7 Tips to Prevent A Hangover This Holiday (And How to Cure One, Too)
Office parties. Impromptu get togethers with out-of-town friends. Family dinners and happy hours. ’Tis the season for raising a glass, and with the holiday atmosphere in full swing, it’s easy to have one too many celebratory drinks—and that can make the next morning feel anything but joyous. We asked three women leaders in wellness for their top ways to prevent a hangover this holiday—and how to help cure one, if the festivities go just a bit too far. Read on before you head to your next celebration.
1. Eat before you imbibe.
“The cause of a hangover isn’t exactly known, since some people may experience a hangover after only one or two drinks while others experience a hangover after drinking multiple drinks, or drinking to intoxication,” says New York City-based, registered dietician Allison Knott, MS, RDN, CSSD. While one way to truly avoid a hangover altogether is to not drink alcohol, this may not be realistic for many of us. The good news? Prepping before you head to your holiday celebration needn’t be a complicated affair, but it can make all the difference in how you prevent a hangover this holiday.
Eating before you have your first drink may be key in avoiding a morning of misery. “Alcohol intake lowers blood sugar and drinking alcohol on an empty stomach may result in a feeling of intoxication more rapidly,” Allison says. “For some, a feeling of intoxication can result in a tendency to consume more alcoholic beverages, which will ultimately result in a hangover. Plus, lowered blood sugar as a result of not eating can contribute to more severe hangover symptoms.”
2. Hydrate. Hydrate. Hydrate.
“Hydrating before, during and after drinking is the best thing you can do to prevent a hangover,” advises Dr. Robin Berzin, MD and founder of Parsley Health. Like Allison, she also suggests pairing your water intake with a solid meal to help prevent a hangover this holiday (and any day, for that matter). “I also recommend having protein and a healthy fat before you go out to promote balanced blood sugar,” Dr. Berzin suggests.
Throughout the Night
3. Switch it up.
Trying to prevent a hangover this holiday doesn’t mean you have to navigate your office party empty-handed. Switching up your cocktail of choice for a non-alcoholic drink on a 1:1 ratio will go a long way in helping you feel human the day after. “A good rule of thumb is to drink one glass of water or non-alcoholic beverage for every alcoholic beverage,” advises Allison. “If water isn’t appealing, consider adding non-alcoholic beverages that are more interesting, such as sparkling water or fruit-infused water.”
Those seeking more adventurous options might consider herb-based non-alcoholic drinks. “If you know you have a low tolerance, switch it up with creative herbal ‘mocktails,’” advises Boston-based Clinical Herbalist Katja Swift. “Shrubs are making a huge comeback these days; these are herbal-infused vinegars that you blend with soda water like a cocktail, but with no alcohol. They have long been popular as the original ‘Gatorade’ because they’re chock full of electrolytes, which means they help you rehydrate faster!”
Having gained popularity during Prohibition, the “shrub-as-cocktail trend came about as a way to enjoy fancy drinks without breaking the law,” Katja shares. For those looking to keep something hydrating on hand for home entertainment, “I recommend Herbal Revolution brand, a small batch producer in Maine,” Katja advises, “but there are many available.”
4. Drink smart.
As it turns out, what you drink can be as important as how much you drink. One way to prevent a hangover this holiday is to avoid excess sugar—often, the ingredient that most affects how people feel the next day. Katja suggests trying low-sugar options that still feel festive, like bitter-based cocktails. “The combination of sugar and alcohol makes hangovers much worse, so why not go for bitter cocktails? Cocktail bitters are also making a comeback, and lots of bars now have a selection of house bitters available.”
Dr. Berzin agrees, suggesting that party goers should “stay away from cocktails with sugar-filled mixers and instead go for a clear liquor on the rocks with a twist (i.e. vodka, tequila or mezcal).”
The Next Day
5. Try a little turmeric.
Feeling the first pangs of a hangover the next day? Try hitting up your pantry. “My top trick for combatting a hangover is drinking a homemade turmeric water blend,” says Dr. Berzin. “Boil a pot of hot water with turmeric, lemon juice, a spoonful of raw honey and fresh grated ginger. After steeping, strain it, cool it and sip throughout the day. Water helps you to rehydrate, turmeric acts as an anti-inflammatory, ginger will be soothing to your gut, and the lemon and honey provide electrolytes that boost your absorption of the water.”
6. Take your vitamins. And your herbs.
Dr. Berzin also recommends taking your vitamins to prevent a hangover, and to relieve symptoms when they occur. “B-vitamins are helpful for phase 1 liver detoxification, so they will help your body move acetaldehyde, the toxic metabolite in alcohol, out of your system,” she says.
Herbs can also prove highly beneficial to preventing and combatting a hangover—and they’re as easy to take as aspirin. “Milk thistle is one of the easiest hangover remedies, because you can take it as a capsule,” Katja shares. “Milk thistle helps the liver do its detox work more efficiently, which means you don’t wake up with the alcohol still waiting to be processed,” she explains. “I recommend two capsules with a big glass of water before you go out, then leave the bottle on your pillow so that you don’t forget to take two more when you get home. When you wake up, take two more for good measure, and don’t forget the water—your hangover will be much reduced or non-existent!”
Katja shares an anecdote that speaks to just how effective milk thistle can be for helping to ease hangover symptoms. “We had a student do a [small] study on this, actually. He was a pharmacist and was going to a weekend-long bachelor party, and decided to test it out. The first night no one took milk thistle, so they could establish a baseline; the second night, half the group took it and they didn’t get hangovers. The third night, they all took it and everyone had an easier time!”
7. Give it time.
While we all want a quick fix when it comes to ending hangover symptoms, we need to recognize that our bodies need time to recover from over-indulgence. “The best cure for a hangover is time, but you can combat symptoms by staying hydrated, eating and getting extra rest,” Allison advises. “Stay hydrated with water or an electrolyte-enhanced beverage. Choose hydrating foods such as fruits and vegetables. Some research has shown that fructose-containing foods such as fruit may help in reducing hangover symptoms.”
Additionally, she adds, “Alcohol intake can make the stomach more acidic, which often results in gastrointestinal upset. For these symptoms, and to raise blood sugar, starchy foods such as bread, crackers or pasta might be the most beneficial.”
One trick you don’t want to employ to ease hangover symptoms? “The ‘hair of the dog,’” Allison says, “as research shows that it only further perpetuates the problem and doesn’t allow for adequate recovery.”