Oops, you did it again. You swore you wouldn’t drink that extra glass — or two or three — of spiked eggnog, but you did, and now you went from holidaze to holi-oh-my-gosh-everything-hurts-and-I-just-want-to-die. So why do we even get hangovers?
“Hangovers occur from the way our bodies breaks down alcoholic drinks,” Rebecca Park, a registered nurse and founder of the natural health resource Remedies For Me, tells SheKnows. “The alcohol is first broken down by the liver into acetaldehyde, which is poisonous and is a cancerous byproduct. As the alcohol produces a feeling of euphoria, the acetaldehyde causes the unpleasant hangover symptoms, such as headaches, nausea and vomiting.”
Eventually, Park says, the acetaldehyde is converted into fructose and then into acetic acid, which is changed into carbon dioxide and is exhaled out of the body through the lungs. And if you think your hangovers are getting worse as you age, you’re not wrong.
While cutting back on the booze is the obvious way to avoid feeling groggy and gross after a night of holiday cheer, there are a number of ways to kick that hangover to the curb.
Go for the H20
“Water is the best cure for hangovers,” Dr. Suzanne Fuchs tells SheKnows. “Alternating a glass of water with an alcoholic drink can prevent a hangover. Drink a glass or two of water before going to bed to prevent dehydration.” Even if you forget to drink up before bed, Fuchs says it’s never too late to replenish, so grab that bottled water and chug.
However, if plain water doesn’t exactly whet your appetite, there are other alternatives that not only taste better but will also help cure your throbbing head and body. Park recommends both cactus water and maple water.
According to Park, cactus water is an anti-inflammatory plant-based drink that is rich in vitamins, minerals, amino acids, electrolytes and antioxidants. It boosts the immune system due to its high content of vitamin B, vitamin C, antioxidants and electrolytes.
“Cactus water is absorbed much better than water in our bodies,” says Park. “Water just passes right through our system and does not contain as many nutrients as cactus water does.”
Maple water, says Park, is great for healing different ailments as well as hydrating the body and boosting the immune system.
“Maple water contains antioxidants, phytonutrients, vitamins, minerals, amino acids, enzymes and polyphenols. It is also exceptionally high in potassium, calcium and magnesium — all of which is great for a hungover body,” says Park, adding that maple sap is great for hangovers due to its ability to speed up the metabolism of alcohol by increasing the amount of liver enzymes.
Crack an egg
There’s actually a really good reason why a plate of fried eggs along with bacon and toast is the ultimate hangover remedy.
“Eggs are not only an easily digested food, but they are also high in protein and an amino acid called L-cysteine, which has been shown to help break down acetaldehyde relatively quickly,” says Fuchs. “Acetaldehyde is a toxic by-product of alcohol that is metabolized in the liver. Consuming eggs will reduce the time you spend feeling hungover. Whip up some eggs when you return from a late night out or upon waking up in the morning.”
“Alcohol depletes a broad range of vitamins, amino acids, fatty acids, enzymes, proteins and minerals from your body,” Dr. Carolyn Dean, a medical doctor and naturopath, tells SheKnows. “The kingpin to this depletion is magnesium, which is the anti-stress mineral that most people with a hangover are deficient in. This mineral regulates 600 to 700 enzyme actions in the body.”
According to Dean, nutritional magnesium prevents platelet aggregation, “which helps to avoid the thickened blood and tiny clots that can cause blood vessel spasms and the pain of a tension headache or hangover and can lessen the damage to the brain.”
However, Dean points out that not all forms of magnesium are easily absorbed by the body, which is why she recommends magnesium citrate powder which can be taken with hot or cold water and can be sipped throughout the day.
Have a little honey
“One of the unusual wonders of honey is its ability to fight a hangover,” says Park. “Consuming foods that contain natural fructose, such as honey, helps to speed up the process of oxidation of alcohol. As a result, your body can flush out the toxins at a faster rate.”
If a spoonful of honey doesn’t sound appetizing, try some honey on dry toast. Your body will like the carbs anyway.
When in doubt, reaching for a banana first thing in the morning might be just what the doctor ordered.
“Eating a banana will replenish lost potassium after drinking too much alcohol,” says Fuchs. “Eating a banana in the morning will also help soothe your stomach by providing something solid to digest. Organic bananas, of course, contain more beneficial potassium and other minerals.”
So there you have it. Stock up on various waters, bananas, eggs and magnesium, and you’ll be back to your old self in no time. Of course, whether you try one or all of the above remedies, there’s one tip that will help your hangover the most: Skip the eggnog altogether or drink in moderation. It might be the party-pooper move, but at least it’ll save you from a day on the couch.
A version of this story was published December 2018.