6 Of the Best Natural Hangover Remedies to Help You Recover
A central tenet of Buddhism is dukkha, the belief that all joy is transitory, inevitably devolving into suffering. Perhaps nothing illustrates this concept better than the hangover, that stark reminder of the light-hearted frivolity of the night before, excruciatingly rendered in the cold, hard light of the morning after.
But what are hangovers? Why do they make us suffer so? And is there anything we can do to ease that suffering, even if only just a little?
Join us while we take a good, hard look at the common hangover. We’ll examine what it does to you and what causes it. Along the way, we’ll discuss some of the mystery ingredients you’re also ingesting when you drink. And we’ll look at some effective ways you can minimize the toll your body will have to pay in the aftermath.
What exactly is a hangover?
In simple terms, a hangover is your body’s reaction to consuming alcohol. Typically, the more you drink, the more severe your hangover will be.
Symptoms include both physiological and psychological effects that might include:
- dry mouth
- gastrointestinal distress
- lack of appetite
- trouble concentrating
These effects usually only last for a few hours the morning after but can sometimes still be felt more than a day later.
What causes a hangover?
Although we don’t know exactly what causes a hangover, it appears that consuming alcohol has several adverse side effects. So, while a few drinks can help you feel euphoric, you’re also experiencing a lot of other changes, many of which you won’t feel until the next morning.
- acetaldehyde accumulation
- changes in the immune system
- changes in glucose metabolism
- disturbed prostaglandin synthesis
- increased cardiac output
- metabolic acidosis
- sleep deprivation
And that’s just the alcohol talking. But drinking often involves more than just alcohol. Indeed, every alcoholic beverage contains a unique blend of additives and by-products, including congeners, many of which are toxic.
More about congeners
Ethanol—the specific alcohol around which the beer, wine and liquor industry has built itself—is more than sufficient to give you a hangover all by itself.
But the thing is it’s never alone. This is where congeners come in, either added as flavoring agents or as naturally occurring by-products of fermentation or aging.
Congeners are chemicals that can sometimes amplify the effects of a hangover, with a few bonus side effects of their own. They include:
- fusel alcohols
- methanol (wood alcohol)
After ingestion, your body metabolizes some congeners into such toxic substances as formic acid and formaldehyde. You know, that carcinogen that’s the main ingredient in embalming fluid. Probably something you don’t want accumulating in your body.
Personal factors to consider
Hangovers affect different people in different ways. That’s why some friends can drink together, matching each other drink for drink, and feel completely different the next day. This happens because alcohol affects you uniquely based on genetics, age, sex and whether you smoke or not.
Your genes can play a major role in how severely you feel the effects of a hangover. Certain genotypes can leave you susceptible to things like acetaldehyde accumulation. Mind you, there are also some who are predisposed to not getting hangovers at all. About a quarter of heavy drinkers say they’re never hungover.
As you get older, you start producing less and less of the enzyme that metabolizes alcohol, leading to worsening hangovers. This may be the main reason why many people tend to consume more responsibly as they get older and why binge drinking is more common among young adults.
Women tend to feel the effects of alcohol more powerfully than men do. If they’re consuming the same volume of alcohol, women tend to have a higher blood alcohol concentration (BAC), leaving them more likely to be hungover the next day. If a woman and a man have the same BAC, they’re equally as likely to feel it the next morning.
Smokers are also more prone to hangovers. We mentioned acetaldehyde accumulation earlier as a cause of feeling ill the next morning. Well, cigarettes are another source of acetaldehyde, so smokers accumulate even more of it when they drink, making their hangovers that much worse.
Other consequences to consider
If you’re prone to hangovers there are certain socioeconomic ramifications you need to take into account. Hangover sufferers are more likely to have:
- absenteeism issues
- impaired job performance
- poor academic achievement
- reduced productivity
Not to be a wet blanket, but it’s statistically proven that you’ll achieve more in your life if you stay sober on school nights or if you have to work the next day.
Also, being hungover impairs your reaction time, leaving you potentially dangerous doing routine activities like driving or operating machinery.
