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Is New Year’s Eve gonna be a heavy one? Here are a few handy hangover cures

We’ve been advised to do everything from chugging a pint of pickle juice to rubbing a lemon in our armpit before drinking. But which of the many ‘hangover cures’ out there are actually backed by science? HLN finds out...

COVID be damned, it’s going to be New Year’s Eve soon and we’re going to have a drink. Scratch that, we’re going to draaaaank.

And we’re going to enjoy it. So what if we’re just sitting in the house? After the 12 months 2020 has given us, we deserve this. 

We’re also confident that, deep down, we’re not alone. The most recent statistics published by Public Health England suggest that record numbers of us are drinking at least 50 units of alcohol a week at the moment. And who can blame us? Let’s be honest, there’s little else to do.

The problem, of course, is those pesky hangovers. Now we’re not trying to teach our granny how to suck eggs here (no offence), but we think it’s safe to say that we all forget the most simple advice about drinking sensibly almost as soon as that first drop of alcohol touches our lips. All we can do when this happens? The next best thing to prevention – deal as best we can with the consequences.

So humour us by letting us run through some simple, long-forgotten and some downright strange tips and tricks for how to survive the morning (or if you’re like us, the several days) after the night before. 

Spoiler alert: as much as we’d like them to, the following will do nothing for regret, self-pity and shame. 

WATER, WATER AND MORE WATER 

Ok, maybe we are treading over the basics a little here, but the simple things really do make the biggest difference – and are often the first thing we forget. Despite the fact that all you’re doing is drinking, alcohol can lead to dehydration in a few different ways. Mainly, because alcohol stops your body creating a chemical called vasopressin, which is pretty vaso-depressin’, seeing as that makes your kidneys send water straight to your bladder instead of keeping it in your body. It does, however, explain the myth and mystery behind ‘breaking the seal’. 

Drinking alcohol can cause you to get rid of up to four times as much water, which is probably why we wake up with a banging head and a mouth drier than Gandhi’s flip-flop. But something as simple as drinking a glass of water before bed, plenty of water the morning after or (if becoming some kind of saint is a new year’s resolution of yours) a glass between each bev on the night in question, will leave you with a better chance than ever of waking up fresh. 

REPLENISH THE STOCKS 

If alcohol dehydrates, then it goes without saying that it also causes the body to get rid of some key nutrients, so it’s no wonder that then makes us feel rubbish. 

Isotonic drinks like Lucozade Sport and Powerade can be life-savers here. They’re literally designed to replace sugars and salt quickly, so will give you a much-needed energy boost while rehydrating you. A glass of fruit juice will also help by giving you a sugary kick, as well as helping you get rid of the toxins in your body whilst replacing some of the essential minerals you’ve lost.

What your body could really use are some vitamins. One study found evidence that people who had a healthy amount of zinc and B vitamins in their everyday diets had significantly less severe hangovers than those who didn’t. Best get reaching for the leafy greens, then. And although scientists aren’t fully convinced, we at HLN swear by a cheeky Berocca before bed when we’ve had a drink. While some suggest you benefit more from the water you drink with them than the tablets themselves, it makes sense to us that a fast injection of vitamins B1 and B2 – both of which help you generate more natural energy from your food – will only be a good thing come breakfast time. 

SCRAN WISELY 

Often it’s the last thing we want to do. Sometimes, it’s impossible. But eating really can set you back on the road to being a real, functioning human again. As well as helping us replenish some lost vitamins and minerals, beating low sugar levels with some scran can help us battle common hangover symptoms, such as nausea, fatigue and weakness. 

Depending on how rough you’re feeling, the trusty fry-up is a firm favourite for a reason. It helps replace lost fatty acids and break down the alcohol in your liver. If you’re already stocking your larder ahead of New Year’s morning, be sure to get plenty eggs in – they’re saviours here, as they contain something called taurine, which has been shown to even reverse the liver damage caused by alcohol. 

If you’re a little too delicate for this particular delicacy, may we tempt you with some mild-flavoured carbohydrates, such as wholemeal toast or crackers? They’re not the most exciting, we admit, but anything is better than nothing at this stage. Bouillon soup (a thin, vegetable-based broth, apparently) is a good source of vitamins and minerals, which can top-up depleted resources. It’s also easy for a fragile stomach to digest. Drinking too much alcohol can also deplete your potassium levels so, if you can stomach it, eat a banana in the morning and watch your hangover fade away by noon. Almost. If in doubt, a slice of toast and some juice is always a great way to gently nudge your levels back to normal.

