Man with hangover waking up to alarm

Natural Hangover Remedies

Those happy hour drinks sure tasted great going down, but your body might be paying for them the next day. So, what can you do about a hangover? Of course, the best way to avoid these unpleasant side effects of alcohol consumption is to avoid heavy drinking in the first place…but, we're probably not telling you anything you didn't know.

Looking for a natural hangover remedy? The good news is that there are some natural hangover remedies that will help you recover more quickly from dehydration, electrolyte imbalance and other consequences of your wild night out on the town—so you can survive an occasional overindulgence, and still wake up feeling like a (somewhat) functioning human the next day.

Keep reading to learn more about natural ways to deal with a hangover.

Excessive alcohol intake can be a serious medical emergency. If you're concerned that you or someone you care about is drinking too frequently, call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration hotline toll-free at 1-800-662-HELP.

What is a hangover?

As the name implies, heavy drinking can "hang over" you the day after, making you feel off your game in a variety of ways. The light might bother your eyes and noises may throw you off. It's not uncommon to feel dizzy or lightheaded and shaky, kind of like the room is spinning, and having trouble concentrating or being in a bad mood are classic consequences from getting that blood alcohol level up too high.

Sleep disturbances and even a rapid heartbeat can result from drinking too much—all good reason to question whether that second round of drinks was really worth it!

Why does drinking make you feel hungover?

Woman drinking wine, but not enough get a hangover

As you peel yourself off your bed the next morning, perhaps you're wondering how a few cocktails managed to make you feel so green around the gills, and aching everywhere else.

A few things are going on with the body during an alcohol hangover:

  • Dehydration

    : Thirst, fatigue and that epic headache are all due to mild dehydration. Why does alcohol make you dehydrated? Drinking alcohol suppresses secretion of the hormone that causes your kidneys to reabsorb water, and as a result, you lose a lot of fluids…and end up spending a lot of the night in the bathroom. An electrolyte imbalance can result from this, compounding your symptoms.
  • Upset stomach

    : Alcohol irritates the lining of your stomach. (Yet another reason you're in the bathroom all night.)
  • Inflammation

    : Alcohol increases the amount of inflammation in the body, and that can cause pain—including that epic headache.
  • Symptoms of withdrawal

    : Withdrawal is common with any addictive substance, including alcohol. Even if you aren't an "addict," your body is still coming off that initial euphoria you experienced when you took your first sip, and the irritability, lack of mental focus, and even anxiety may be the price you're paying the next day.

How to ease a hangover?

Woman drinking water to help ease a hangover

Don't want a hangover? Alcohol isn't a prerequisite to a fun time with friends! If you know you're going to imbibe, though, you can take precautions before, during and after you drink alcohol to avoid feeling "off" the next day.

Here is a comprehensive checklist for lessening a hangover:

What to eat:

  • Healthy fats and proteins

    : Before alcohol touches your lips, you should make sure that you have eaten well-balanced meals throughout the day – including fatty foods…from healthy fats. No, not greasy hamburgers or strips of bacon! Before a night out on the town, make sure you've eaten some avocado, nuts, fish like salmon, chia seeds, eggs or tofu. These foods help delay the body's absorption of alcohol—which is a good step toward avoiding a hangover.
  • Carbohydrates

    : Rolled oats and whole-grain bagels, toast or pasta are all healthy and hearty carbohydrates you should incorporate into your meals before and/or after consuming alcohol.
  • Nutrient-dense foods

    : Throughout the day and before you have an alcoholic drink, pack your plate with healthy foods like beans, broccoli, berries, whole grains, apples and dried fruit. You want to have a healthy foundation in place before your body's alcohol metabolism becomes part of the game plan.

