Hangover Recovery: How to Overcome a Headsplitting Hangover
It's happened to the best of us.
We went out on the town—perhaps for a happy hour with coworkers, a friend's birthday party, a stressful week leaving you ready to explode. The drinks kept coming, and we kept drinking them, because hey, why not? We're having a great time, the night has no end in sight, and we haven't even considered our hangover recovery plan.
We forgot the 9 A.M. breakfast we had planned with Mom, or our brother's graduation ceremony. We wake up to the pounding, shrieking, shrill sound of our alarm only to realize—holy crap, I'm hungover as heck.
Head pounding. World spinning. Cottonmouth. Will this ever end?
Hangovers are no fun. And according to research, those who drink on a consistent basis spend an astounding two years of their lives hungover. When you consider all the beauty life has to offer, that number is WAY too high.
Do you want to nix the hangover and have a good time, sans headache? Are you curious about ways to treat nausea, dehydration, and all the other unwanted symptoms of a night out that was way too fun?
There are options. We explain it all in this guide.
What Is a Hangover, Really?
Okay, so you've got an idea of what a hangover is. If you're reading this article, chances are you've experienced it before and you're looking for solutions. You know the common symptoms you can expect to feel after a night out (or a day out, if you're feeling rambunctious).
But it helps to know what a hangover really is because that offers more insight into how to stop it.
You've also likely heard some crazy myths about how to treat a hangover. "Take a cold shower! Drink black coffee," they said.
But those aren't foolproof or science-backed. They're exactly what we said—myths. Tall tales. You're left still hungover and, well, wet with a cup of now-cold coffee in your hands.
So, what is a hangover? Why does it happen? Let's look into what alcohol does to our bodies.
Alcohol's Effect on the Body
Alcohol affects it all—our brains, livers, immune system, sexual reproduction. That's not all, either. There's hardly an area in our bodies that alcohol doesn't affect.
When we begin to consume alcohol, from the very first sip, our body works to metabolize it. This is taking it away from its typical jobs, like processing fat. So not only is it working harder to excrete alcohol, but its regular, vital functions are getting ignored.
There are a number of short-term and long-term effects on the body. Let's take a look.
When it comes to the brain, alcohol affects its ability to create long-term memories. This is why we 'blackout' and have trouble remembering certain parts of the evening the following day. Alcohol causes frontal lobe damage, which covers long-term memory, judgment, and emotional control.
Which is another symptom of alcohol use—loss of inhibitions. You may become a 'happy drunk,' an 'angry drunk,' or someone who doesn't recognize your own actions or words. You can't control yourself in a normal manner, the way you would if you were sober.
One of the first, clearest symptoms of excessive alcohol intake is slurred speech. Another is fatigue, as alcohol is a depressant. You may start off feeling lively, but it won't take long before tiredness sets in, leaving you ready to hit the bed.
Malnutrition begins almost immediately as well. Once you begin drinking alcohol, your body can no longer absorb the necessary vitamins and minerals from the food you eat. Therefore, eating a healthy meal alongside your drinks is not a solution.
Loss of coordination is another short-term symptom. This is why you may wake up with broken high heels or rolled ankles. Balance takes a hit with alcohol use.
This is one of many reasons it's very unsafe to drive while intoxicated. This, combined with blurry vision, is a recipe for disaster.
Last (and certainly not least) is the need to urinate. Alcohol is a diuretic, which means that drinking it can cause you to pee more than if you'd drank the same amount of water. It's also worth noting that the higher the ABV (alcohol by volume), the greater the urge to pee.
So, you may be able to stave off the diuretic effects with lower-alcohol beverages, like a 4% beer, over say, 8-11%.
The long-term effects of alcohol are arguably more dangerous (although they're all negative in their own right). Long-term effects of alcohol stand to do more damage to your body, including your brain.
Long-term exposure to alcohol can cause brain atrophy, or shrinkage of the brain. Additionally, it can cause hallucinations (a withdrawal symptom), or dependence.
If drinking alcohol has begun to affect your work life, school performance, relationships, and other responsibilities, this is a sign of dependence. Your tolerance will also get higher, allowing you to drink more without feeling the effects as quickly.
Cancer, heart damage, liver damage, and lung infections are also symptoms of long-term usage. Chronic drinking is one of the leading causes of heart disease; heavy drinkers are also more likely to get throat, mouth, breast, or esophagus cancers. Heavy drinkers also have a harder time fighting off infections, leading to problems like pneumonia or tuberculosis.
Liver damage is apparent, because that's what detoxes your body. Your liver goes into overdrive attempting to remove harmful substances, i.e. alcohol, from your body. This can lead to problems like cirrhosis.
Excessive alcohol use also causes stomach problems. This can show up in the form of bloating, gas, or ulcers, or can also appear as frequent diarrhea. Diarrhea is because of intestinal damage.
