How to Cure a Hangover
After an evening of excessive alcoholic beverages, the splitting headache and muscle cramps are unavoidable for some people. If you couldn't avoid alcohol altogether, for whatever reason, the next best option is to treat those hangover symptoms. But how do you tell a legitimate hangover cure from an old folk's tale?
This article will explain what happens to your brain and body after you drink alcohol, and a few hangover cure options that may help, including Zest Hydration Powder Packs.
What Hangovers Are
After excessive drinking, our bodies are flooded with alcohol. This alcohol consumption leads to a number of symptoms - usually emerging when we awake the next morning - that are grouped together and called a hangover. But the exact cause of a hangover isn't a simple explanation.
Drinking alcohol increases your blood alcohol levels, which is metabolized into acetaldehyde - a toxic substance. Alcohol also interferes with hormones and sleep quality. We also know that alcohol leads to dehydration and a drop in blood sugar levels. All these effects combined create the hangover you experience.
If you are concerned about alcohol dependence or have hangover symptoms that won't go away, contact a medical health professional for help.
High Blood Alcohol Levels
Heavy drinking impacts us all differently. Hangover severity can greatly differ from one person to the next, even after consuming the same alcoholic drink in the same quantity. However, the worse hangover effects usually happen when our blood alcohol levels start to drop.1
Even when there's no alcohol left in your bloodstream, your liver will still be dealing with the effects of alcohol and your hangover may be far from over. Contrary to what you might think, drinking more alcohol isn't the solution - you're just prolonging the inevitable.
Low Blood Sugar
One of the effects of alcohol consumption is low blood sugar. Researchers have documented that alcohol has a negative effect on metabolism, impairing glucose output from the liver and reducing muscle glycogen uptake and storage.2
This potentially explains why hangover cures that replenish sugar (usually through carbohydrate-rich foods) can treat the muscle pains and fatigue that you're feeling.
Alcohol is a diuretic, meaning that it dehydrates you. Add on other symptoms from even worse hangovers, such as vomiting and diarrhea, and you may find that you've lost more hydration than you realize. One small study also found that the more concentrated a beverage (distilled spirits being very strong and concentrated), the more likely you are to be dehydrated.3
Drinking water is the obvious solution. A big glass before you go to sleep is often recommended. However, you could also drink coffee or even pickle juice the next morning to rehydrate.
The best way to rehydrate is by drinking electrolytes (learn more below or read our article Should You Drink Electrolyte Powder Without Stevia? for more). This can go a long way to combatting many of the symptoms listed below.
Common Hangover Symptoms
Hangover symptoms vary from one person to the next. The worst symptoms may crop up when you haven't been eating food, or have lost it to vomiting and/or diarrhea. Replenishing nutrition and fluids is key.
The most common symptoms include:
- A headache or multiple headaches throughout the day,
- Fatigue and tiredness,
- Sensitivity to lights and sounds, as well as general irritability,
- Nausea and an upset stomach or stomach pain,
- Muscle aches and cramps,
- A dry mouth,
- Dizziness or feeling disconnected.
Less common (but still normal) symptoms include:
- A rapid heartbeat,
- Feeling of depression or anxiety,
- Shakiness and jitters.
You can always reach out to a doctor or medical health professional if you're concerned about any of the symptoms you experience.
For most of these minor symptoms, they should naturally decrease over the next 24 hours. Using the hangover solutions below, you may be able to reduce the recovery time more significantly - but of course, it also depends on your tolerance. Some people simply bounce back quicker.
3 Hangover Cure Options
Hangover cures range from consuming more alcohol (the controversial 'hair of the dog') to unusual extracts and exotic cures including prickly pear extract and red ginseng. You can also find over-the-counter medications aimed at hangovers.
Some cures are backed by scientific evidence, while others aren't.
Our three suggested hangover remedy drinks work by soothing the symptoms so you can get on with your day quicker.
