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Hangover helpers

Find out what helps you feel better when you've had too many drinks

WebMD Feature
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks

What hangover cures pop into your throbbing head after a night on the town?

Some say burnt toast does the trick. However, just in case the quick fixes you tried last time didn't fix anything, and you still plan to do more celebrating in the future, we've assembled some home remedies that helped some of us get through university.

First, here is the official word on what that alcohol does to your system. Getting rid of the hangover really comes down to understanding how the body reacts to alcohol in the first place. Alcohol is a diuretic -- that is, it tends to increase urination, and therefore, dries you out, explains alcohol metabolism researcher Dr James Schaefer of Union College, New York. Drinking plenty of water the morning after helps to compensate for the dehydration.

However, there’s more happening. Impurities are added to alcoholic beverages during the distillation process, and these contribute to the nasty symptoms you get with your hangover. These impurities are especially high in sweeter drinks and malt spirits. Drinking lots of water, then, does two things: It rehydrates your body and dilutes the impurities left in your body.

A date for carbon

Some people rely on eating burnt toast the morning after a night of drinking.

Schaefer has this explanation for why that helps: Carbon in the charred part of the toast filters the impurities. In fact, people who come into hospital emergency rooms with alcohol poisoning get a potent carbon slurry pumped into their stomachs for the same reason. The burnt toast is a much more moderate version of the same remedy.

Fat chance

How about chorizo, a Mexican sausage? It's not a morning-after remedy -- more like a late-afternoon-before preventive tactic.

Schaefer explains: fatty foods, if eaten before drinking alcohol, "grease" the lining of the intestines. The alcohol then takes longer to be absorbed by the body.

"Personally, I recommend eating pizza, but chorizo would work too", Schaefer says. "In the Mediterranean, one folk remedy involves swallowing a spoonful of olive oil to do the same trick".

Besides filling your stomach before you drink, eating almost any kind of food the morning after can help alleviate a hangover, says Stephanie Brooks, a Nutrition Consultant. Food provides electrolytes that replenish the body after dehydration. This is especially important for someone who's vomited within the last 24 hours. Brooks particularly recommends a fruit smoothie or a sports drink.

Blood and alcohol

Of course, a hangover's not a hangover without a pounding headache. Schaefer explains that the pain comes from a mix of dehydration and your body's adjustment to the rapidly dropping blood-alcohol level. He recommends taking two painkillers before going to sleep and another pair when you wake up if the headache's still there, always following the dosing instructions.

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