For years, the medical community abstained from studying hangover cures because doctors didn’t want to be seen as encouraging overindulgence of alcohol.
What helped change that was grasping the severity of the problem: it’s estimated that painful hangovers cost the U.S. economy $148 billion annually. Recovering revelers either call in sick or show up with headaches, nausea, decreased skills and general misery. Now, scientists are calling for more research into cures.
What about tequila shots or a bottle of wine actually causes the pain of a hangover? Dehydration was blamed in the past, but that’s changing.
"There is an element of dehydration while the alcohol is in your system," said Dr. Sharon Orrange of USC's Keck School of Medicine. "What we are now seeing is that what happens with an alcohol hangover is an immune system activation. So if we measure inflammatory markers in a person's bloodstreams we're actually seeing that it's similar to a viral illness."
What influences a hangover?
- Genetics. Some people have very severe hangover, others don't have any symptoms at all.
- The kind of alcohol. Darkers alcohols have naturally occurring compounds called conjoiner that can make a hangover worse. Vodka does not have any conjoiners.
- Proactivity. If you're going to drink and want to avoid a hangover, taking precautions the night before or while you're drinking is crucial.
- Sleep quality and duration. If you drink heavily despite having to get up early in the morning you will likely suffer a bad hangover. Recent studies suggest that "sleeping it off" may actually help.
- Mary from Culver City suggests alternating alcoholic drinks with water and making sure to eat. In addition she takes vitamin B supplements and eats a banana before bed and when she wakes up.
- Justin in Little Tokyo suggests "hair of the dog," having an alcoholic beverage you were drinking the night before and plenty of sleep. (Dr. Orrange says sleeping it off is OK, but that "hair of the dog" doesn't work)
- Phillip on the AirTalk page says two aspirin and plenty of water works for him.
- Fred on the AirTalk says eating greasy, spicy chile rellenos helps cure his hangover.
- Rick in Anaheim says tomato juice and Tylenol helps cure his hangover. (Dr. Orrange says the saltiness of the juice is good for a hangover, but that Tylenol is not an anti-inflammatory, so won't help as much as an Advil, Motrin or Ibuprofen).
- Chris in Los Feliz claims that children's Pedialyte before during and after drinking will prevent any hangover.
- Matt from City of Orange says his brother, an EMT, uses a banana bag, which is a bag of solution with vitamins and minerals.
Dr. Sharon Orrange, M.D., Assistant Professor of Medicine at the Keck School of Medicine at USC; Also has a private practice in Internal Medicine at USC