Sexual complications include infertility for women or erectile dysfunction for men. Excessive use while pregnant also leads to birth defects such as fetal alcohol syndrome.
Other problems include diabetes complications, thinning bones, pancreatitis, muscle cramps, and much more.
Now that you’re aware of the many complications of alcohol, let’s try and understand how long alcohol stays in our bodies. This can potentially help you mitigate your hangover crisis!
How Long Does Alcohol Stay in the Body?
Did you know that even months after your last drink, alcohol can still be detected in the body? Of course, this is different for everyone depending on a number of factors.
For one, we each metabolize alcohol differently. This depends on how much we drink, how often, what kind of alcohol we ingest. It also depends on things like age, gender, weight, and the like.
In general, though, most people can break down about half a drink every hour. That's why it's common knowledge to try not to have more than one drink an hour, and if we do, to supplement it with a glass of water.
Let's look at this from the perspective of BAC, or blood alcohol content.
If your current BAC is at 0.08% (the maximum 'legal' limit in most states), and you quit drinking, you'd be at about 0.05% in two hours. This means that your BAC should lower at a rate of about 0.015 per hour.
BAC, in the U.S., gets calculated as a percentage of the grams of alcohol you consume per every 100 milliliters of your blood. That's one reason why factors like weight come into play.
But, even after your hangover, alcohol can still get detected in the body.
Alcohol should be gone from the blood in about six hours after the final consumption. It can be detectable in breath, urine, or saliva for 12 hours up to one full day. And in hair, it may be detectable up to three months.
So, depending on how much you drank, and how soon you stopped drinking, it may be considered unsafe to drive the next morning. If you were to get pulled over for a traffic violation, a police officer may be able to smell alcohol on your breath. This could result in a DUI (or worse).
Surefire Symptoms of a Hangover
If you've landed on this article, you've likely experienced the dreaded hangover headache and/or the spins. But before we tell you how to get rid of nausea and the like, let's discuss the signs that you, sir or madam, are experiencing a hangover.
What are the classic, telltale physical and mental symptoms of a hangover, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism?
- Fatigue (as mentioned previously)
- Physical weakness
- Vertigo, or a spinning sensation
- Pain in the form of headaches, body aches, muscle aches
- GI problems such as nausea, vomiting (which contributes to dehydration), stomach pain, diarrhea
- Sensitivity to light and sound (like when you want to kill your roommate for putting away dishes in the morning)
- Decreased attention span, concentration, and other cognitive abilities
- Depression, anxiety, irritability (and possibly just plain-old embarrassment from your actions the previous evening)
- Increased pulse
- Decreased sleep, deep sleep, and/or slow-wave sleep
- Hyperactive blood pressure
Now, depending on a number of factors—some of which we've mentioned, some of which we'll get to—you may experience one, two, or all these symptoms. It all depends on the person.
Additionally, you may feel one of these symptoms one time but not another.
But if you've had a night out drinking, and you're feeling any of these the next day?
You've got a hangover, baby.
You'll start to experience these unpleasant effects a few hours after your last drink, once your BAC begins to lower. When your BAC returns to normal, or zero, is when your hangover has peaked. These effects can last anywhere from a few hours to an entire day.
Cancel all your plans! You're not leaving this bed! Unless it's for that hangover breakfast.
So, what factors can have an effect on your hangover? Let's cover those next.
What Factors Affect Your Hangover?
Have you ever went out with friends, everyone had about the same amount to drink, but your hangover seemed to be way worse? Or the exact opposite—you can drink much more without feeling the unpleasant effects.
What's that about?
We've already touched briefly on a few of these factors, but let's take this thought more in-depth here.
For one, genetics play a major part in this role. Some people have a mutation for the enzyme 'alcohol dehydrogenase,' which makes alcohol not convert into the toxic acetaldehyde as easily or at all. Of course, this comes with its own complications, but that's for a different discussion.
Are you a woman who likes to go drink-for-drink with your man? Well, you may want to stop.
Women are more prone to hangovers than men are, which may be because of their lower body weight. Hangover research that compares men and women of the same weight finds that they experience similar hangovers.
Your age and maturity level may come into play, too. A study showed that those 40+ years of age experienced fewer and less severe hangovers—perhaps because they spread their drinks out in a less binge-worthy manner than their younger cohorts. Of course, this is subjective.
Other factors include how much (or little) food and water you took in that day. Those who supplement drinking alcohol with drinking healthy amounts of water will naturally stay more hydrated.
And lastly, drinks with higher ABVs result in harder hangovers, too. If you're taking shots of whiskey while your friends sip beer, you'll be in for a hangover.
Which brings us to one more point: congeners. Let's look at those.
