No matter how good our intentions are going into a celebratory get-together or social gathering, there may come a time where we overdo it. We're having a blast, we just keep going, and we end up "over served" along the way. And we pay for it: We wake up the next morning with a splitting head, dry mouth, and a queasy stomach.
We're inflamed, sleep deprived, and dehydrated. And not only is alcohol a diuretic, it's also metabolized into toxic byproducts that leave us feeling rotten. Drinking too much can cause our blood sugar levels to bottom out and also disrupts our body's electrolyte balance. And even if we get a full night's sleep, alcohol interferes with the quality of deep sleep.
The result: We wake up feeling tired, achy, lazy and cranky -- also known as hung-over.
The only proven way to avoid a hangover is to avoid over-drinking in the first place, making sure to pace yourself, eat before you start drinking, and stay hydrated. There are, however, effective day-after strategies that can help lessen the agony, if you do overdo it:
Apple cider vinegar
Start your morning with 1 or 2 ounces of apple cider vinegar, diluted with 6 to 8 ounces of warm water. The vinegar has a natural diuretic effect that can help combat morning-after fluid retention, and it can help to stabilize blood sugar levels, which can be shaky after a night of drinking.
A bit of caffeine may help improve headache symptoms; try mixing green tea (instead of water) with apple cider vinegar to get the benefits of both. You can also use flavored green tea - think berry blend or ginger mint green tea - which can help with the flavor of the apple cider vinegar, at least a tiny bit.
Beet juice + green juice
I know. Beet juice is quite possibly the very last thing on your list when you're trying to recover from over-drinking. But here's the science behind it: Beet juice helps to increase and improve blood flow and oxygenation throughout our muscle and tissues, which can help us feel better all-around.
And green juice (think juiced spinach and kale) is rich in compounds that help support our body's natural detoxification processes. And both beet juice and green juice are alkalizing, helping to neutralize our body's acidity after a night of drinking.
If you're new to juicing, don't worry, it doesn't have to be a giant hassle - there are a few relatively easy ways to get beet and greens juice. Juice bars like The Green Fork offer all-in-one blends of beet juice, greens and other vegetables, herbs and spices that can help with recovery and rejuvenation (the Green Fork calls theirs Balance).
Stores like Whole Foods Market sell little bottles of beet juice shots or beetroot powder to mix with water or a smoothie. And brands like Suja and Daily Greens sell grab-and-go bottles of green juices that you can mix with (or have in addition to) the beet juice.
Add electrolyte-rich fluids. Hydration is a must. But sugary sports drinks are not. Replace fluids and electrolytes simultaneously with low-sugar water bottle add-ins like nuun tablets, rich in electrolytes sodium, potassium and magnesium. Sparkling mineral water, coconut water and unsweetened chocolate or vanilla almond milk are also good sources of electrolyte-rich fluids with zero added sugar.
Alcohol depletes B vitamins, so consider adding a B Complex supplement - or add a drink packet like Emergen-C to your water bottle - to help replenish lost nutrients. Note that most varieties of Emergen-C are not rich in electrolytes (they're mostly B vitamins with some vitamin C) so you'll want to be sure to get electrolytes separately from food or drink.
This is a good source of the amino acid cysteine, which helps to break down some of the toxic byproducts of alcohol metabolism thought to contribute to hangovers. Eggs are also a great source of protein and fats that can help to stabilize blood sugar levels - a much better start to our day than sugary cereal or pancakes with syrup.
Get fluids, electrolytes, and protein all in one in a smoothie made with unsweetened almond milk, fresh or frozen fruit (frozen works especially well in smoothies), and a source of protein - think a scoop of protein powder, carton of low-sugar Greek yogurt, or half a cup of cottage cheese (don't worry, it'll blend smoothly - you won't have a clumpy protein shake).
Exercise is probably the last thing you feel like doing - well, maybe second-to-last after drinking beet juice - but I promise, it will help. Even a brisk walk will help to increase circulation, bringing more blood and oxygen to the brain and muscles, helping to offset hangover symptoms like headaches and achy muscles. And sweating it out is one of the best natural ways to detoxify our bodies.
The bottom line: The only sure-fire way to prevent a hangover is to avoid drinking too much. But if and when we do overdo it, incorporating one or some of these natural hangover remedies can at least help to make the day-after not quite so dreadful.
Registered dietitian Molly Kimball offers brand-name products as a consumer guide; she does not solicit product samples nor is paid to recommend items. For more on this topic, check out Molly’s original article in Nola.com