It’s important to find out which foods can help ease a hangover and which will make your headache worse.
Had one too many drinks the night before? Here’s what to include in your diet to start feeling better.
Nothing goes with a night of heavy drinking quite like a cheeseburger or a few slices of pizza – or so you tell yourself at the time. And while some people believe eating a greasy meal can help “cure” a hangover (the idea being heavy or fatty food will slow the absorption of alcohol into your bloodstream), the reality is much more complicated.
You’ve no doubt heard about or experienced firsthand some common symptoms of a hangover, which include a throbbing head, dry mouth, and queasy stomach.
Here’s why some of these happen, according to a Rio Linda CA health coach:
- Abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting These undesirable symptoms occur because alcohol increases the production of stomach acid and delays emptying of the stomach, which irritates the lining of your stomach.
- Headaches Alcohol causes your blood vessels to expand, which can then lead to headaches.
- Dizziness, light-headed-ness, thirst Alcohol triggers increased urine production, which can then lead to dehydration.
- Fatigue, shakiness, mood problems Alcohol can cause your blood sugar to fall, which can lead to these symptoms.
While there isn’t a wealth of research on hangovers, some smaller studies have found that certain nutrients may soothe some of the symptoms you’re feeling. In fact, intoxicated participants who drank an elixir containing various plant extracts, fruits, and vitamins before falling asleep reported significantly less nausea (42 percent) and sleep disturbance (41 percent) and less intense headaches (34 percent) compared with those who did not drink the concoction.
The best remedy for a hangover is to avoid drinking too much alcohol. Excessive drinking (i.e., binge drinking or drinking too much in general) is linked to diseases such as cirrhosis, high blood pressure, and liver cancer.
If you’ve overindulged, here are some foods that might help ease your symptoms – and a few that may make them worse.
Best: Coconut water
Although dehydration may not play as big a role in hangovers as previously thought, according to the 2020 study, alcohol is a diuretic, which means you are probably low on fluids the morning after imbibing. “Coconut water could be beneficial if dehydration or electrolyte shifts are causing some of the hangover symptoms,” says Ginger Hultin, RDN, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and owner of Champagne Nutrition. Electrolytes such as potassium, which was one of the ingredients in the elixir, can help with fluid balance. Sports drinks and pickles are also good for replenishing lost electrolytes.
This natural sweetener is a pure form of a sugar called fructose. “Interestingly, there are older, small studies in the medical literature that support the effect of fructose on clearing alcohol from the bloodstream more rapidly,” says Alexander Kuo, MD, a hepatologist and the medical director of liver transplantation at Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles. Agave and fruits such as apples and grapes are also high in fructose.
If you can stomach it, eating an egg or two may help your hangover. This breakfast staple is rich in an amino acid called L-cysteine, which may help break down acetaldehyde, a toxic by-product
of alcohol. Other foods that are rich in L-cysteine include poultry, salmon, and whole grains.
In addition to being a good source of potassium, bananas contain tons of vitamin B6, which may slash hangover symptoms in half. Bananas replenish magnesium and potassium, which are essential electrolytes depleted by heavy drinking. You can also get B6 from poultry and potatoes.
This spicy root, which was another ingredient in the study’s elixir, contains antioxidants that may help quell nausea and vomiting associated with a hangover.
Worst: More alcohol
It’s a common myth that simply drinking more booze will erase a hangover, but experts agree that it’s the worst thing you can do. “It will simply compound the problem,” says Hultin.
That cup of coffee may sound like a good idea, because alcohol is a notorious depressant and caffeine is a stimulant. But there is a potential downside. “Alcohol can cause gastroesophageal reflux, so it may be helpful to avoid foods that can further trigger heartburn, such as caffeine, acidic foods, spicy foods, and mint,” says Dr. Kuo.
Worst: Carbonated beverages
Carbonation is thought to increase the rate of absorption of alcohol in the stomach, 67 percent of a study’s 21 participants absorbed alcohol faster when it was mixed with carbonated water, compared with those who drank alcohol mixed with plain water or no water.