Breaking News
More () »

What works and what doesn't work to help cure a hangover: HealthLink

There are also medications to avoid if experiencing a hangover.

SEATTLE — Holiday party season is now upon us.

For some of you, that might mean a night of drinking and a potential hangover. But do your go-to "cures," actually work?

Hangover symptoms range from headache, dizziness, nausea, fatigue, sensitivity to light and sensitivity to sound.

Dr. Joshua Liao, an internal medicine physician at UW Medicine, said there can be multiple hangover symptoms at once so there's not a single, specific cure.

"Unfortunately, we don't have iron-clad or tried-and-true evidence for every one method," Liao said.

Hangovers occur as an aftermath of the body metabolizing alcohol after it is consumed.

"There are a few things we can draw from the science. The first is that alcohol breaks down in our bodies to a bunch of different component parts," Liao said.

The process of metabolizing that alcohol can dehydrate the body, creating those nasty symptoms. It can even mess with sleep.

"It can affect our hormones that actually regulate our biological clocks. Alcohol actually can interfere with our brain activity when we sleep, so sleep is more fragmented," Liao said.

Which leads to potential grogginess the next day.

So what can alleviate symptoms and what doesn't work at all?

Liao said forget about that beer or Bloody Mary cocktail the next morning, colloquially known as "taking the hair from the dog that bit you."

"It's a very interesting kind of term. The idea is, well, if hangover symptoms come when the alcohol levels are low, let me take another sip of alcohol, you know, to kind of curb that. I think potentially it's a cycle, it can actually prolong the symptoms," Liao said.

Liao added that, during a hangover, the body is trying to flush alcohol out of our system and adding more to it, even in small levels, will only prolong the process.

Hydration is key here because alcohol is a diuretic, meaning it causes us to lose water.

"What can happen is dehydration can contribute to those feelings that we have the morning after, the day after," Liao said.

So that Gatorade drink might help.

"Electrolytes can be lost when people drink alcohol, so there is an idea that soups, bouillons, Gatorade, electrolyte-rich drinks can help. Again, no iron-clad evidence there but I think it makes good sense," Liao said.

As for preventing a hangover in the first place, Liao said avoid dehydration and make sure to drink water in addition to alcoholic drinks. Eating before and during drinking alcohol prevents blood sugar levels from dipping while the body breaks down alcohol, and it doesn't have to be greasy food.

"There's not the food or this other food, but things like carbohydrates, toast, things that have sugar in them, can really help as well," Liao said.

But ultimately, it falls to this: "If you want to prevent a hangover, there's only one tried and true method, which is abstinence from alcohol," Liao said.

A warning about medication: Liao said don't take Tylenol or other forms of acetaminophen for a hangover remedy because that medication is broken down in the liver. Alcohol is also metabolized in the liver, so combining the two could overwork the liver and could cause liver failure.

Before You Leave, Check This Out