Medical Author: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Medical Editor: William C. Shiel, Jr, MD, FACP, FACR
Why do hangovers feel so terrible?
Greasy food, tomato juice, raw eggs…Myths abound concerning possible cures
for the hangover. Are any of them effective? To determine how to treat a
hangover, it's important to understand a bit about why a hangover develops.
The most common symptoms of a hangover are
The exact cause of hangover has not been determined, but
dehydration, hormonal changes, and inflammatory effects
caused by the breakdown products of alcohol are likely
responsible for the symptoms. Since alcohol alters levels of certain brain
chemicals known as neurotransmitters, a disrupted
sleep pattern with less restful sleep may also
contribute to the symptoms of hangover. Hangover is medically also known as
Is there an effective hangover cure?
There is little scientific evidence to back up many of
the proposed "hangover cures." However, experts agree that rehydration is an
essential step in
managing the symptoms of hangover. Drinking lots of water during and after
consumption of alcohol can be of benefit, as can consumption of
electrolyte-containing beverages such as some sports drinks. If you can consume
fluids before going to bed following an evening of overindulging, that's even
"Sleeping it off" is another tried-and-true remedy.
Taking pain relievers, such as
ibuprofen (Advil), to relieve
and muscle aches can also be helpful. However, avoid taking the pain reliever
acetaminophen (Tylenol), which has the
potential to damage the
liver, especially in conjunction with alcohol.
Most experts agree that eating can help relieve the symptoms of hangover,
but contrary to popular belief, there are no specific foods or types of foods
that are best in this situation. Vitamin B1 (thiamine) and B6 (pyridoxine)
supplements have also been shown in some studies to lessen the severity of
What about that cup of coffee? Coffee itself has not been proven to have an
effect on hangover symptoms, but the caffeine in coffee can
increase the effect of pain medicines, such as ibuprofen. Because caffeine can
further dehydrate the body, most experts don't recommend drinking coffee while
nursing a hangover.
Water, green tea, or other decaffeinated teas are a better choice.
Finally, as with many other conditions, the adage about
the ounce of
prevention holds true. Avoiding excessive alcohol consumption, drinking plenty
of non-alcoholic beverages between alcoholic drinks, and consuming alcohol with
food can all help you avoid a hangover.
Cohagan, Amy, Richard Worthington, and Richard S. Krause. "Alcohol and Substance Abuse Evaluation." eMedicine.com. Dec. 4, 2009. <http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/805084-overview>.
Last Editorial Review: 2/14/2017