Suffering after a festive night out? Feel better fast with our simple tips and tricks.
Nursing a sore head and looking for a hangover cure? You’re not alone – according to think tank Policy Exchange, the amount of alcohol Brits consume rises by 41% at this time of year, with the typical hangover lasting almost 10 hours.
“How you feel is something I wouldn’t wish on anyone,” says medical nutritionist Dr Naomi Beinart. But don’t reach for over-the-counter painkillers.
“Paracetamol has a toxic effect on the liver and anti-inflammatories can further irritate the stomach lining,” warns nutritionist Shona Wilkinson. Here’s how to feel better, without the pills…
Why do hangovers feel so bad?
The toxic substances in alcohol cause a hangover. “Your liver breaks down the alcohol into acetaldehyde, and then into ethanoic acid,” says Naomi. “Acetaldehyde causes nausea, vomiting and sweats.” Plus, alcohol is a diuretic, which makes you empty your bladder more often. “This can lead to dehydration, which can give you a headache and leave you dizzy and exhausted,” she adds.
Hangovers hitting harder now? It’s down to age. “Liver function decreases with age, making the body less efficient at processing toxins,” says Stuart.
It’s also worse for women. “Our bodies have less water content and more fat content, so alcohol remains longer in the body,” says Shona. “Women also produce less alcohol dehydrogenase – the enzyme that detoxifies alcohol.”
Avoid junk food
Resist the lure of greasy food. “Your body is already struggling to process toxins,” says Stuart.
“If you eat fatty food, then not only are you failing to give your body the nutrients it needs to replace what alcohol has depleted, you’re increasing its workload.” Go for veg:”Kale, cauliflower and asparagus contain vitamin B1, to improve liver function,” he adds.
Keep drinking water
Woken up with a dry mouth? “Your body naturally regulates the amount of water it loses during sleep, but alcohol adversely affects this regulation,” says Stuart. Drinking plenty of water is essential. “Coconut water can also help,” adds Shona. ”It contains potassium, sodium and magnesium – the minerals that are lost in sweat and urine.”
Ditch the coffee
Usually have a cup of coffee first thing? “Coffee is a popular remedy to sober up and give energy after drinking, but it can contribute to dehydration,” warns Shona. And avoid smoking – the chemicals in cigarettes can increase feelings of nausea.
Sleepy? Don’t fight it. “A nap will provide temporary relief, particularly if you’re sleep-deprived,” says Stuart. ”But when you wake-up you will be dehydrated, so drink plenty.”
Struggling with ‘hangxiety’?
Feeling sick is bad enough, but according to a YouGov poll with Macmillan Cancer, 28% of Brits say they’ve experienced ‘hangxiety’ in the past year. Hangxiety is that feeling post-alcohol when you worry you’ve embarrassed yourself with your drunken behaviour. It’s fuelled by short-term memory loss associated with binge drinking.
“Alcohol affects the way nerves in the brain communicate with each other, impacting our ability to maintain our short-term memory,” says Stuart. Unfortunately, there’s nothing you can do to regain lost memories, but feelings of anxiety will gradually reduce.
“If you want a cooked breakfast, try poached eggs with roasted tomatoes and wholemeal toast,” says Naomi. Eggs contain the amino acid cysteine, which can help to break down acetaldehyde.
“If you can’t handle that, then pick a banana,” says Naomi. “Bananas contain potassium, a mineral that is lost when you drink alcohol and contributes to symptoms of dehydration.”
Swap your juice
Orange juice may be refreshing, but the acidity can irritate your stomach. Try tomato juice instead. “A glass of tomato juice contains enough simple sugars to get your glucose steady again. They’re also anti-inflammatory,” says Stuart.
Although exercise can stimulate feel-good endorphins to help boost your mood, it won’t mean you ‘sweat out’ toxins. “Save exercise for another time as it can exacerbate dehydration,” says Stuart.
Don’t reach for the bottle
Despite the old wives’ tale, drinking more alcohol won’t do anything to stop a hangover. “It will only give momentary help,” says Stuart. “Any relief is short-lived as the body then has to process the additional alcohol,” he adds.
- Bee Prepared Daily Defence (£9.99, Boots). “Ideal to help replace depleted nutrients,” recommends Shona.
- Silicolgel (£8.39, Boots), contains silicic acid to naturally calm a stomach upset as a result of a hangover.
- Pukka Supreme Matcha Green Tea (£2.79, supermarkets). “Green teas, which contain antioxidants, help fight free radicals that are created from booze,” says Naomi.
Tried and tested hangover cures
We’ve road tested the most popular hangover cures, so you can find something to help you feel like yourself again. Here’s what works to sort that thumping head, settle a sicky stomach and put last night’s spring back in to your step…
Hangover cure: Berocca
A tablet packed with essential vitamins and minerals that you dissolve in a glass of water.
