How to cure a hangover: tips from doctors that actually work - as the UK returns to the pub

Tips for curing your monster hangover - as the UK returns to the pub after lockdown
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Lockdown restrictions are beginning to ease across the UK and with people beginning to head back to bars and pubs, celebrating with a round of drinks or two looks to be on the cards for many.

But those who spend a heavy night drinking may find themselves feeling worse for wear the next day, and looking for ways to alleviate the symptoms of a hangover.

So, is there an effective hangover ‘cure’ and can anything prevent or alleviate the symptoms of one?

Hangovers can generally cause splitting headaches, sickness and dizziness (Photo: Kim Mogg)Hangovers can generally cause splitting headaches, sickness and dizziness (Photo: Kim Mogg)
Hangovers can generally cause splitting headaches, sickness and dizziness (Photo: Kim Mogg)

What are the symptoms - and can you prevent them?

Hangovers can generally cause splitting headaches, sickness and dizziness, with dehydration from drinking alcohol causing many of the symptoms.

Dr Deborah Lee, from Dr Fox Online Pharmacy, said that “despite extensive research, sadly, no products have been identified as perfect hangover cures.”

However, there are still certain things that can help prevent and alleviate them.

Dr Lee explains the best option is to avoid getting a hangover in the first place by making sure to drink responsibly and stay within recommended limits.

But let’s face it - that’s not always possible - especially given that lockdown is easing and we’re all heading back to the pub to catch up with friends and family we haven’t seen in months.

So, if you are planning a bit of a session, there are certain things you can do to try and prevent a hangover from occurring. Here are some tips for preventing a hangover:

- Don’t drink on an empty stomach – always drink with food.

- Drink plenty of water – one glass of water for each alcoholic drink.

- Drink slowly and savour your drinks. This helps you drink less overall.

- Avoid fizzy drinks, as bubbles speed up the absorption of alcohol.

- Avoid dark coloured drinks, such as dark coloured spirits and red wine, as these contain increased amounts of congeners – substances that are

produced during the fermentation process.

- Don’t mix your drinks.

- Make sure after drinking you get plenty of sleep.

- Eat and drink the morning after, to raise your blood sugar levels.

What are the best cures for a hangover?

If all else fails and you still feel terrible in the morning, there are some simple tips and tricks for making yourself feel better.

Some people suggest ‘hair of the dog’ but according to the NHS, drinking again soon after a night out does not help. The NHS says: “drinking in the morning is a risky habit,” as you may “simply be delaying the appearance of symptoms until the extra alcohol wears off.”

If you've been drinking heavily, doctors usually advise that you wait at least 48 hours before drinking any more alcohol - even if you don't have a hangover - in order to give your body time to recover.

You can also ease the symptoms of a hangover by taking painkillers to help with headaches and muscle cramps, rehydrating and eating sugary foods to make you less trembly, according to the NHS.

There are certain foods and drinks which can help to prevent or alleviate a hangover, according to Sian Baker, Head of Wellbeing Services and Registered Nutritional Therapist at health and wellness testing company Check My Body Health.

Ms Baker says these seven foods and drinks can help to prevent - or even beat - a hangover:

- Dairy - if you’re anticipating a session of heavy drinking, lining your stomach first with dairy products such as milk, or yoghurt can help to reduce the effects of any alcohol consumed.

- Water - ensuring that you’re adequately hydrated will help to ease the hangover effects. You can also add a little sugar and salt to your water to make your own rehydration drink and replace the water you have lost, as well as the sugars and essential salts.

- Fish - protein and fats, such as the healthy oils found in fish, will remain in your stomach for longer, so are another great food to consume before starting to drink. Taking omega-3 and 6 capsules both before and after alcohol will also help to coat the stomach and replenish your fatty acid levels the next morning.

- Spinach - magnesium is one nutrient that is often depleted during a session of drinking, so magnesium-rich foods such as spinach will help to replenish your magnesium levels. Spinach also has anti-inflammatory properties, so makes a good basis for a meal to help you get over your hangover.

- Bananas - drinking alcohol can create electrolyte imbalances through increasing fluid loss and increasing electrolyte excretion, so rebalancing your electrolyte levels will help you to recover. Bananas contain good amounts of potassium, so will help to bring up your levels after a heavy night of drinking. Avocados and other potassium-rich foods will also help make a difference.

- Pineapple - nausea is a very common hangover symptom, but pineapple contains the enzyme bromelain, which helps to ease digestion and reduce pressure on your liver.

- Ginger - eating a little bit of ginger is another great way to help reduce feelings of nausea. Ginger can reduce inflammation and help to settle your stomach.

Am I actually allergic to alcohol?

Ms Baker adds that if you are being mindful of both your hydration and eating when drinking, but still find that you’re very rough after a drink, then there’s “the possibility that you could be suffering from an intolerance to alcohol, or some of the specific ingredients in it.”

She says: “Gluten, wheat and yeast can all be found in alcoholic beverages such as beer, ale, and lager, and are among the most common food intolerances.

“Headaches, bloating, constipation and diarrhea are all symptoms that are often assumed to be due to a hangover but can also indicate an intolerance.”

If you do think that your symptoms could be more than just a hangover, then a food intolerance test at your GP could help to reveal if you do have an intolerance.

Alternatively, opt for a gluten-free alcoholic drink instead of your usual drink of choice to see if your symptoms persist.