and which ones to avoid.
While no-one would recommend drinking to excess, chances are we’ve all been there! The symptoms of a hangover are easy to spot – tiredness, thirst, nausea and a pounding headache – and are unpleasant enough to make you desperate for a quick-fix. But does such a thing exist? We've got some further practical ideas in our how to cure a hangover guide, including why you shouldn't add fuel to the fire with more alcohol and the importance of hydration when combatting a hangover's exhausting effects. You could also substantially reduce the effects by fuelling your body with these hearty hangover recipes, all containing ingredients to an inevitable cure and maintain a balanced and healthy lifestyle.
We asked Dr Sarah Jarvis, a medical adviser to Drinkaware, to tell us what makes a hangover worse, what might make it better, and what has no effect at all, including effective hangover myth-busting to clear things up.
1. Does mixing drinks make a hangover worse?
Possibly. Largely because you’re more likely to underestimate your intake and drink more than you think. All alcohol can cause hangovers, but dark drinks (such as port or dark spirits) tend to be the worst offenders because they contain congeners – chemicals which contribute to their taste, colour and aroma, but which break down in the body to form toxic compounds. Mixing drinks means you’re more likely to have drinks containing these types of toxins.
2. Does taking a painkiller before bed help a hangover?
Probably not. Most painkillers only work for a few hours, so their effect is likely to have worn off by the morning.
3. Does eating before bed absorb the alcohol and help your hangover?
No. By the time you get to bed, the alcohol will have left your stomach and been absorbed into your bloodstream, so it’s too late to have any effect on alcohol absorption. Aim to eat before you drink – and drink in moderation – instead.
4. Does a morning drink (‘hair of the dog’) help a hangover?
Categorically not. It may postpone the inevitable hangover, but it’s likely to be worse when you do get it.
5. Does taking vitamin C help a hangover?
No. There is absolutely no evidence for this. The celebrities seen having intravenous infusions of vitamins and minerals to prevent or treat hangovers are kidding themselves!
6. Does coffee help a hangover?
Possibly. Hangovers are caused by a combination of your body having been hit with a dose of toxin (alcohol), the effect of congeners, lack of quality sleep (your body’s sleep rhythm is disturbed) and dehydration. In moderate quantities, coffee may help rehydrate you and raise levels of alertness, but it won’t help with other aspects of your hangover.
What's the best way to cure a hangover?
If you’re looking for a magic fix you’ll be disappointed. While some ‘cures’ may alleviate symptoms like vomiting and headache, they won’t be effective in reducing other hangover symptoms, such as drowsiness and fatigue. Hangover cures with the most benefits are those that inhibit the inflammatory effect of alcohol or speed up how quickly we metabolise it. You can make this happen by following our how to cure a hangover guide, with useful lifestyle and nutritional tips to get you on the mend.
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Despite our best intentions, many of us get carried away every now and then. If you’re feeling a little worse for wear, read our guide on easing the effects of alcohol the morning after.
Kerry Torrens BSc. (Hons) PgCert MBANT is a registered nutritionist with a post graduate diploma in Personalised Nutrition & Nutritional Therapy. She is a member of the British Association for Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine (BANT) and a member of the Guild of Food Writers. Over the last 15 years she has been a contributing author to a number of nutritional and cookery publications including BBC Good Food. Find her on Instagram at @kerry_torrens_nutrition_
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