The holiday season is full of opportunities to have fun. A festive cocktail here, a mulled wine there. So if learning how to prevent a hangover is high on your wish list, we get it.
Before we get back to your college tactics or the old wives stories passed down from your parents, we’re sorry to say that most hangover prevention tricks just don’t work. When you drink too much, there’s not much you can do while your liver clears the damage. But there are a few things you can do to avoid a puking party after party.
What causes a hangover?
Well, drinking alcohol, but you already knew that. There are several reasons why alcohol can make you feel crummy. This is because « alcohol is a toxin to the body », Keith Humphreys, PhD, a professor of psychiatry at Stanford University who studies the prevention and treatment of substance abuse disorders, tells SELF. As fun as it can be, you’re always going to put a little strain on your body when you drink too much.
According to Mayo Clinic, alcohol can cause dehydration, irritate the stomach lining (which is why you might feel like you’re throwing up), dilate blood vessels in a way that can cause headaches, and prevent you from reaching deep stages of sleep, which can make you feel exhausted. It also triggers an inflammatory immune system response and causes blood sugar levels to drop, which can make you feel weak and shaky and make it hard to concentrate. All of these things can contribute to your miserable state the next morning.
If you have fond memories of being able to reject many as a student without consequence, but now even a few drinks can ruin the next day, that’s okay, says Dr. Humphreys. « Our body’s ability to metabolize many things weakens as we age, » he says. Alcohol is no exception.
How to prevent a hangover before while drinking
You may have seen supplements that claim to prevent hangovers. Some say take them before you start drinking, some say after, and some say both before and after. But sorry, Dr Humphreys says there’s no evidence they work – that’s probably a lot more marketing than science.
However, there are things you can do to prevent a hangover before you start drinking. The first? eat, say David Seitz, MDmedical director of Ascending Detox, a drug and alcohol addiction treatment center in New York City. “Eating food while drinking can help slow the absorption of alcohol into your bloodstream and reduce the severity of a hangover the next day,” Dr. Seitz tells SELF.
Some people say high-fat or high-protein meals are better, but Dr. Humphreys says what matters most is that you eat a full meal and keep eating through the night. (These gingerbread men aren’t going to eat themselves!)
Another must: drink water, says Dr. Seitz. « Alcohol consumption can lead to dehydration, so it’s important to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water and other non-alcoholic beverages, » he says. This is true before you go out, but also while you drink and after you get home.
How to prevent a hangover as you drink
You are less likely to have a hangover if you don’t drink a lot and don’t drink alcohol afterwards. Keep an eye on the number of glasses you drink as well as the frequency. One serving of alcohol (either 12 oz of beer, 5 oz of wine, or 1.5 oz of liquor) or less per hour will give your liver a better chance of keeping up, Dr. Humphreys says.