Hangover preventions & remedies
People have been sharing their hangover remedies since before the dawn of history. Pliny the Elder used to encourage his fellow Romans to eat raw owl eggs and fried canary the morning after. At the Paris World Exhibition in 1878, everyone was talking about another cure called the prairie oyster. To make your own prairie oyster, mix a raw egg yolk with Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco, salt and pepper. Let us know how you like it.
In 1938, the Ritz-Carlton put its own remedy on the breakfast menu—Coca-Cola and milk. Fun fact: Coke itself is said by some to have been created as a hangover helper. Mind you, the original formula also had cocaine in it—about 9 mg per glass for its first 12 years in business.
Today, science still has a relatively poor understanding of what hangovers are and how to best avoid them. Perhaps they have more pressing matters to deal with right now. So, in the meantime, let’s look at some other ways to reduce the agony of a hangover that don’t involve raw eggs or milky soft drinks.
1. Limit your intake
The one guaranteed way to avoid feeling hungover the next day is to drink responsibly. So, pace yourself. It’s simple math. The less you drink, the better you’ll feel the next day.
2. Pick your poison based on congeners
Remember congers from before? It turns out you can limit your intake of these toxic by-products by picking your drinks based on color. As a rule, darker drinks have higher concentrations of congeners.
So white wines are better for hangovers than reds. And lagers will be less troublesome than stouts.
If you prefer the harder stuff, vodka is almost congener-free, weighing in with only 2.7% of the concentration you’ll find in bourbon.
3. Stay hydrated
The most common symptom of a hangover is a killer headache. That’s no way to wake up.
Funny thing is that the headache is caused by dehydration. You may have woken up with a similar headache simply because the air was too dry.
Alcohol is a diuretic—it makes you expel water from your body. So, you’ve got to fight to get water back into you as much as you can. This will be especially hard while you’re still consuming alcohol. But make it a point to drink water as soon as you’re done. Get a pint of H2O into you before bed. And be prepared to drink another as soon as you wake.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has an ancient remedy that’s been taking the edge off hangovers since time immemorial—KSS formula. The formula—a mixture of ginger, tangerine pith and brown sugar—was shown in a study published in the Journal of Natural Medicine to significantly reduce the severity of hangover symptoms. It did not reduce the duration of the hangover but did make it much more bearable.
The only problem is no one seems to mass-produce KSS formula. But ginger has well-documented anti-nausea properties. Try some crystalized ginger, or maybe some ginger tea. Or there’s the old flat ginger ale trick. Leave the cap off a bottle of Canada Dry overnight for the healing power of ginger without the fizz upsetting your belly.
5. Twist it out with yoga
While the Chinese battles hangovers with herbs, in India they attacked it with yoga. Yogis swear that the seated twist is great for getting your liver and kidneys back into full swing to purge your body of all the toxins that accumulate when you drink.
6. Eat breakfast
You likely won’t be hungry when you wake up hungover. But get over it—you have a lot of electrolytes to replenish.
It doesn’t need to be anything extravagant. Start with some toast and see what you’re up for after that. Or if you are ravenous – nothing beats a good ole fashioned fry-up of bacon, eggs, hash browns and all the fixings! Grease may be your friend today.
Kick your hangover to the curb—naturally!
While there’s no guaranteed hangover cure, there are some smart steps you can take to dial back the effects of drinking. And many of them are all-natural and chemical-free. Let’s face it—there are enough toxins in a hungover body already.
Try to see how little you can drink, lean toward lighter-colored drinks, and remember to take personal factors like age, gender and whether or not you smoke into account.
And rehydrate as quickly as you can. There doesn’t seem to be an effective way of shortening a hangover, but you can definitely take steps to make it less uncomfortable.
Consider naturopathy for all your health concerns
Naturopathic medicine takes a holistic approach to healing. Using a variety of safe and effective drug-free methods, naturopathy treats the whole person through diet/lifestyle changes, acupuncture, vitamins/supplements, injections and herbal remedies.
If you have any health concerns you’d like addressed naturally, book an appointment with Dr. Tara Andresen today.