Zest Hydrating Electrolyte Powder
Zest Hydrating Electrolyte Powder is your best bet to treat that headache and other dehydration-related hangover symptoms. A morning cup or bottle of water with a stick of this powder will provide electrolytes for rehydration and fast acting relief.
The powder is made with 700mg of electrolytes that enhance cellular absorption, meaning your body holds onto the water you consume rather than flushing it straight through. This keeps your body hydrated for longer.
This is our best hangover cure at Zest, as it also includes a little cane sugar (see carbs below to find out why this is good), B vitamins, and vitamin C. With a lemon lime flavor, it's gentle on your stomach too.
What About Zest Tea?
Caffeine is actually a good idea after a hangover, as it helps fight the grogginess, and amino acid L-Theanine can soothe any stress or anxiety you're feeling in the morning too. However, getting good sleep can be key to minimizing hangover symptoms so we don't recommend drinking Zest Energy Tea late at night to prevent a hangover the next day!
If you want some extra energy with your electrolytes in the morning then take a look at our Energy & Hydration Powder Pack next.
Water and Pain Relievers
While some studies suggest that certain natural remedies could effectively act as a pain reliever, clinical medicine is still incredibly effective as a treatment for reducing that hangover headache.
When you take a pain reliever, you should also consume plenty of water to rehydrate. You could even incorporate Zest's electrolyte powder into the mix. The fluid will rehydrate your body and work to return everything to normal, while the painkiller provides instant relief.
There are several common drugs available, however nonsteroidal anti inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are the only ones you should choose - aspirin and ibuprofen are probably already in your home. If your stomach is feeling a little tender, try to eat some simple food (e.g. toast) with the drugs to prevent further discomfort.
You should avoid any acetaminophen, like Tylenol. As one study noted: "It is considered to be safe when administered within its therapeutic range, but in cases of acute intoxication, hepatotoxicity can occur."4 Put simply, any alcohol that's lingering in your system can exacerbate the toxicity of the drug. If you consumed an excessive amount of alcohol, this could risk damaging your liver.
Drinks are great for combatting symptoms related to dehydration caused by hangovers, but you shouldn't forget to eat some food. One of the key symptoms that hangover cures should target is that drop in blood sugar.
Eating carbohydrate-rich foods replaces any lost glucose. As we explored in our article All About Zest's Fasting Electrolyte Powder, both the brain and your muscles rely heavily on glucose for energy. Replacing the glucose can combat fatigue, muscle complaints, and headaches too.
If your body feels a little too fragile for a large meal, or you're experiencing nausea, keep it simple. A slice of toast or a baked potato will be ideal.
What can I drink to get rid of a hangover?
To negate the hangover symptoms that arise after a night of drinking, try a tall glass of something hydrating like our electrolyte powder. You can also take a painkiller to tackle headaches, and consume something simple to reduce nausea. Whatever you do, don't add more alcohol to the mix! Most scientists agree, 'hair of the dog' is a very bad idea.5
How long does a hangover take to go away?
The length of your hangover symptoms depends on biological factors, as well as how much you drank the night before, how much sleep you managed to get, and how dehydrated you are. You can treat a hangover with plenty of fluids to rehydrate your body. Nonetheless, most hangovers are completely finished within 24 hours.6
What drinks help a hangover?
With 'hair of the dog' firmly out of the question, there are still a large number of cures that you might be tempted by. Herbal remedies, from red ginseng to essential oils, are largely unfounded. Drinking caffeine can help reduce some symptoms too. However, the best drinks for a hangover are ones that enhance hydration and restore glucose, to replace the water and sugar lost after a night of drinking.
Which hangover remedies work?
One small study found that compounds which inhibit prostaglandin synthesis or accelerate alcohol metabolism could prevent hangover symptoms... but more research is needed.7
Most verifiable cures combat hangover symptoms after they're already present, by increasing hydration, replenishing glucose, and providing vitamins, like vitamin C. You should also eat food to reduce fatigue and feed your brain!