How to Cure a Holiday Hangover

Overindulgence during the holidays comes at a price: the (almost) inevitable hangover.

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The various symptoms of your average hangover — headache, dry mouth, nausea, exhaustion — all come from different effects that alcohol has on your body. Many of these symptoms can be lessened by eating a good meal before drinking; the more food you have in your stomach, the slower it'll be processed, which means it'll hurt a lot less in the morning.

And, while there's no "cure" for a hangover, there's no shortage of ways, both fabled and factual, to take the edge off.

For the headache, which is thought to come from the dilating effect alcohol has on your blood vessels:

  • Aspirin (not acetaminophen or ibuprofen) will help with that headache, though there's no evidence taking it the night before will help you.
  • Caffeine also helps constrict your blood vessels; it's also a stimulant, which will help you feel less tired (until it wears off...). Simultaneously, though, it also dehydrates you (like alcohol), so you'll still need to drink lots of water.

For the dry mouth, which, along with thirst, is a direct result of alcohol's dehydrating effects:

  • Water. Lots of it. Before you go to bed (as unpleasant as the thought might be) and all day the next day.
  • Sports drinks are great too; their salt and sugar content help to replace all the electrolytes you've been losing all night. To similar ends, bouillon, fruit juice or even pickle juice do a similar job.
  • The potassium in bananas works against the diuretic (that is, dehydrating) effect of alcohol as well.

For the nausea, caused when alcohol irritates your stomach lining, also generating extra stomach acid:

  • Every culture has their idea of which food helps. Northern Germans believe strongly in marinated fish (like herring), Mexicans have posole (a meat and hominy soup) and the Senegalese have yassa (chicken and lemon stew). When in Rome... (except maybe not, as the ancient Roman hangover cure was eel steeped in wine).
  • If you can handle food, your best bet is something like eggs, which are high in cysteine, which helps your body process the toxins in alcohol.
  • Tomatoes have lots of vitamin C (which alcohol saps your body of) - but make the Bloody Mary a Virgin Mary if you're trying to get better.
  • If you can't face a full plate, drink a smoothie (with lots of fruit) to up your blood sugar and replenish at least one or two nutrients you might have lost the previous night.

For the exhaustion:

  • Go back to bed. Seriously.

And don't bother with:

  • Hair of the dog. Drinking more in the morning doesn't make it better, it just prolongs the pain. And it's probably not a good call on a regular basis.

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