Experts Explain Why There Is No Real Cure For Hangovers Despite All The Purported Remedies

With another New Year’s Eve having come and gone, many people are nursing hangovers on the first morning of 2018. And while there is a plethora of supposed home remedies that are designed to get rid of the unpleasant feeling many of us get after a long night of drinking, some specialists believe there is no real cure for hangovers, meaning one that could work on all of the symptoms.

As noted in a report from Quartz, there are many theories that have sought to explain why people get hung over after consuming too much alcohol the night before. Some researchers have concluded that congeners, which are the agents that give some alcoholic beverages a more distinctive color or flavor, are to blame for the nauseous, weary feeling that accompanies a hangover. Others believe that this feeling is a side effect after our bodies create chemicals to help break down the alcohol in our system. Making matters worse is the feeling of dehydration, as it isn’t uncommon for hangover sufferers to wake up with a parched throat.

Considering how drinking too much could often lead to an unpleasant waking-up feeling the morning after, there are many peculiar remedies people from around the world use in an attempt to cure hangovers. The Week looked at a number of these remedies, including the Filipino delicacy balut, which is a fertilized duck embryo traditionally eaten in the shell, the Peruvian marinade leche de tigre, which is used in making ceviche, and even simple trips to the sauna to sweat out the alcohol, as is often done in Finland.

More conventionally, drinkers from different parts of the globe consume Gatorade, eat greasy food, or go for the “hair of the dog,” which means consuming another alcoholic drink to get rid of the previous night’s hangover. It’s also common for people to try nipping things in the bud after a night of partying by having a glass of water before bed.

Despite all the theories that try to explain what causes hangovers and all the alleged remedies designed to eliminate them, there are experts who are confident that there is no solid explanation or cure for hangovers, such as Brigham and Women’s Hospital medical toxicologist Dr. Ed Boyer, who offered his opinion on the matter in a recent interview with Time.

“I don’t think anybody can really tell you with a great degree of honesty what causes a hangover. The bottom line is nobody knows for sure what causes it, so we don’t have a good cure.”

Similarly, Penn Medicine associate professor of clinical medicine Dr. David Aizenberg stressed that hangovers affect almost all of our organ systems, including the brain, gastrointestinal tract, and the heart. He believes that there’s no “magic cure” where all hangover symptoms will be eliminated in one go, except if you choose to go easy on the alcohol to avoid feeling bad when you wake up the next morning.

Aizenberg also debunked many common beliefs about hangover cures, explaining to Time that having some water before bedtime isn’t a guaranteed preventative measure, as heavy drinking can upset a person’s antidiuretic hormone levels and, consequently, their water balance. Beverages such as Pedialyte and Gatorade replace electrolytes that may have been lost during and after a drinking session but cannot be considered a “magic” cure. And while exercise could make people feel better after hangovers, Aizenberg advised that it’s best to be careful when exercising or doing other strenuous tasks the morning after drinking, as hangovers can interfere with one’s motor skills and ability to make critical decisions.

Regarding remedies such as eating greasy food for breakfast or taking painkillers before bed, Aizenberg noted that bland but healthy foods may work better than the former method, due to the reduced risk of acid reflux. Painkillers like ibuprofen, on the other hand, have the potential of aggravating acid reflux and might have already worn off by the time a drinker wakes up.

In conclusion, Quartz noted that many of the above remedies can ease hangover symptoms, but none of them should be considered a true cure for hangovers that could quickly and definitively get rid of every symptom. Furthermore, Time opined that if there’s an actual way to “treat” hangovers, it would be the aforementioned preventative measure of drinking responsibly and moderately. Both publications stressed that many supposed home remedies do work in alleviating one or a few symptoms, but added that drinkers should make sure that their chosen remedies are safe to use, with no potentially harmful side effects.