How Nutritionists Prevent and Cure Hangovers
There’s no real cure, but you can manage the symptoms with a few tips and tricks.
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Here's How to Help "Cure" Your Hangover
How many times have you tried to prevent a hangover? What about cure it? Although a true cure for an all-out night of binge drinking doesn’t exist, there are things you can do to minimize your hangover symptoms and help with quicker recovery. We asked registered dietitians from around the country what they do to prevent and help cure a hangover. Here are their top tips.
Eat Before Drinking
"I often see people, especially women, try to eat less when they’re drinking, in hopes to manage calories. This just ends badly," says Rosanne Rust, MS RDN LDN, fact-finding blogger and author of Chew the Facts. Rust explains that once too tipsy, you can’t backtrack with food, and your hangover will be worse. "I always make sure I eat a high-protein lunch or eat something before I go to the party. Once I’m there, I go straight to the food table and fill a small plate. I enjoy my snacks while I mingle into the room and say my hellos and then I head to the bar for my first cocktail."
Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, Malina Malkani, MS, RDN, CDN, Media Spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and author of Simple & Safe Baby-Led Weaning says, "There is no known cure for a hangover, although it is possible (and advised!) to prevent and reduce some of the symptoms. Making sure to eat a well-balanced meal before drinking alcohol is one of the best ways to reduce the likelihood and severity of a hangover, because it helps to slow the rate of absorption of alcohol into the system."
Prepare Hangover Beverages
"Hangovers happen actually because alcohol is toxic to the body, so the effects we get from over-imbibing indicate we need to support our body in a variety of ways: hydrate, sleep and get some nutrients in that support the liver," explains Seattle-based registered dietitian Ginger Hultin, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and owner of ChampagneNutrition. Although Hultin says that time is the only real cure, there are some hangover beverages (containing electrolytes like sodium and potassium) that she feels actually helps quite a bit. One contains equal parts plain water, unsweetened coconut water and a sports drink (1/3 of each). A second beverage is a blend of milk (dairy or non-dairy) with a frozen banana and some ice cubes for a frothy, hydrating drink to sip on.
Get Your Potassium
Ashley Koff, RD CEO of The Better Nutrition Program and author of Hangovers: Prevention + Cures Guide says, "Hydration isn’t just about water. Potassium is needed to bring water into the cells." Koff recommends breakfast foods like potatoes, avocado on toast, and coconut water.
Water, Water, Water
"Preventing a hangover is all about preparation, and that starts with drinking water," notes Lisa Bruno, MS, RD at Work it Out. "Alcohol is a diuretic; ensuring you are properly hydrated prior to imbibing is key." Bruno says to strive to hit 64 fluid ounces during the day and then during the party, happy hour or wherever you’re consuming alcohol. Rotate one glass of water for every cocktail.
Think Before You Drink
"I love a good party, but not the way I feel if I've had too much to drink," shares Lisa Andrews, owner of Sound Bites Nutrition, LLC. To prevent a hangover Andrews says, "I think about how I feel if I have one versus two drinks versus more. I visualize the headache, dark circles under my eyes, dry skin, rosacea flare and the bad mood I'll experience the day after." Using mindful drinking techniques can help with the moderation. At the party, Andrews says she sips wine instead of gulping and brings seltzer water with her to parties to limit the number of cocktails.
Eat Some Ginger Before Bed
Heidi Moretti, MS, RD of The Healthy RD says, "One reason people feel hangover symptoms is the poor quality of sleep that comes with drinking alcohol." As such, Moretti adds some ginger root in her drink. She sips on ginger tea or has some crystallized ginger before bed to help calm her stomach. "It really reduces the heartburn of alcohol for me! This, in turn, reduces the chances of hangover."
Don’t Mix Types of Alcohol
In order to prevent a hangover, Carolyn O’Neil MS, RDN author of The Dish on Eating Healthy and Being Fabulous! and blogger at The Happy Healthy Kitchen recommends not mixing types of alcohol. "I find that if I drink vodka martinis, then wine, it’s a recipe for a hangover. But, of course it always depends on how much you drink of either!" Whether you start with wine or cocktails, stick with that and don’t mix your types of alcohol.
Trick Yourself into Drinking Water
"My favorite new way to trick myself is, when I have a little left in my martini glass, I add water to enjoy the flavors of what’s left. People think I’m still drinking a martini and it starts the hydration process, plus it’s cheaper than ordering another martini!" explains O’Neil. "I also add ice to white wine, which I like and it dilutes it a bit."
Take Electrolyte Tablets
"Since alcohol is a diuretic, many times a hangover is due to dehydration," says Melissa Majumdar, MS, RD, CSOWM, LDN Metabolic and Bariatric Coordinator at Emory University Hospital Midtown. "I'll take some electrolyte tabs, the kind that may be used for hydration during prolonged exercise, and add to my water before, during and after enjoying alcoholic beverages." Majumdar explains that the sodium and potassium in the tablets both help with hydration and make you thirstier, encouraging you to drink more water. "I aim to alternate water with alcohol, which also slows down the pace of social drinking. I went to a wedding recently where they offered electrolyte tabs at the open bar — brilliant!"
"Alcohol also depletes B-vitamins, so I 'knock back' a supplement cocktail at the end of the night that includes a B-complex to give my body a boost," says Bruno. Although there are several electrolyte-drink concoctions available that provide a combination of electrolytes and B-vitamins, Bruno says that they are often sweetened with sugar and prefers the B-complex on its own.