For health’s sake, women should limit alcohol to one drink a day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But let’s face it, when you’re out celebrating your friend’s new job or simply cutting loose after a long week, it’s easy to overdo. Problem is, you pay the price for overindulging the next morning. And it’s not pretty. “A hangover is your body withdrawing from alcohol,” says Stuart Finkelstein, MD, addiction medicine specialist in Lakewood, CA. “The most common complaints include headache, nausea, and generally feeling bad all over.”
Recent news stories cite the popularity of Pedialyte, an electrolyte drink for sick kids, as a hangover cure for adults. “Since alcohol is a diuretic it actually dehydrates your body,” says Finkelstein. “Therefore drinking fluids like water, Pedialyte or Gatorade-type drinks can help replenish your body’s need for more fluids. It’s probably the best way to help reduce the effects of a hangover.”
Naturally, if you stay within your limits you’ll never need a hangover cure. But on occasion when you’ve had too much, try these expert recommended solutions to feel better fast.
Taking the herbal supplement milk thistle before you go out and again in the morning can help you feel better faster, says Prem Chattoo, MD, a gastroenterologist with Hudson River Gastroenterology with offices in New York and New Jersey. “It basically acts as your liver’s assistant, helping get rid of the alcohol more quickly than your liver could on its own.” Take it again in the morning to help your body keep working on the remaining alcohol during the day.
Consuming activated charcoal (available in capsule form) after drinking absorbs the alcohol and lessens the hangover symptoms, says Nancy Guberti, MS, a Greenwich, CT, based certified holistic nutritionist. “Works like a charm. Also make sure to stay hydrated.” Start with a squeeze of lemon and splash of apple cider vinegar in your water. If you drink coffee cut back a bit, since coffee narrows blood vessels and may boost blood pressure, not desirable when you have a hangover, says Guberti.
Pop a B vitamin
In the hospital setting, a combination of electrolytes and B vitamins are given through a special IV formulation to people who have ingested too much alcohol, says Arielle Levitan, MD, co-founder of Vous Vitamin LLC. “It’s very effective in combating the toxic effects. We recommend B vitamins (specifically thiamine and folate) and magnesium with plenty of water to help both prevent and treat a hangover.”
Juicing together a combination of carrot, beet (contains blood building nutrients—valuable in cases of headache), and cucumber can help, says Will Shannon, a naturopath with Australia’s Pinnacle Clinic. “Add a little cabbage for extra benefit. Cabbage is a blood cleanser and contains sulfur, which helps cleanse the mucous membranes of the intestines and stomach.”
Go for C
Taking a gram (1,000 mg) of vitamin C three times a day reduces the effects of alcohol toxicity, says Shannon. “It helps to increase white blood cell count to boost the rate of alcohol clearance from the blood and improve the elimination of acetaldehyde, the toxic chemical in to which alcohol is converted by the body, leading to throbbing headaches, and nausea or vomiting.”
Before going to bed take a tablespoon of omega-3 fish oil or five capsules, says Robert Kominiarek, DO, a Chicago family physician. “It’s a great anti-inflammatory supplement. Chances are you’ll wake up without that pounding headache.”