Tester: Lifestyle Writer Eleanor Jones
The night before: A wedding with free-flowing champagne. And tequila. Ouch.
The morning after: Consumed fizzing orange Berocca on an HOUR LONG rail replacement bus, which was not my finest hour.
The verdict: I imagine on a lesser nightmare it would make a dent, but in this instance I still needed a serious amount of carbs before I felt human
Hangover cure: Pear juice
220ml fresh pear juice, or eating a couple of pears, before a night out can apparently help stave off the effects of alcohol the next day. Really?
Tester: Deputy Food Ed Sophie Austen-Smith.
The night before: Three glasses of prosecco and a large glass of red wine.
The morning after: Achy head and oh-so tired.
The verdict: Pure, fresh pear juice is hard to find and it didn’t really help my hangover. I’ll stick to the Alka-Seltzer. 4/10
Hangover cure: Fry up
The biggest plate you can find in your kitchen cupboard, piled high with fried goods such as egg, mushrooms, beans, hash browns and toast. Eat the morning after the night before and finish the lot.
Tester: Digital Content Editor Jessica Dady
The night before: One glass of white wine with dinner and three vodka lemonades to get the party started.
The morning after: Fragile and hungry – SO hungry.
The verdict: It kept the hangover at bay for about an hour or two after eating but then it was back to the drawing board raiding the fridge for more carbs and sweet treats. But any excuse to eat a full English and not feel guilty is okay by me. 5/10
Hangover cure: Coffee… and more coffee!
Drag yourself to the kettle. Make a mug of instant coffee and down it in one. Repeat.
Tester: Associate Editor Sarah Allard.
The night before: Two glasses of prosecco and countless gin and tonics.
The morning after What’s that thumping sound? Oh, it’s in my head.
The verdict: Great for that initial burst of energy first thing, but the buzz wears off too quickly. Maybe if it was administered through an IV drip, I’d be OK… 5/10
Hangover cure: Electrolyte drink
Sports drinks are great for maintaining the body’s balance of electrolytes after dehydration when you’re exercising, so applying the same theory to rehydrate your thirsty cells after a night on the booze should work… right? My weapon of choice: Lucozade.
Tester: Social Media Editor Becky Coyne
The night before: A couple (ok, more than a couple) of glasses of white wine and Prosecco.
The morning after: A slightly woozy ‘wine head.’
The verdict: The Lucozade took an edge off things, and gave me a nice burst of energy before doing a 10k walk (not my usual Sunday), but paracetamol will still be my go-to in future. 6/10
Hangover cure: Late night kebab
Experts suggest a chicken shish – the meat helps restore the liver’s amino acids and the salad provides vitamins. But, if I’m having a kebab at 2am, it’s got to be a doner.
Tester: Features Writer Anna Matheson.
The night before: Cocktails, then wine with dinner and two (OK, four!) G&Ts.
The morning after: The room was still spinning when I got out of bed and I felt more than a little unsteady on my feet.
The verdict: I was a little queasy and needed a shower to feel less greasy, but I’d have felt worse if I’d gone to bed on an empty stomach. 6/10
Hangover cure: A banana breakfast
Bananas are gentle on the stomach when you’re feeling delicate and they’ll help replace vital electrolytes and potassium lost while out on the lash.
Tester: Assistant Editor Steph Lowe.
The night before: Two glasses of white wine, two G&Ts and a tequila shot.
The morning after:Banging headache, mouth like a sandy flip-flop and unsettled stomach.
The verdict: Twenty minutes after eating the banana and downing a glass of water, I felt more human. Cheap, easy, effective.
Hangover cure: Irn Bru
Packed with sugar, caffeine and iron, the Scots’ national drink is best drunk from a glass bottle alongside a greasy brekkie.
Tester: Assistant Editor Carrie Mitchell.
The night before: Half a bottle of prosecco, four large G&Ts, and one whisky… I was in Edinburgh on a hen do!
The morning after: Pounding head, trembles and a dose of hangover blues.
The verdict: A full Scottish breakfast and a bottle of the fizzy stuff and I was back on the wine by 7pm! 8/10
Hangover cure: Paracetamol and water BEFORE bed
Two tablets washed down with a pint of water tackles the headache and the dehydration before they’ve even started.
Tester: Designer Christina Gubbins.
The night before: Two mojitos and half a bottle of red wine.
The morning after: Slightly groggy, but not as bad as my hangovers usually are.
The verdict: I’ve tried many so-called hangover ‘cures’ and nothing works as well as this. It’s my new failsafe solution when I’ve been out on the booze. 9/10
What are your fail-safe hangover cures? Tell us below…