Suffering the morning after a boozy night in or out is a feeling many of us know and dread. Find out how you can start feeling better fast with our simple tips and tricks...
Nursing a sore head and looking for a hangover cure? You’re not alone – research suggests that the average person spends 10 days a year hungover, with the hangover lasting for a full seven hours normally.
This means that those of us who drink have on average three hangovers a month and lose up to 252 hours a year! That’s a lot of time to spend nursing a heavy head in bed.
In lockdown, some of us have been embracing the opportunity for a healthier lifestyle by cutting out the alcohol completely or reducing the number of drinks we have, while others have been busy becoming mixologists with their lockdown cocktails. Whatever way you’ve been drinking in lockdown, with the pubs opening up again, those of us who like a drink are likely to feel the effects of being away for a few months.
Naturally, we should all only try to drink up to the recommended amount. This, the NHS advises, is 14 units maximum a week spread over at least three days. 14 units is equivalent to six pints of average-strength beer or 10 small glasses of low-strength wine.
And while most of us aim to stick to this, it’s easy to get a little carried away sometimes.
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 medical nutritionist Dr Naomi Beinart. “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.
YourZooki nutritionist Amanda Callenberg says, “When we become severely dehydrated our bodies can’t remove these toxins, so they stay circulating in our bodies. This causes irritation and inflammation which can damage vital organs like the stomach, brain, liver and others. It is this dehydration that causes the classic hangover symptoms such as headaches, fatigue, dry mouth, nausea and vomiting.”
So how can we make sure that we wake up in the morning feeling (almost) right as rain?
Try out these hangover cures…
“How you feel is something I wouldn’t wish on anyone,” says Naomi. But don’t reach for over-the-counter painkillers, she advises.
“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…
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 instead: “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.”
“Load up on lots of fresh fruit and vegetables the next day to give yourself a vitamin boost and replace the vital electrolytes and nutrients lost due to dehydration.” Nutritionist Amanda Callenberg advises, “Supplementing with water soluble vitamins like vitamin C and the B vitamins may also be helpful to replace the vitamins lost from increased urinary excretion. Being depleted in Vitamin C can cause tiredness and fatigue, a weakened immune system and difficulties concentrating.”
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 per cent 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. Bananas contain potassium, a mineral that is lost when you drink alcohol and contributes to symptoms of dehydration.”
Amanda agrees, avoid the junk food but make sure to have a hearty breakfast. “Alcohol can inhibit glucose production causing low levels of blood sugar, so make sure you have a good hearty breakfast the next day, or a snack before bed, to maintain your blood sugar levels.”
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.
Amanda also recommends coconut water. She says, “One of the main causes of a hangover is dehydration. Alcohol stops the production of a hormone that helps your body hang on to water, leading to dehydration and the loss of electrolytes like potassium and sodium. Coconut water is rich in these electrolytes, so is a great way to replace them and rehydrate the body.”
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.
Use time as your friend
In order to combat a hangover, The Drinkaware Trust – an independent UK-wide alcohol education charity – says we should consider stopping drinking alcoholic drinks well before the call for last orders. They reveal that it takes around an hour for our bodies to process each unit of alcohol, so stopping drinking earlier in the evening will mean we can trigger this process sooner, and in turn our chances of waking up with a sore head are kept to a minimum.
Consider ways to drink less
Men and women are advised to drink no more than 14 units of alcohol each week. Below are the alcohol unit measurements for some common tipples:
- Standard glass of red/white/rosé wine (175ml, ABV – alcohol by volume – 12 per cent) = 2.1 units
- Can of lager/beer/cider (440ml, ABV 5.5 per cent ) = 2 units
- Single small shot of spirits (Gin, rum, vodka, whisky, tequila, sambuca) (25ml, ABV 40 per cent) = 1 unit
Charity Alcohol Change UK also has a handy unit calculator. Cutting down on your alcohol consumption could help to turn down the dial on the intensity of your hangover.
How to cut down on alcohol consumption:
- Choosing an alcoholic drink with a lower ABV
- Opting for a wine spritzer or a shandy
- Not keeping wine on the table. Measure out your glass beforehand and pop the bottle away.
- Factoring in alcohol free days each week
- Joining Club Soda’s Mindful Drinking Movement for tips and ideas
- Bee Prepared Daily Defence (£12, Boots). “Ideal to help replace depleted nutrients,” recommends Shona.
- Silicolgel 200ml(£7.46, Boots), contains silicic acid to naturally calm a stomach upset as a result of a hangover.
- Pukka Supreme Matcha Green Tea (£2.80, Tesco). “Green teas, which contain antioxidants, help fight free radicals that are created from booze,” says Naomi.
- Coconut water (£2.99 for 4 x 330ml, Tesco).
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