Last Updated on April 11, 2023
So, you had a night out and lost track of the drinks; now you’re not at your best, possibly feeling nauseous and fatigued. Headaches, as well as sensitivity to sound and light, are all there to top it off — you’re hungover.
Well, we have good news and bad news. The bad news is that there isn’t a scientifically proven way to cure a hangover other than resting it out. The good news is that you might be able to relieve the symptoms by giving your body what it needs.
Let’s talk about hangovers in more detail and share what we know about them. Then, you can try some of the 20 foods to remedy your hangover and make your day more tolerable after a wild night out.
What is a Hangover?
Other than that it’s Murphy’s law on all the good and fun things being bad for us, we don’t have much in the way of hangover science. Some have tried to pin it down, but in the end, it’s inconclusive.
In a nutshell, a hangover can be the result of dehydration from excessive alcohol intake. While that is mostly true, dehydration isn’t the only reason for hangovers. That’s why only rehydrating might not fix all the problems when you’re hungover.
Ultimately, the best way to cure a hangover is to prevent it. Useless advice if you’re already dealing with a horrible headache — we know — but this might be useful for the next time. And then, we’ll talk about the one hangover cure supported by experience — a healthy meal.
How to Prevent a Hangover?
1. Eat Carbs and Fats Before Drinking
Eating fatty foods and carbs before you start drinking significantly reduces the impact of alcohol on your body the next day. They also make it harder for you to get drunk by slowing down the absorption of alcohol in your stomach and keeping your blood sugar high.
This is also because it gives your body more time to process the alcohol and the unwanted byproducts that arise from it. So, don’t drink on an empty stomach, and have a hamburger or some pasta before you hit the bar.
2. Drink Water
Water can’t give you a ride home, but apart from that, it should be your best friend before, during, and after drinking alcohol. That’s because alcohol gets you dehydrated, no matter what form you take it in. When you’re dehydrated, the healthy water ratio in your brain goes down, which causes your brain to shrink, literally. Unsurprisingly, this causes headaches.
Even though not all the hangover symptoms are related to dehydration, keeping hydrated will help immensely. You might be visiting the loo more frequently than usual throughout the night, but it’s better than the lurking headache that’ll surely arise in the morning.
3. Take Aspirin Before Bed
Aspirin inhibits the release of a chemical called prostaglandin, which is a contributor to hangover symptoms. Some other over-the-counter drugs, such as Acetaminophen — also known as Tylenol — also do the same job, but they are very harsh on your liver, which would already be pretty tired after filtering the alcohol from your blood throughout the night. So, it’s a good idea to go easy on it the next day.
Now that we’ve established some good drinking habits, we can move on to what to eat to relieve the symptoms of a wild night out.
Foods That Cure Hangover
Eggs contain copious amounts of cysteine, an amino acid that your body needs to break down alcohol molecules. Drinking lots of booze can deplete your body’s cysteine stores, and without it, your body can’t break down the toxic byproducts of alcohol as efficiently as usual.
Eating a hard-boiled egg or an omelet with some leafy greens is a great way to start giving your body what it needs to recover from alcohol intoxication.
As you get tipsy, alcohol halts the production of certain hormones that are important to keep water in your body. In other words, it dehydrates you. But when you’re dehydrated, the only thing you lose isn’t the water in your body — you also lose certain electrolytes, such as sodium, magnesium, and potassium. When that happens, you need to restore the water balance, as well as the nutrients your body needs.
It’s widely known that bananas contain potassium, which is an essential chemical for several cognitive and physical functions. If you lack potassium, you may feel a bit off. By having a banana, you can help your body replenish the potassium that your body and brain need to function properly.
Bananas are famous for their rich potassium content, but an avocado contains even more potassium than a banana. Moreover, avocados contain nutrients that help your liver to function optimally. Since excessive alcohol intake puts pressure on the liver, avocados may be especially helpful for you to go about your day.
4. Fruit Juices
Fructose is fruit sugar and a great source of instant energy. When you pump up your sugar intake, you can increase your body’s rate of processing alcohol and excreting toxins, which might help you get on your feet faster.
