Hangover cures that actually work

Hangovers are inarguably the worst: the headache, upset stomach, chills, unrelenting fatigue, and the inability to move. All you want to do is feel better, but that requires effort, and let's be honest, you have none of that.

While there's no way to go from feeling like absolute garbage to being your usual shining self — and every hangover is different — here's some expert advice on ways to crawl back from the abyss.

Go back to sleep

That's what you want to do anyway, right? It turns out that it might actually help soothe the worst parts of the hangover, when you're just laying there, possibly praying for death. "Independent of any other effect alcohol might have, sleep disruption causes you to feel worse the next day and causes cognitive disruption the next day," says Dr. Gantt Galloway, of the California Pacific Medical Center Research Institute in San Francisco.

Without food and water, though, it won't be the most high quality sleep. Says Dr. Galloway, "Your sleep is less restful, and you are going to feel less refreshed even with amounts of alcohol less than those that cause hangover." So make sure you eat, drink, and pee before you go back to sleep, to maximize your snoozing.

Exercise (seriously?)

It seems impossible to even imagine, but light activity — like taking a walk — could help you feel better, especially if you make sure to hydrate. Personal trainer Matthew Kornblatt of RightFit Nation told Women's Health that you should be exercising the day after partying, to "sweat everything out" (everything being the toxins). Just avoid high impact workouts, and eat breakfast before you do anything else.

Vitamins, vitamins, vitamins

Hopefully you've never had to go to the hospital due to an overindulgence in alcohol, but if you have (or if you've seen TV), you might have experienced the Banana Bag. It's a combination of thiamine, folic acid, magnesium, and water, which restores the vitamins that are depleted by alcohol consumption.

"Repleting electrolytes with adequate water does help to prevent and reduce hangover symptoms," said Dr. Arielle Levitan, an Internal Medicine Physician and co-founder of Vous Vitamin, a supplement that you can take while you're drinking and the morning after. Getting your Vitamin B6 will also help to alleviate your hangover, according to Gantt Galloway, Pharm.D. You can get it in a multivitamin, and also in poultry, fish, liver, potatoes, and fruits like bananas and prunes.

Drink (not alcohol)

Drinking non-alcoholic beverages is key to replenishing the dehydration that happens when you drink too much, and can therefore make things a little less brutal. Drinking more alcohol when you have a hangover will delay the symptoms, but it won't eradicate them. Not only is drinking as soon as you wake up an indicator of addiction, it means you're probably doing so on an empty stomach, which will make your blood sugar rise quickly. Drinking in the morning also means you're more likely to continue drinking all day.

Sports drinks like Gatorade also help, as does coconut water, because alcohol not only dehydrates your system, it also creates a loss of salt, sugar, and other nutrients: stuff you want to replenish as soon as possible. And always make sure you're drinking enough water on the daily.

Plan ahead

Of course, hindsight is 20/20, but the next time you're planning on hitting it hard, do some maintenance first. According to Dr. Elizabeth Trattner, a Florida acupuncturist, eating a healthy and substantial meal before the fact can be a big help.

"Make sure this meal has both healthy fat and fiber to delay transit time in the digestive system," she told me. "By having both fiber and fat, food will stay in the stomach longer and will keep you from getting completely smashed like if you went with an empty stomach." Trattner also advises alternating water with alcohol, so you don't end up drinking too much and getting more dehydrated.

Another prep trick that could result in a better morning-after: fish oil. Because it contains omega-3 fatty acids, which reduce pain and swelling, taking it when you come home from a wild night might mean you wake up without a headache, thus reducing the damage alcohol causes in the brain.

Eat

Another thing you probably don't want to do when you have a hangover is put anything of substance into your body, because the thought of eating likely turns your stomach. But eatingis actually key to easing your hangover symptoms —just make sure it's the right food. Eggs, in addition to packing a lot of protein, also contain cysteine, an amino acid which breaks down acetaldehyde, the toxin that hangs out in your body after alcohol is metabolized.

Alcohol also exacerbates urination, according to Jill Corleone, RDN, LD, and the more you urinate, the more potassium and B vitamins you lose. Lowered potassium levels can lead to weakness and muscle cramps, so look to foods like sweet potatoes and yogurt to restore your levels. Oats are great for replenishing B vitamins, which are essential for central nervous system function and metabolism. Those greasy foods you might be wanting the next day would have served you better before you started drinking, so maybe wait until the storm has passed, to eat that bacon.

Ginger

Ginger root has a well-documented history of alleviating nausea, so get your hands on ginger candy or tea when you're hungover (processed ginger ale doesn't have electrolytes or fluids to be adequate treatment, and often contains artificial flavoring and no actual ginger).

Ginger promotes healthy circulation via magnesium, zinc, and chromium. Good circulation can relieve the chills and sweating that often accompanies a hangover. Chemicals in ginger are believed to reduce symptoms by relaxing muscles in the stomach and intestines, but they also might send messages to the brain to control nausea. According to Dr. Josh Axe, the best way to access the benefits of ginger for nausea is to make tea from ginger root.

Pain killers

Of course you want to do anything to get rid of that headache, but choose your medicine wisely. NSAIDs (ibuprofen and aspirin) are your best bet, but make sure you eat before taking them, since they can upset your stomach, and don't take them if you're already having gastrointestinal issues.

Also, avoid Tylenol. Combined with the alcohol that's still chilling in your body, it can cause your liver to work too hard, causing unhealthy strain and damage.

Prickly pear extract

Prickly pear is a cactus, and ingesting the extract before you hit the bars, along with eating a meal, might alleviate your symptoms the next day, according to a study published in Scientific American. In the 2004 study of 55 participants, those who ate a meal and consumed prickly pear extract five hours before they started drinking, had less severe hangover symptoms — particularly nausea, dry mouth, and loss of appetite — than those who took the placebo. The group of prickly pear-takers also had lower amounts of the protein that's created by the liver when you drink, and which causes inflammation.

The extract from the skin of the fruit generates proteins that can reduce that inflammation. The bad news? Prickly pear can't call your boss, and make up a believable excuse to get you out of work.

Hydration Therapy

Hydration therapy is exactly what it sounds like: intravenous hydration utilizing an infusion of medicines, vitamins, and nutrients, which works to replenish necessary lost fluids as quickly as possible. Dr. Jack Dybis, D.O., a surgeon and the co-founder and medical director at IVme Wellness + Performance of Chicago suggests hydration therapy to not only alleviate hangover symptoms, but to address the root causes of the situation.

"A major contributing factor to the aches and nausea associated with a hangover is dehydration and certain vitamin deficiencies," he says. "Our combination of expedited IV hydration, medications for pain and nausea, and vitamin additives will virtually eliminate your hangover and allow you to reclaim your day. Specifically we use Vitamin B complex, which includes vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B7, B9 and B12. The B complex vitamins act together to increase energy, improve mood, decrease stress and stimulate the immune system among other benefits." Got some extra cash in your pocket and wanna feel better in less than an hour? Make a date to hydrate!

The next day

OK, so maybe nothing can really cure a hangover (other than time). But given that the only way to completely avoid a hangover is to drink less, or not at all, remember these remedies and preemptive strikes the next time you're out on the town, so you can party and feel a little less terrible afterwards.

Or, you could heed the advice of Dr. Phil Hammond, a general practitioner and comedian, who says, "'The only cure for a hangover is denial. If you can pretend you haven't got one with supreme confidence…your brain may be convinced everything's going to be alright."