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Can You Stop a Hangover?

A man has a hangover

If you drink alcohol, you’ve probably already experienced the worst part of drinking: the dreaded hangover. Dehydration, throbbing headaches, and sensitivity to light are just a few of the things many people experience after a fun night. But do hangovers always need to happen? Here’s what you need to know about managing this uncomfortable occurrence.

What are Hangovers?

A woman deals with a hangover
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Hangovers are the unpleasant aftermath of a night of drinking. Most people have experienced the grogginess, headache, and general feeling of malaise that accompanies a night of excessive alcohol consumption. Common hangover symptoms can include dehydration, headache, nausea, fatigue, sensitivity to light and sound, dizziness, and even muscle aches.

The severity of hangovers can vary from person to person and depend on a range of factors, including the type of alcohol you drink, how much you consume, your age, your weight, and your overall health.

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What Causes Hangovers?

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While the amount of alcohol you consume certainly makes an impact, hangovers can ultimately be explained by how alcohol affects your body. When you consume alcohol, your body metabolizes it into a compound called acetaldehyde. This toxic substance is responsible for many of the uncomfortable symptoms associated with a hangover. Acetaldehyde not only causes inflammation in the body but also irritates the stomach lining, leading to nausea and potentially vomiting.

Alcohol also disrupts your sleep patterns, leaving you feeling tired and unrested the next day. This can be compounded by the limited sleep you’re probably getting after staying out until the early hours of the morning. Finally, gastrointestinal irritation caused by alcohol can lead to an upset stomach and digestive issues. This explains why many people experience stomach pain and discomfort after a night of drinking.

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Can You Prevent Hangovers?

A group of friends out drinking

The best way to deal with a hangover is to prevent one from happening in the first place. Aside from avoiding alcohol altogether, there are a few things you can do to reduce the likelihood of a hangover. It is important to note that any amount of alcohol can cause some hangover symptoms, so there isn’t a way to prevent one completely if you’re drinking.

One important thing to do during a night of drinking is to stay hydrated. Alcohol is a diuretic, meaning it increases urine production and can lead to dehydration. As a result, drinking plenty of water before, during, and after alcohol consumption can help maintain your body’s fluid balance and prevent the loss of fluids that contribute to hangover symptoms. Make it a habit to sip on a glass of water between alcoholic drinks to keep yourself hydrated throughout the night.

Maintaining stable blood sugar levels is another key factor in preventing severe hangover symptoms. Alcohol consumption (especially without eating) can cause your blood sugar levels to fluctuate, leading to symptoms like weakness, dizziness, and fatigue. To avoid this, ensure you have a meal or snack that contains complex carbohydrates before drinking. These carbohydrates are gradually broken down by your body, providing a steady release of glucose and helping to stabilize your blood sugar levels.

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How to Reduce Hangover Effects

A man with a hangover
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Eating a good meal and drinking plenty of water before hitting the bars will only go so far. You’ll want to stay diligent once you start drinking and during the morning after to mitigate your symptoms as much as possible. Here are a few ways you can reduce hangover symptoms.

Limit Your Drinking

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Obviously, limiting your drinking is one of the most effective strategies for avoiding hangovers. While it may be tempting to have one too many drinks, doing so can increase the risk of developing a hangover and cause other negative side effects.

The effects of alcohol vary from person to person, so it is up to you to determine how much you can drink before you start to regret it. For some people this may be several drinks, while others will need to cut themselves off after one. If you want to extend the socializing aspect of drinking, opt for drinks with a lower alcohol content or nonalcoholic drinks as the night goes on. (And don’t forget to drink plenty of water!)

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Replenish Your Electrolytes

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Electrolytes are minerals that play a vital role in various bodily functions, including maintaining proper nerve and muscle function, regulating fluid balance, and supporting cellular function. When you consume alcohol, it can disrupt the balance of electrolytes in your body, leading to dehydration and unpleasant hangover symptoms.

You can replenish your electrolytes by consuming certain foods and drinks that are rich in these essential minerals, which include sodium, potassium, magnesium, and phosphate. The easiest way to get more electrolytes in your system is to consume a sports drink or add an electrolyte powder to some water. You can even bring a packet with you on your night out for electrolytes on the go.

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Eat Bland Foods

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If you find yourself dealing with a hangover despite your best efforts to avoid one, there are some things you can do to make your recovery process a little less miserable. One tip is to eat bland foods. While popular hangover cures often suggest greasy breakfast foods, these meals will probably aggravate your upset stomach even more.

Instead of bacon and fried eggs, stick to simple carbs like toast, crackers, and bagels until your nausea subsides. These foods are easy to digest and can help give your body a break without causing further distress.

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Take OTC Pain Relievers

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If your head is killing you the morning after drinking, your best bet for reducing the pain in a short time frame is taking over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), can provide relief from the pounding headaches and muscle aches that often accompany a night of heavy drinking. NSAIDs such as ibuprofen and aspirin can effectively alleviate these common hangover symptoms.

Ibuprofen, a popular NSAID, works to reduce pain and inflammation by blocking the production of certain chemicals in the body. It is a great option for relieving headache pain caused by excessive alcohol consumption. Similarly, aspirin has been shown to have analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties, making it another effective choice for combating hangover-related headaches and muscle soreness.

You need to be careful when choosing a pain reliever for your hangover. While NSAIDs like ibuprofen and aspirin can provide relief, it is best to avoid pain relievers containing acetaminophen, such as Tylenol. When combined with alcohol, acetaminophen can increase the risk of liver damage. Since both alcohol and acetaminophen are processed by the liver, the combination can put unnecessary strain on this vital organ, potentially leading to serious complications. Stick to NSAIDs to be safe.

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Everyone who drinks also dreads the next-day hangover. While you can’t completely prevent or cure a hangover, there are many things you can do to reduce the uncomfortable symptoms.

Anne Taylor Anne Taylor
Anne Taylor is a writer with a BA in Journalism and a passion for storytelling. Her work has been published on a variety of websites including Mental Floss and Well + Good, and she recently published her first novel, What it Takes to Lose. When she's not writing, Anne loves to travel (19 countries and counting), spend time outside, and play with her dog, Pepper. Read Full Bio »
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