Hangover Remedies: What Helps And What Doesn't

Thanks to the internet, we can find endless tips and remedies that promise to treat that dreadful hangover. Some are based on anecdotes while others are based on small studies. But with so many possible solutions, where exactly do you start? 

Let's start simple. Drinking water helps, right?

We know that alcohol has a dehydrating effect — estimates suggest that four drinks can eliminate between 600 and 1,000 ml of water from the body. While some H2O can certainly ease symptoms such as a dry mouth, experts point out that dehydration is not the root cause of our hangovers. 

Toxins from alcohol are the biggest contributor to making us feel ill after a night of drinking. The rate at which they are broken down may determine the severity of the hangover.

Water makes the biggest difference when used to space out your drinks and reduce overall alcohol intake for the night. As for the next day, experts say that water combined with an electrolyte supplement could be effective in correcting imbalances in the body.

And what about taking the hair of the dog?

This tactic involves treating the hangover by consuming just enough alcohol to ease the withdrawal. Does it help? Yes, it does — but mostly for the wrong reasons.

Keri Peterson, M.D., an internist in NYC, explained that hangovers kick in when blood-alcohol levels decline, peaking in severity when the levels drop to zero. In other words, this so-called remedy "doesn’t cure a hangover" but "merely postpones it until later in the day," she told SELF.

Studies have also suggested that this method could promote a rather harmful dependence. When repeated over time, some people are at risk of developing alcohol use disorders. 

Should I opt for over-the-counter pain relievers?

If nothing has been helping with the pain, chances are you have decided to go the pharmaceutical route. Experts say that nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen can help with those pesky aches.

However, you should avoid taking acetaminophen, which is sold under the brand name Tylenol. This ingredient needs to be metabolized by the liver just like alcohol, said Robert Swift, M.D., of Brown University. But when you still have alcohol in your system, the toxins may not be broken down completely, leaving the liver vulnerable to damage.

Finally, can eating certain foods help me feel better?

We do not have enough research to confirm whether foods can act as actual hangover cures. But you can make simple choices that are easy on your hungover digestive system.

For your first meal following a night of drinking, registered dietitian Amy Shapiro recommends a balance of carbs, protein, and fat. This, she told NBC News, can help prevent further blood sugar drops and spikes.

For later in the day, Bouillon soup can provide some much-needed nutrients if you are in a weakened state. The soup is also "easy for a fragile stomach to digest" according to the NHS.