While you can also intake other forms of sugar, a glass of fruit juice is preferable over, let’s say, a glass of coke, since your body will also feel better with the vitamins and minerals you take with natural fruits.
5. Leafy Greens
When is it not healthy to eat more leafy greens? Arugula, spinach, and kale are all packed with fibers, vitamin C, iron, and other nutrients that’ll help you get through the day without upsetting your stomach. For the most vitamin C intake, consider eating them raw. You can work up a salad or mix a smoothie with some kefir, spinach, banana, and avocado.
Watermelon is full of fructose, water, and a nutrient called L-citrulline — a molecule that increases blood flow. Because some of the symptoms associated with hangovers stem from dehydration and, in turn, decrease the water ratio in the brain and throughout the body, L-citrulline can help by increasing blood flow to replace certain elements throughout your body faster.
Honey is another fructose source that can help you with a hangover. Although limited, this study shows that intake of honey increases the elimination of alcohol by up to 32.4% in adult men. You can add a spoonful of honey to a glass of warm green tea, in a fruit smoothie, or top some crackers with honey. However, skip the butter, as fat can slow down the processing of alcohol rate, which we’ll talk about in detail down below.
8. Tomato Juice
An exhausted liver is one of the major problems associated with excessive alcohol intake. Even if you have a perfectly healthy liver, tomato juice is still healthy for the long-term health of your liver, even if it doesn’t do any good for your immediate hangover.
Additionally, tomatoes are known to contain naringenin, a component that protects your liver, prevents inflammation, and helps it to function optimally. So, drinking some tomato juice or some tomato soup on a day of a hangover can smooth the way for your liver by relieving inflammation-related symptoms, as well as helping you maintain a healthy liver in the long term.
When hungover, you’re likely missing electrolytes and other crucial elements, as we’ve ascertained. In their absence, you’ll experience a range of symptoms, from overheating, fatigue, and headaches to nausea and vomiting.
Aside from the many health benefits of fermented food, pickles are also a rich source of sodium, which is an electrolyte that you need to restore after excessive drinking. While the sodium content may vary from brand to brand, you can have a few pickles and drink some of the brine to replenish your precious electrolytes.
Just like potassium and electrolytes, magnesium is a nutrient that “goes missing” in the case of excessive drinking. The absence of magnesium, in particular, causes some serious symptoms parallel with the nasty hangover. Just like bananas and avocados, nuts can also relieve your hangover symptoms, thanks to the high levels of magnesium they contain.
One of the causes of fatigue and nausea during a hangover is low blood sugar. When your liver is processing the booze, it cannot regulate the blood sugar as efficiently — especially if you have diabetes.
Crackers contain fast-acting carbs that’ll increase your blood sugar on the spot. This may help relieve some of the symptoms of a hangover, as well as give you energy while being gentle on your stomach.
However, you should be careful when intaking fast-acting carbs, as they can increase your blood sugar quickly but then make it plummet just as fast. For that reason, they can give you relief in the short run but worsen the symptoms in the long run. So, opt for crackers only if the ongoing symptoms are very bad.
In the search for a sustainable blood sugar increase as opposed to a momentary one, oatmeal comes to your aid. The complex carbohydrates it contains ensure a slow and steady blood sugar increase that doesn’t throw you off a cliff within an hour and leave you with sugar withdrawal on top of your hangover. Consequently, by increasing your blood sugar in a healthy manner, you can ease the feelings of fatigue and brighten your mood by increasing the release of serotonin.
We know that alcohol prevents some amino acids from being absorbed in our small intestines, which are the building blocks of protein. Amino acids also help your liver flush toxins such as alcohol and its byproducts. The toxins arise from your body processing the booze. Therefore, eating some protein-packed meals like turkey, chicken, steak, or a bacon sandwich may be a good choice to put back what your body has been deprived of.
What you lose after a night of drinking is not limited to electrolytes, magnesium, and potassium. A group of vitamins, including B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B7, B9, and B12, also decline with excessive alcohol consumption, and they are crucial for your metabolism and digestion.
