You know the routine: You wake up with fog in your brain and cotton in your mouth, thoroughly dehydrated, head pounding, eyeballs aching, hands trembling. It's the killer hangover, and it means business. What can you do to stop the pain?
Take it from us: You don't have to pour herbal liqueurs into cups of black coffee, feast on huge plates of super-spicy Mexican leftovers, huff and puff into a brown paper bag, munch on burnt toast, or eat steamed cactus to begin the healing process. Just consider these nine, tried-and-true steps to full recovery.
Drink Water Alcohol is a diuretic, so when you booze it up, the more you drink, the more your body becomes dehydrated. Your digestive system, your mouth, and even your eyes become dehydrated (hence the boozer's blurry, bloodshot eyes). Guzzling a few glasses along the way — and, especially, before you hit the sack — helps reduce the risk of a painful hangover. It also gives the body more time to process alcohol and dilute toxins. Drinking lots of water the morning after is vital.
Bathe A shower or bath is refreshing. It cleanses the soul and the body. If you muster the strength, some experts say a bit of light exercise (a bike ride, a quick walk, or a few sloppy jumping-jacks) before a bath or shower is even better. The body gets rid of toxins by perspiring. After rehydrating and getting up and about, a nice warm shower or bath (not too hot — you don't want to sweat out all the water you just ingested) will cleanse the pores and wash away some of the nastiness. A bar of soap, a fancy shower gel, plain washcloth ... it doesn't matter, just get on with it.
Eat a Banana Potassium is one of the many things depleted by copious amounts of alcohol and its diuretic effects. Eating a single banana before drinking can help prevent the inevitable loss of potassium. With the high amounts of vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, and magnesium in bananas, eating a small bunch — or drinking a smoothie with honey and a pinch of salt — at the onset of a hangover can help replace the essential nutrients you've lost. Plus they can settle a mildly queasy stomach more gently than a greasy breakfast platter.
Carefully Pop an Aspirin It's best to go light on the painkillers — or to avoid them altogether — when mixing in moderate or large amounts of alcohol. Aspirin and ibuprofen can upset the stomach. Acetaminophen is really hard on the kidneys and liver. Using these as hangover remedies could cause serious problems with long-term use. However, if one properly rehydrates, refurbishes some nutrients, and isn't terribly nauseous, a single tablet of aspirin can alleviate some of the painful throbbing in the head. But remember: Aspirin has to be metabolized by the liver, which is already grouchy because of the overtime.
Drink a Sports Drink It's wise to keep bottles of an uncarbonated sports drink handy. A few gulps can quickly replenish electrolytes, salts, and sugars depleted while drinking alcohol. In most sports drinks, the key electrolytes are sodium, potassium, and chloride, which are essential to hydration and muscle function. Lots of booze equals lots of trips to the bathroom, where lots of nutrients get pissed away.
Take Vitamins Vitamin C comes in handy in any hangover situation. It helps the liver detoxify the blood. A lot of vitamins are lost from frequent urination, so replacing them is a good idea. Many theorize that drinking can cause vitamin B12 deficiency. The B vitamins are especially important in aiding the alcohol metabolizing process and in dilating blood vessels. Replenishing your body with a B-complex vitamin capsule can help. Taking a multivitamin is even better.
Drink High-Quality Fruit Juice Another way to replenish fructose, nutrients, and fluids is to drink a moderate amount of fruit juice, first thing in the morning or with a light breakfast. Fructose helps the body metabolize alcohol, and it replaces blood sugar, which may be low after a heavy binge. Avoid the sugary and fizzy stuff. Look for all-natural juices, especially ones supplemented with extra vitamins. Fresh orange, apple, watermelon, or tomato juices work wonders.
Plop Alka-Seltzer The sodium bicarbonate in Alka-Seltzer helps treat a number of general ailments, from headaches and soreness to upset stomachs. It's designed to treat pain and neutralize excess stomach acid. Alka-Seltzer Morning Relief takes aim at horrible hangover symptoms with an extra jolt of aspirin (500 mg.) and caffeine (65 mg.). For regular coffee drinkers, the sad truth is that caffeine can continue to dehydrate the body, so a mild dose of caffeine here is a welcome fix.
Eat Eggs No matter how they're prepared — fried, scrambled, or boiled — a few eggs in the morning can provide protein for energy and an amino acid called cysteine for detoxification. Cysteine has been proposed by some scientists as a preventative or antidote for liver damage and hangovers. It counteracts the poisonous effects of acetaldehyde, a byproduct of alcohol metabolism. So eggs can help clean up a hangover's nastiest toxins.