A fun night out sometimes has an evil morning twin: a throbbing head, a sour stomach, loss of appetite, fatigue, dehydration, vomiting and the impulse to become an aspirin-popping, daytime TV-watching recluse for a good 24 hours — and a mean recluse at that. Yep, we're talking about the phenomenon known as the hangover.
While we certainly don't promote alcohol abuse, we do realize that many light and moderate drinkers tend to overdo it for one reason or another. It happens. Maybe your despotic mother-in-law decided to extend her visit by another two nights. Perhaps you required the liquid courage to conquer the karaoke machine at your office party. Or maybe you just really like the taste of prosecco.
Also, hangovers do tend to feel worse the older we get. Dr. Lara Ray, a professor at University of California who studies alcoholism, believes the change in our body's fat and muscle composition and drinking less frequently as we age contributes to our nasty headaches. "If you haven't gone to a party for two to three weeks, it might be less about being 40 and more about your drinking history," Ray told The New York Times. Ray also noted that the more fat a person has, the more intoxicated they will feel compared to someone with more muscle — typically a younger person.
Whatever the case or age, waking up with the symptoms of a hangover is a yucky reality any time of year. And while we all have our own tried-and-true hangover cures — ranging from greasy pizza with an Alka-Seltzer chaser to "the hair of the dog" in Bloody Mary form to sleep (and lots of it) — there are also numerous natural remedies. We've listed five of the best that will help get hangover sufferers back in tip-top shape in no time, without referring to the medicine cabinet. And speaking of time, allowing yourself to recover is the best way to beat the too-much-Beaujolais blues.
Bananas are a perfect hangover cure. (Photo: jster91 [CC BY 2.0]/Flickr)
When it comes to home hangover remedies, reaching for a humble banana or two is one of the most effective ways to combat a case of the post-Champagne nasties. Excessive alcohol intake can eliminate your body's supply of potassium. Bananas fill you back up with this essential mineral quickly, safely and cheaply. If you anticipate that the morning after is going to be a rough one, place a couple of bananas on your bedside table.
Even though you're filling your body with liquids, boozin' is a surefire way to become uncomfortably dehydrated. We recommend following the "two carafe rule": If you plan on imbibing, keep two carafes of tap water by your bed (alongside those bananas). Drink one before you go to sleep, and drink the other when you wake up the next morning. Many folks drink water only when taking aspirin, ibuprofen or other pain-relieving medicines. We say skip ‘em when treating a hangover, since they can only complicate things and make you feel worse if there's still alcohol in your system. Opt to take B-vitamins instead.
3. Fruit juice
Guzzling fructose- and glucose-heavy fruit juices, particularly freshly squeezed varieties, raises blood-sugar levels and replenishes your body with the essential vitamins depleted during drinking. But if a sour stomach accompanies your raging hangover, it's best to avoid highly acidic beverages. Drink stomach-soothing ginger ale instead. Whatever you do, avoid coffee and other caffeinated beverages. They may make you feel a bit less groggy, but they aren't helpful in conquering hangovers since they're diuretics, which will dehydrate you even more.
This potassium- and antioxidant-rich pantry staple boasts numerous hangover-helping qualities. Ingest it by itself or, better yet, spread it over a piece of dry toast or a cracker, since you do need to eat something during a hangover (even if your appetite tells you otherwise). In fact, the Royal Society of Chemistry believes eating a breakfast of honey on toast is one of the best ways to beat a hangover.
Does the sight of bacon and eggs — edibles that you'd normally scramble toward — make you feel even more nauseated while hungover? If honey on toast and bananas aren't cutting it but you'd rather stay away from grease, opt for soup. Filled with vitamins and nutrients and that familiar "feel-good" taste that warms the senses, eating rehydrating soup is beneficial when battling hangovers. Something as basic as chicken soup can do the trick, but if you're feeling ambitious, try experimenting with traditional "hangover soups" from around the globe, such as pho (Vietnam), haejangguk (Korea), pancita (Mexico) or borscht (Ukraine). It also helps to add a bit of spice to your hangover soup of choice, since sweating eliminate toxins from the body.
Editor's note: This article has been updated since it was originally published in December 2010.