If you woke up feeling like a wreck after a fun night out, water is not the only thing you need. You need to restore this whole vitamin B family. One of the richest sources of these vitamins — that also happens to be packed with protein — is salmon, which you can easily cook in a pan over your stove top for 10 minutes and enjoy a quick, hearty meal.
Ginger is known for being an excellent remedy for nausea. Even though it won’t cure your hangover, it can help with some symptoms.
If you’re suffering from an upset stomach after drinking a bit too much, chewing on a piece of ginger can help to ease your stomach. If that’s too intense for your taste, try putting a few pieces in hot water to make ginger tea or mixing up some smoothies with oatmeal, ginger, and a banana.
16. Green Tea
Research shows that components in green tea reduce alcohol concentration in the blood of lab mice. Although there isn’t any research done on humans yet, the result from mice might apply to us too. If it does, it’ll help your body get rid of the alcohol it has been trying to process throughout the night. Ultimately, even if it doesn’t help you, you can always go for a glass of green tea!
17. Sports Drinks
To replenish yourself from a hangover, intaking a good amount of electrolytes is a very good idea. You can do it with bananas, avocados, nuts, and fruit juices, as we suggested. However, if you’re not a picky consumer, or if you don’t have immediate access to fruit, a faster way to rehydrate yourself is to drink a bottle of sports water or an electrolyte-enhanced beverage. It’s advised to do so as soon as you wake up or before you go to bed for maximum efficiency.
18. Hovenia Dulcis
While we said that there’s no scientifically proven cure for hangovers, there’s a plant that has been the subject of numerous studies recently. Hovenia Dulcis, also known as the Japanese raisin tree, is a fruit tree native to South Asia.
Studies show that the fruit from the tree can be used to treat hangover symptoms like nausea, dizziness, headache, and weakness, as well as treat liver diseases.
It basically helps the body to get rid of alcohol faster, so it can reduce your drunkness and help you recover from a hangover faster. You can eat the fruits of the tree fresh, but they might not be readily available where you are. If that’s the case, you can also consume some dried Hovenia Dulcis or make tea out of the dried fruits.
What Not to Have When You Have a Hangover
Drinking more alcohol to ease the symptoms of a hangover is a popular urban myth — colloquially known as the hair of the dog. You might actually feel better if you crack open a beer when you’re hungover, but it’s not because you’re cured. It’s because you’re simply postponing the effects of your hangover to the future when you’ll probably have an even worse one.
Drinking more alcohol in the morning of a hangover will make you numb to the symptoms, which is, in fact, very dangerous. If you don’t address the dehydration, you might cause permanent damage to your body.
Coffee might be your go-to mood elevator when you feel less than shiny, but drinking coffee isn’t advised when you’re hungover. That’s because coffee is a diuretic that makes you urinate more often than you would without it. Obviously, it’s counterproductive to drink coffee while you should be rehydrating your body.
However, if you are a regular coffee drinker, caffeine withdrawal can worsen hangover symptoms. In that case, drinking only enough to prevent coffee withdrawal symptoms can be a good idea.
Cheese and Other Fatty Foods
When you’re dealing with a hangover, your body fights to replace the components it has lost due to dehydration and getting rid of toxins like alcohol and its byproducts. Unfortunately, fats and alcohol are broken down by the same metabolic pathway. This means a fatty sandwich or a juicy pizza won’t be properly digested while your body is still dealing with filtering alcohol, which will eventually make you feel worse.
Over and Out!
Unfortunately, there’s no known cure for a hangover that’ll give you instant relief. The most effective way of curing a hangover is to rest it out for 12 hours after you wake up or to prevent it altogether.
However, in the meantime, you can give these foods a try to relieve your symptoms. But remember, hangover symptoms vary from person to person. So, combining different foods in this list can be a good idea to address more than one cause.
Whatever you do, drink lots of liquids, and don’t deprive your body of the nutrients it needs to heal from alcohol intoxication. For more inspiration on what to have, check out 20 easy, everyday breakfast ideas.