First, understand that a hangover is caused by more than dehydration—though it does play a large role. Your body metabolizes alcohol into acetaldehyde, which is toxic to brain cells, says Robert Swift, M.D., Ph.D., a professor at Brown University’s Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies. Another byproduct of booze breakdown is adenosine, a neurochemical that dilates blood vessels in the brain and causes a splitting headache. Pile on low blood sugar, a loss of electrolytes, stomach irritation, and poor-quality sleep, and it’s no wonder you feel like feel like you’re the last survivor of a Tarantino movie. (Hurting from more than a hangover? Click here for 10 DIY Fixes for Every Ache and Pain.)
Don’t feel too shabby? You could be lucky; studies suggest that 25 to 30 percent of people are virtually immune to hangovers. That, or you might still be buzzed. It takes a full 8 to 11 hours for your blood alcohol content (BAC) to hit zero after you reach the amount of booze necessary to trigger a hangover. If you raged until last call last night, take precautions now—even if you feel fine.
Follow these research-proven tips to fend off your nausea, pounding head, and general hatred of life.
1. Don't Gulp GallonsYou’ve heard that dehydration is a major hangover cause, and it’s true. The problem: Too much water will only stretch out an already-irritated stomach, leading to (even more) nausea or vomiting. Instead, gulp 8 ounces of water every hour you’re awake after drinking, Dr. Swift recommends.
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2. Pop the Right PainkillerThat’d be ibuprofen. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) can risk liver damage after a night of drinking. Because both acetaminophen and alcohol are metabolized by the liver, boozing disrupts your liver from fully breaking down the toxins in the pain pills, Dr. Swift says. And aspirin can upset your stomach.
3. Grab GatoradeAfter a few cups of water, switch to a sports drink. “The extra salt helps your body absorb the fluids more quickly,” Dr. Swift says.
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