How to Skip a Hangover — An Evidence-Based Approach

So . . . Saint Patrick’s Day is just around the corner. And in America, we basically use this as an excuse to don green, crack out our worst and most offensive Irish accents, and give our livers some exercise.

It’s a holiday that precipitates celebratory libations of the alcoholic variety, really.

You know what comes after that?

The dreaded hangover. You know. The pounding headache. The dry mouth. Generally feeling like total poop.

Obviously, the best way to prevent a hangover is to abstain or only drink a bit. But despite your best intentions, every now and then the celebrating may get away from you. And boom. Hang over.

What can you do that can REALLY help a hangover? This a topic where old wives tales abound. But guess what? There is actually scientific data on this.

And I’m giving you five evidence-based ways to help you skip a hangover.

1. Hydrate.

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Water, water, and more water. Before you drink, while you drink, and most certainly after.

Hydrating before and during drinking can actually help curb the amount of alcohol you consume. Chugging water AFTER can make a huge difference in the dehydrating effects of alcohol.

2. If You Love the Grapes, Go Organic

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If you drink wine, choose organic. Not only are you keeping your system clear of pesticides, you are guaranteeing what you’re imbibing in is free of added sulfites. Sulfites are notorious for making you feel bad.

3. Rosé (and White) All Day  

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A study conducted in 1973 (you know, before medical study ethics were a thing) discovered which alcoholic beverages were most and least likely to cause a hangover.

The worst wine? Red.

If you want to avoid a hangover, try white or rose.

4. For Spirits, Lighter is Better

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This has actually been studied.

A study published in BMJ in the 1970s looked at hangover risk associated with bourbon and vodka (each group drank 1.5 g/kg of body weight of alcohol). The result? Three percent of the vodka drinkers experienced hangover while 33 percent of the bourbon drinkers did.

Do you prefer spirits? If so, vodka (which just contains alcohol and water) is probably your best bet. Other spirits such as rum and bourbon contain congeners, which are toxic byproducts of the fermentation process that add flavor and color. Congeners are associated with hangover symptoms.

5. Skip the Pre-Celebratory Pain Relievers

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I know the idea of taking a pre-drinking aspirin, acetaminophen (generic for Tylenol), or ibuprofen (generic for Advil or Motrin) can be tempting.

But don’t.

When you mix aspirin or ibuprofen with alcohol, you can increase your risk of a stomach (GI) bleed. Trust me, you don’t want that.

And the seemingly innocent Tylenol? It can precipitate liver damage if you drink too much.

If you really want to do something pre-emptive, drink a glass of water and eat a good meal.

Cheers!

Now you know the evidence on hangover prevention. Next time you celebrate, remember to hydrate, go organic, go for lighter wines and spirits, and skip the pre-drink pain reliever. Wishing you a happy and healthier St. Patty’s Day!

In health,
Skye