Some studies show that keeping the right amount of sugar in our blood could mitigate some of the bodily changes that occur with alcohol consumption, such as the build-up of acid in the blood – which is often why we vomit. So if you’re hoping to avoid even getting to this stage, eat your tea before you drink! We’ve been told this since we were 18, but do we ever learn? No is the answer. No, we do not.

STEP AWAY FROM THE COFFEE

This is not a drill. Yes, it may look, seem, smell and taste like the best idea in the world, but do not drink coffee on a hangover. God’s own beverage is actually a diuretic, which basically means that your cup o’ Joe will actually continue to dehydrate you and exacerbate your headache, fatigue, sweats, vodka shakes and heart palpitations.

Tea, on the other hand, has magical anti-hangover properties. Better yet, the sweeter the better – so no-sugar snobs, hold your fire. The caffeine and sugar will provide a much-needed boost without dehydrating you too much, and even the milk will work to replace the calcium you’ve lost. 

Decaf tea and green tea are also great options for a low-caff pick-me-up, while ginger tea is rumoured to be a perfect sickness-buster. Feeling crazy? Try milk thistle tea, which is said to be a hangover godsend. Boiled water with honey and lemon also does the trick for boosting blood sugar, as well as replenishing a few lost vitamins. 

ANTIOXIDANTS 

Drinking alcohol can cause what is known as ‘oxidative stress’, leading your body to produce free radicals – which can not only result in cell damage and, in more severe cases, a range of diseases but can also speed up the ageing process. Definitely not what we’re after. 

Antioxidants are the heroes to these free radical villains. Essentially ‘mopping up’ these free radicals, eating food high in antioxidants can significantly reduce the negative effects of a night on the town. 

So cherries and berries, grapes, pomegranates, carrots, spinach, ginger (that old chestnut), nuts and seeds, dark chocolate (finally!) and green and black teas are all a good bet.

HAIR OF THE DOG?

Right, it’s time to settle this once and for all: does the hair of the dog method actually work?!

Well, the short answer is yes. Although largely based on myth, there is actually some scientific evidence that having yet another drink the morning after a sesh lessens hangover symptoms. This is because alcohol changes the way our bodies process a chemical called methanol. After we drink alcohol, methanol is converted into formaldehyde – a toxic compound that could be the cause of some hangover symptoms. However, drinking alcohol when you’re already hungover can stop this conversion in its tracks and prevent the creation of formaldehyde altogether; instead, methanol can be safely exerted from the body. 

But this is problematic. For a start, you could simply be delaying the inevitable – armed with even more alcohol, your hangover could just come back later, with a vengeance. It’s also a risky business and could perpetuate a cycle of alcohol dependence that isn’t fun for anyone. So our recommendation? We’re no experts, but we’d advise against a morning-after sup. 

If you are tempted to hedge your bets, play it smart. When your blood has to deal with a new type of alcohol, it ignores the old, so instead of getting straight back on the G&Ts, opt for a Bloody Mary. Added bonus – the tomato juice, lemon, salt and pepper are replenishing some of your lost vitamins and minerals. 

GET OUT AND ABOUT 

We get it – standing up is often too much of a challenge when we’re hungover, let alone anything else. But a little exercise can do us the world of good. The silver lining to this inebriated cloud is that we don’t need to work up a sweat. A short walk in the fresh air will do the trick – restoring body and mind to some kind of normality, increasing our metabolism and helping our body to get rid of toxins a little faster. 

WHICH PAINKILLERS ARE BEST? 

Your regular pain relievers will soothe a pounding headache, no mistake. Just be careful how much you’re taking. NSAIDs like ibuprofen and aspirin can irritate the stomach, which can make any nausea worse. And somewhat surprisingly, experts warn to avoid paracetamol completely. Apparently, if alcohol is lingering in your system, it may accentuate the tablet’s toxic effects on the liver. 

SLEEP IT OFF 

When it comes to getting over a hangover, time and rest are often the best medicine. Although it may feel like we pass out, one of the main side-effects of drinking alcohol is the disruption caused to our sleep cycle, which is one of the reasons why we still feel as rough as a badger’s backside even if we did technically get our 8 hours. What can we do? Combat this the only way we know how – by sleeping some more.

OR JUST BURY US 

According to Irish folklore, the cure for a hangover can be found in burying the inebriated invalid up to the neck in moist river sand. A bit chilly for it, but at this point, we’ll try anything.