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Health & Balance

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6 Tips to Beat a Hangover

By Paige Fowler
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by David T. Derrer, MD

Ask a dozen people how to cure a hangover and you’ll get a dozen different answers. Eat greasy grub. Drink coffee. Pop over-the-counter pain relievers.

Do any of them work?

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"There’s no magic potion that gets rid of a hangover," says George Koob, MD, director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). The only way you can avoid that tired-headachy-nauseated feeling is to drink less.

But if you think you might overdo it, these steps could help tone down your morning-after symptoms.

Prepare With Prickly Pear

While most over-the-counter hangover remedies won’t help much, there’s one supplement that may do you some good -- but you'll have to plan ahead. If you take prickly pear extract several hours before you drink, it might lower your day-after symptoms by about half.

Experts don't know how it works, but the extract has a protein that curbs the inflammation you can get from drinking too much. That may help hold off a hangover.

Eat Up and Drink Water

Don’t wait until the end of the night to polish off a pizza. It might be too late.

"The alcohol is already in your body, so eating food or drinking water won’t affect how it’s absorbed," says Aaron White, PhD, senior advisor to the director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

But if you eat a meal and have water while you're throwing back those cocktails, your hangover may not be as bad. "Having food in your stomach while drinking reduces how high your peak blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) gets by about a third," White says. 

The less drunk you get, the less crummy you’ll feel the next day. And fluid from water slows the rate at which your body absorbs alcohol. This will also lower your overall BAC.

"It’s a good idea to alternate alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks," White says.

Along with drinking water throughout the night, be sure to down even more before you go to sleep.

"Alcohol is a diuretic," Koob says. This means it makes you pee a lot, which causes you to lose a lot of liquid. "Hangover symptoms are partly due to dehydration, so replacing that fluid loss can help."

It’s also smart to keep a bottle of water by your bedside so you can hydrate as soon as you wake up in the morning.

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