Most of us have, at some point, taken an unwilling stroll through the post-apocalyptic wasteland of The Hangover. I’ve found some surprising cures in my time as a student, the most unusual being paddling in a fountain. Unfortunately, this idea is not backed by science, and we can’t always count on a conveniently-placed fountain. With this in mind, I have scoured the NHS and Drink Aware services in search of actual, legitimate ways to ease a hangover: follow these steps and you’ll hopefully be just about able to function as a human-being.
Fortunately for your delicate stomach, this does not refer to the ‘Hair of the Dog’ approach. Instead, try reaching for water, juices, and sports drinks. Ethanol is a diuretic, so dehydration is the main cause of hangover symptoms. Water will rehydrate your body, whilst juice and sports drinks will replace lost minerals. The NHS recommends drinking as much water as you can before sleeping when you get in from a night out – this should prevent a lot of those Harry Potter-style headaches. When it comes to coffee, it’s a gamble. If you’re a regular coffee-drinker, caffeine withdrawal could pile on more headaches, but caffeine also raises blood pressure and shrinks arteries, potentially making you even more uncomfortable. A small cup is probably your best bet.
Next on your game plan should be food. Whilst many swear by the classic ‘greasy breakfast’ solution, there isn’t any scientific evidence to recommend it. The NHS recommends foods which are easier to digest, such as thin soups. Whilst this is sound advice, watery soups do not make the best breakfast. Instead, you might consider some fruit – bananas and kiwis will replace lost potassium, vital for normal muscle function, as well as giving you a sugar-boost, which is fantastic if, like me, you suffer from the hangover shakes. Potatoes are also high in potassium, so revisiting those chips and cheese from last night might not be such a bad idea.
That’s right – popping some painkillers is officially recommended by health organisations to ease your hangover. Avoid aspirin, as this can further inflame your stomach and blood-vessels, which are probably already a little inflamed from the ethanol you consumed. Ibuprofen is usually the best option, owing to its anti-inflammatory properties, so stock up and leave some conveniently by your bed along with that massive glass of water.
Although it might be literally the last thing you want to do, a little gentle exercise can be really helpful for kick-starting your metabolism. This will hopefully make you feel a tad less sluggish, and help your body metabolise and remove the last of those nasty toxins. You could go for a walk to the shops, to buy the afore-mentioned bananas and kiwis, or, less ambitiously, walk to the kitchen.
Hangovers are surprisingly poorly-understood by modern science, and the best ‘cure’ is simply giving your body time to recover. If you have the luxury of doing so, get some rest – watch Friends and indulge in a little self-pity. It’s not ground-breaking, but it works.
Image: The Mirror