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How to cure that killer hangover you've been nursing all day

Will it be a raw egg and tomato juice or hair of the dog?

Ashitha Nagesh

Urggghhh.

Work is hard enough when you’re not dragging yourself through the day with a splitting headache, random waves of nausea and a faint sense of shame.

That’s right - you overdid it the night before and now you’re hungover.

Sigh. But don’t worry, there are tried and tested ways of getting through the day in one piece.

We’ve collected our favourite remedies for your perusal because the perfect hangover cure is a source of endless debate - so much so it randomly started trending on Twitter on Monday (must have been a heavy Sunday night).

Because we don’t know if a massive fry-up is a scientifically-backed method or just a placebo, we’ve asked some experts to weigh in - three GPs (Dr Ross Perry, Dr Gary Bartlett and Dr Maheinthan Yogeswaran), nutritionist Rhiannon Lambert, and Milton Crawford, who wrote a cookbook on good hangover food. 

Yes, we know "prevention is the best cure". Obviously, you should avoid drinking too much in the first place. And, yep, recent studies do show that drinking any amount of alcohol is bad for you. We are aware. Thank you.

But hey, it happens - so if you’re struggling at your desk today, maybe it’s worth considering one of these.

Bagels with loads of toppings

This sounds like heaven. An incredible, carby heaven.

If you can get your hands on one, a huge bagel smeared with a shedload of cream cheese, onion, tomatoes and bacon may just do the trick. For veggie and vegan options, just swap in tofu cream cheese and ‘facon’ (that is, fake bacon). It tastes almost as good, honest.

So does it work? Is all that bread really soaking the alcohol up from your insides, or is this just the perfect excuse to stuff your face?

"Bagels contain a fair amount of sugar, and this will give you a short-term energy boost," Milton explains. "As alcohol disrupts your sleep patterns, your body will need energy - but beware of crashing. In order to do this, choose nutritious fillings with good fats and protein to sustain you, like smoked salmon, avocado and cream cheese, for instance. Bagels also have a pleasing and easy-to-swallow, comfort food texture, if you are feeling nauseous."

Tomato juice

Tomato juice is one of those love it or hate it things, really.

While some might find it lovely and comforting with a dash of Worcestershire sauce and a celery stick, others basically think it tastes like watered-down ketchup (yuck).

Dr Yogeswaran is a fan of the red stuff. He says that, if you’re feeling tired, a Virgin Mary might be just what you need.

"As glucose is the main energy source of the brain, low levels can make you feel more tired and have a low mood,” he says - which pretty much sums up the feeling of a hangover. “A Virgin Mary could help due to the simple sugars, such as glucose and fructose, it contains." 

Tomato juiceiStock

But there are downsides. Dr Perry warns that if you have a funny stomach or heartburn from your hangover, drinking tomato juice could actually make it worse.

Instead, he recommends drinking a green smoothie - essentially leafy greens like kale and spinach, blended with bananas, orange juice and water.

“They taste good, and are packed full of healthy fruits and vegetables which help to rehydrate you,” he adds.

That is if the colour and consistency don't make you want to vomit first.

Probiotic milk drinks

Some people swear by drinking milk drinks with added probiotics - live bacteria and yeasts which are said to have health benefits - before they go to bed. Allegedly it stops you getting a hangover the next morning.

An alternative is the fermented drink ‘kefir’ (which can be made with dairy or non-dairy milk).

Obviously Yakult isn't marketed as a hangover cure. But some people claim, because alcohol can increase the amount of yeast in your gut, probiotics - in drink or capsule form - can help rebalance the yeast and gut bacteria, relieving your hangover.

Sounds good, but… does it work?

Well according to Dr Perry, not really. In fact, it might make you feel worse.

“I wouldn’t recommend this,” he says. “It’s not likely to help, and might end up making your night’s sleep worse because you have it sitting in your stomach.”

Not ideal.

Gulping down a raw egg

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Ew. Ew ew ew.

This is not one for the faint of heart (or vegans, obviously) - and Milton agrees that raw eggs have "never appealed" to him. But hey, you must be feeling pretty horrific if you’re even considering this, so why not give it a go?

Well, Rhiannon says there isn't really any evidence that raw eggs help.

"Raw eggs contain small amounts of almost every vitamin and mineral required by the human body, including calcium, iron, potassium, zinc, manganese, vitamin E, folate and many more," she says. "However, there is zero scientific evidence that they help cure a hangover."

Dr Bartlett agrees, but says eggs, in general, contain "lots of energy and protein, which could help when you are hungover because you can often feel very energy-depleted".

But he says you don't need to have your eggs raw: "Whether you prefer your egg raw or cooked is completely up to you - both work just as well." 

Might as well go for Eggs Benedict instead, then.

Going to the gym

I mean, really? Who does this? Who are these people? Do you really think we’re up for lifting free-weights when we can barely lift our heads out of the toilet? Yeah, right.

But what do we know? According to Dr Perry, it could actually do you some good after all - as long as you keep within your limits.

“It’s a good idea to go to the gym, yes,” Dr Perry says. “But keep within your comfort levels and don’t over-exert yourself. You need to keep well hydrated too, as it’s easy to over-strain and pull a muscle if you're dehydrated from the alcohol.”

Rhiannon agrees you should stick to your limits, if you're going to exercise at all.

She recommends "low-intensity methods of exercise that can help restore your mood - by releasing endorphins - without making you feel sick".

"Yoga, gentle stretching and dance can all help you feel better without making your hangover worse," she adds.

If working up a hot sweat doesn’t sound good to you, maybe you’d prefer…

Plunging into cold water

That’s right. If you’re wobbly, maybe what you need to do is dive into a really cold pool, the freezing sea, or even - for the truly brave - an icy plunge pool.

We’re not going to lie, we think it sounds really, really awful. But people who’ve tried it insist it works.

Swimming in iceiStock

So is there a reason for this?

“There is definitely a benefit to swimming in cold water when you're hungover," Dr Bartlett says. "The shock to the system causes the body to mobilise its energy stores, while helping to take your mind off that dehydrated pounding headache feeling."

Although he warns that, if you're still a bit drunk, you really shouldn't swim at all.

And finally, an old classic…

Hair of the dog

Aka, drinking more alcohol.

Let’s be honest - we’ve all done it.

Is it a good idea? Not really. Will someone in the pub try to convince you it’s a good idea? Probably. Will it actually make you feel worse? Most definitely.

There is a reason you feel better after a cheeky follow-up drink, even if only for a short while.

Rhiannon says hangovers can cause "acute discontinuation syndrome" - a bit like a mild form of alcohol withdrawal - "which a little alcohol could relieve".

"The severity of your hangover is impacted by your blood alcohol level, as well as the quantity and speed at which you drank," she says. "The actual hangover reaches a high when your blood alcohol level returns to zero, and this is when those awful feelings and side effects begin. So, ultimately, all you're doing is delaying the inevitable and prolonging the headache."

Dr Yogeswaran agrees, adding: “You should avoid alcohol for at least 48 hours to give your body the time it needs to recover."

And there you have it. Hopefully with these insights, you'll be fighting fit in no time.

That is until the next time "you're never drinking again" happens.

This article was originally published on 20 September 2018.