A Look at Congeners
During the alcohol fermentation process, some types of alcohol produce higher levels of congeners. These are trace, toxic chemicals that directly affect your hangover status.
High-congener liquors include darker-colored liquids like whiskey, bourbon, red wine. In order from least to most, congener content looks as follows:
- White wine
- Red wine
So, one way to prevent a massive hangover could be as simple as sticking to those lighter-colored liquids.
Hangover Myths to Avoid
Before we discuss the real hangover treatments, let's discuss the fakes—so you can avoid them at all costs. These 'treatments' are myths that aren't backed by any true evidence, so you can do them if you please, but don't expect hangover relief!
- Only drinking top-shelf liquors (unless, of course, their price tag makes you drink less)
- Eating a slew of carbs to "soak up" the alcohol (put down that pizza!)
- Making yourself throw up—because not only is that nasty and unhealthy, it further contributes to your dehydration
- Drinking coffee
- Eating a greasy breakfast
- Taking an over-the-counter painkiller before drinking or before bed
- Keeping your tolerance up (we've discussed the long-term effects of alcohol, such as dependence, above)
- Staying in bed all day
- 'Hair of the dog,' or having a drink the next morning
Certain myths on this list may even contribute to that hangover feeling.
Let's take coffee, for example. Your body becomes even more confused than it already was pre-coffee. The caffeine reduces swollen blood vessels while the alcohol raises your blood pressure.
This leaves your body feeling all like, "Huh? What are we doing?!"
And let's look at sleeping all day. Sure, it may feel like the right thing to do. After all, you're fatigued and potentially depressed.
But a better treatment for that is to get some light exercise instead, which releases endorphins (a natural painkiller), helps bring oxygen back to your cells, and increases blood circulation.
Now, let's continue by discussing authentic hangover remedies next.
How to Prevent a Hangover: A Look at Hangover Recovery
Last but certainly not least—what is the treatment to a hangover? Because we all know it's inevitable at some point when dabbling in drinking!
Below, we'll cover a few tried-and-true, science-backed methods to curing your hangover—no myths here!
Limit Your Intake and Length of Intake
Of course, one of the only true ways to not get hungover is to limit your intake altogether. Maybe you can still drink, but only have 1-2 or three drinks, not 5-6 or more (and besides, binge drinking is extremely dangerous in its own right).
Additionally, you can limit the length of your intake. Start later and stop sooner! But when you can't manage those things—hey, we all like to have a little fun sometimes—check out our next prevention techniques.
Drink Alcohol with Fewer Congeners
We've discussed the dangers of congeners above, so feel free to familiarize yourself again by re-reading that paragraph.
If you typically drink hangover-inducing liquids like whiskey or brandy, try switching it up for a night and see how you feel. Sip on a vodka and tonic with a lime, or try a light lager instead.
Eat a Healthy (Read: Not Greasy) Breakfast
Some people crave that greasy hangover meal. You know: the double cheeseburger or fat stack of pancakes with a side of bacon.
Forgo the greasy, unhealthy meal and stick for one that's rife with nutrients.
Try avocado for healthy fats, maybe some sourdough toast with eggs, or even a slice of chilled salmon. Eat a bowl of fruit. Try to re-up the nutrients you've lost instead of adding to your stomach's indigestion.
Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate
You already know by now that alcohol is a diuretic. You can attempt to reduce the problems caused by this by hydrating as much as possible.
Try alternating one alcoholic drink with one glass of water. This should keep you more hydrated overnight, staving off that cottonmouth. And paired with a healthy breakfast, you may decrease your odds of vomiting, also leading to better hydration.
Try the Miraculous Hangover Prevention Topical Patch
You read that correctly: there is an innovative, effective hangover prevention in town.
We already know how alcohol depletes the body of vital nutrients and vitamins. So what better way to combat this than wearing a patch that re-ups those necessary minerals?
Our patch offers a variety of astounding benefits, such as:
- Helping to prevent hangovers before they even start
- No pills to swallow or ineffective tonics to drink
- Natural vitamins, minerals, and herbs, which are vital to restore after drinking
- Safe, easy-to-use, and convenient (just stick it on a hairless part of your body one hour before drinking!)
- Zero calories
- Single-use application, allowing you to only use on an as-needed basis
When we begin drinking, we force our body to metabolize the alcohol instead of breaking down micronutrients like fat. This leaves us depleted of useful nutrients like vitamins and minerals. Which, in turn, leaves us mighty deficient (and hungover).
High doses of vitamins like C, B1, B2, B6, and B12 in our patch rebalances those nutrient levels and leaves us feeling more revitalized. Some additional nutrients in our patch include:
- Milk thistle extract
- Ginger root extract (proven to relieve hangover symptoms)
- Prickly pear extract (proven to decrease symptoms and cut hangover time significantly)
Additionally, those with allergies needn't worry. This patch is free from soy, gluten, casein, milk, eggs, wheat, nuts, shellfish, corn, soy. We keep it neutral and natural.
