(NEXSTAR) – A rowdy night out or a pregame tailgate is usually fun and games until the unfortunate but seemingly inevitable hangover catches up to you. When it does, it may be tempting to seek out a greasy breakfast sandwich from your favorite fast-food joint or opt for the “hair of the dog,” but you may want to reconsider.
A hangover doesn’t necessarily mean the same thing to everyone, but it generally includes one or more symptoms experienced after drinking too much alcohol. These symptoms often include headaches, fatigue, nausea, stomach pain, thirst, muscle aches, vertigo, weakness, irritability, and sensitivity to light and sound, the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism explains.
Why do I feel unwell after a night of drinking?
It’s partially because alcohol is a diuretic, Beth Czerwony, a registered dietitian with Cleveland Clinic, tells Nexstar. Simply put, drinking alcohol is going to send you to the bathroom, and probably frequently.
“So the majority of the time when we wake up the next morning and we’re not feeling great, it’s because you’re dehydrated,” Czerwony explains. Because of alcohol’s ability to dehydrate, it drives us to want to drink more, exasperating the cycle.
Alcohol also slows down our intestines and stomach, and irritates the intestinal lining, which can make you feel sluggish. If you don’t have anything to eat while you’re drinking, your blood sugar may be lowered, Czerwony notes, adding to the already sluggish state you’re likely to feel.
What causes my cravings?
How your body feels after a bout of drinking can impact what you crave for breakfast the next day (if you aren’t battling some nausea). Whether it’s a sausage, egg and cheese McGriddle, a Pop-Tart, or leftover pizza, it’s important to acknowledge the signals your body is sending.
That might be a warning about low blood sugar, for example. Without food, our bodies aren’t able to refill our blood sugar stores, which can lead to lower energy.
“Our body kind of just wants immediate fuel,” Czerwony says. “So having things that are going to be heavier in calories like the grease and the sugar, it would make sense that your body craves those things.”
What will cure your hangover?
While there isn’t a straightforward cure for a hangover, there are a number of things you can do as you drink, and after, that can help to ease the hangover.
First, Czerwony recommends drinking water between your alcoholic beverages, a method sometimes referred to as “Taffering” — a nod to “Bar Rescue” host and notable proponent Jon Taffer.
You may want to drink a sports drink, too. Many of these beverages contain electrolytes, which can help your body rehydrate and likely won’t cause an upset stomach like coffee could, Czerwony explains. A recent study by Harvard Health also recommends drinking tea.
If you’re ready to eat, reach for foods that may be easier on your stomach. That could include fruit and ginger, Czerwony says, or the BRAT diet — bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast. It’s best to avoid foods with too much fiber or sugar, to allow your stomach the chance to rest.
Another worthwhile snack to try? Salmon. As Czerwony explains, we can deplete our supply of B vitamins while drinking. Salmon is high in vitamins B6 and B12, which can help reduce inflammation caused by alcohol. Many of the products claiming to prevent hangovers also contain B vitamins, according to Czerwony. But, it’s important to note they aren’t regulated by the FDA.
Ultimately, if you are going to drink and want to avoid a hangover, you may want to pay attention to your body. Drink plenty of water, eat food easy on your stomach, and opt for a sports drink over coffee or “the hair of the dog.”
“Generally, being responsible … pacing it out, and making sure you eat with it, will make the night a little bit easier for you,” Czerwony says.