If you know you're heading out tonight—Halloween party! backyard BBQ! drinks with clients!—simply apply a patch in a low-key area on your body one hour before heading out. The vital nutrients in the patch should work to help you prevent a hangover.
Of course, be sure to take our other listed methods into consideration to reduce your odds even more.
One Ticket to Sober City, Please
By using the methods we've thoroughly discussed in this article, you should be well on your way to hangover recovery. When all else fails, you know by now that a patch from us can not only treat your hangover but actually prevent it—and there's really no greater solution than that!
Contact us today to try our innovative solutions to optimizing your nutrition intake—and get you on the path to recovery and a healthy life.
Hangovers are miserable, but you don’t have to just suffer through them. Read on to learn about the hangover tips that actually work, and enjoy your next night out worry-free.
It may seem counterintuitive to think that the secret for a night of drinking is, well, drinking. After all, alcohol is liquid, right, so shouldn’t it be hydrating in itself? But alcohol both dehydrates you and makes you have to pee more, both of which can be deceiving.
Alcohol prevents your body from releasing vasopressin, a hormone that tells your kidneys to stop making urine. So in essence, it dehydrates you faster without returning any fluid to your body, a problem not helped if your hangover involves diarrhea, sweating, or vomiting. Drink some water, and you’ll feel better.
Any experienced drinker knows that after a night out, all you want is an entire plateful of fries, preferably loaded down with cheese. In fact, most drunk food is mostly carbs, and there’s a reason for it.
Alcohol is thought to lower blood sugar levels, which may be part of the headache and fatigue that comes with a hangover. You may also have neglected to eat anything while you were out, so your brain is running on empty. Get some toast or other carbs in your system to fuel back up.
No, we don’t mean to stick to the lite beers that come with no calories, no carbs, and even less taste. Instead, when you’re picking cocktails, stick to the lighter liquors: think gin, vodka, and rum. It may surprise you to learn that these liquors can help you out the next morning.
Darker liquors such as bourbon, tequila, and red wine are packed with a by-product called congeners. Congeners can increase the severity and duration of a hangover, so you want to avoid them. Stick to mai tais, and leave the merlot in the bottle.
Skip the Tylenol
When we wake up with a hangover, most of us hope that our drunk selves thought to leave out some water and painkillers before we went to bed. We want something to relieve that clanging headache, and most of us reach for Tylenol. But it turns out this can make matters worse; you do want a painkiller, but not acetaminophen.
Acetaminophen is hard on your liver, and any alcohol left in your system can make that worse. Aspirin or ibuprofen can help get rid of the pain without beating up your liver. But make sure you take them with that toast we mentioned earlier; on an empty, alcohol-ridden stomach, NSAIDS (the class of drugs ibuprofen belongs to) can make you sick.
Get Some Caffeine
Getting a cup of coffee is another one of those automatic hangover treatments that most of us do without knowing why. Most of us feel pretty foggy after a night out drinking, and we’re looking to shake off the funk so we can move on with our day.
Caffeine is a powerful stimulant, which does help to shake us out of that stupor and make us feel more human again. But beware – coffee is another dehydrator. Make sure you’re drinking plenty of water along with your coffee.
Take Your Vitamins
We all grew up with the vague idea that taking vitamins is a good step to better health. We took those chalky Flintstones vitamins that tasted vaguely like Smarties (we can all agree, the worst candy ever made). But now that we’re grown-ups, we need grown-up vitamins that can address our real problems: hangovers.
Vitamin B6 may help to lessen the symptoms of a hangover. According to one small study published three decades ago, taking a total of 1,200 mg of B6 before, during, and after your night out can help you out the next morning. No one has been able to replicate the results of the study, but it can’t hurt, right?
Alcohol does strange things to sleeping patterns. As you probably know, alcohol can help you fall asleep faster (sometimes much faster than you’d like). But it disrupts REM sleep, the most important part of the sleep cycle for feeling fully rested.
Some of the worst parts of a hangover – the fatigue, the headache, the mood swings – are only made worse by a lack of proper sleep. So instead of trying to drag yourself out of bed the next morning, sleep in. And if possible, make sure you get a good night’s sleep the day before you go out on the town.
What’s Your Hangover Treatment?
Everyone has their own hangover go-to, from taking a shot of pickle juice to having a little hair of the dog. Some work better than others, though, and the ones we’ve listed here are backed by science. So next time you’re getting ready to go out with your friends, remember this list and do your future self a solid.
If you’d like to learn more about how to feel better in your day-to-day life, check out the rest of our site at PatchMD. We offer an innovative solution to optimizing your daily nutrient intake and getting all the natural supplements you need. Check out our awesome line of products to start improving your daily health today.