Drinking tips:

  • Consider a "mocktail" or sparkling water

    : If you're going out for a night on the town with friends, it's really that feeling of togetherness that's the ultimate "high," so considering "cheersing" with drinks that don't contain liquor, or having just one or two spirits and choosing mocktails, juices, sodas and sparkling waters the rest of the evening.
  • Choose lighter liquor

    : Heavier alcoholic options, like red wine and whisky, have higher amounts of congeners, which are chemicals that may trigger inflammation and make your hangover severity even worse. Instead, opt for lighter colored and highly filtered alcohol. If you can choose among brands, you'll want one that's got higher filtration levels, which is typically the more expensive brands.
  • Pick a drink and stick with it

    : There are hundreds of drink choices, but if you plan on going out, make sure to stick with one type, and don't mix. That means if your first drink contains vodka, your second should not contain tequila, nor should you switch to beer. This will make it easier to track your intake, so you'll be less likely to overindulge.
  • Drink water

    : Chase your drinks with pure H2O. Drinking water replenishes your hydration levels to lessen your hangover the next day. Plus, having water in between alcoholic drinks can help pace how much liquor you consume throughout the night.

What to do the next day:

  • Natural hangover remedies

    : Shut the blinds and sleep it off so your body has a chance to recover from alcohol consumption. Fight back against dehydration by upping your water intake, and consider dropping in a hydration tablet to offset that electrolyte imbalance. Choose a wholesome breakfast, rich in healthy fats, complex carbohydrates, and vitamins; you want foods that are good sources of vitamin B and vitamin C. (Our pick: eggs, whole grain toast, and some fresh sliced oranges…accompanied by a big frosted glass of ice water!)
  • Get moving

    : You don't have to run a 5k, but you shouldn't be on the couch all day. A good sweat will do a body good. Getting mild to moderate exercise can help increase circulation as well as encourage your metabolism and can help rid the body of toxins through sweat.
  • Rest, but don't sleep all day

    : Getting a good night's sleep is a key part of your recovery, but you don't want to sleep until dusk the next day, which might throw your natural sleep cycles out of whack.

Tips for a Healthy Liver

The best way to take care of your liver is to not drink—and certainly to not drink to excess. But, it's not the only way to support a healthy liver.

Here are a few other ways to keep this vital organ in great shape.

  1. Nutrition can make a big difference when it comes to liver health—so strive for a healthy, balanced diet that includes liver-supportive nutrients. The Mediterranean diet, and specifically Mediterranean herbs like milk thistle, help support optimal liver function. Make sure you're getting good sources of probiotics in your diet as well.
  2. Maintain a healthy weight. Excess body fat can have a negative impact on many of your major organs, including your liver.
  3. Don't try to "undo" the damage of a hangover with a "detox" diet. For a healthy liver—and a healthy life—stick with sustainable healthy choices rather than fads.

Does magnesium help with hangover symptoms?

A group of friends toasting drinks, hoping they won't become hungover

Magnesium is a mineral essential for a healthy life and plays a role in how your muscles move, how you metabolize food and beverages, as well as the function of your nervous system. Alcohol consumption results in a loss of bodily fluids—all of those trips to the bathroom not only are flushing out toxins—which we want—but, in the process, you are also getting rid of helpful nutrients as well, including magnesium.

Replenishing lost magnesium is crucial, especially because many of us don't get enough of it in our diets even before we hit up happy hour, so the loss of this mineral can impact how well our body functions.

Foods that are great sources of magnesium include pumpkin seeds, spinach, almonds, avocado, and a variety of nuts and legumes.  

The health benefits of avoiding alcohol

Healthy woman avoiding a hangover with a fresh green drink

Point blank, if you don't want to deal with the consequences of a severe hangover and the trouble of finding natural hangover remedies, don't drink!

Avoiding alcohol can have some amazing health benefits. After just one month of "going dry," you may see improved skin, better sleeping patterns, an easier time managing your weight, better mental and cognitive health, a healthier immune system, and reduced risks of diseases.

There are plenty of mocktails and non-alcoholic beverages you can consume during a night out on the town, and still have fun and feel like you're part of the crowd.

If you do choose to drink alcohol, do so in moderation and set a limit for yourself prior to going out. Once you hit your limit, cut yourself off from alcohol and stick with water and non-alcoholic beverages for the rest of the evening – or call it a night and get a ride home.

Of course, occasional indulgences happen. The key is minimizing the damage with the right nutrition and hydration, and committing to healthier choices in the future.

About the Author: Andrew Davis is a graduate of Pace University NYC with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology. He has more than a decade's worth of experience in content and social media in the health and wellness space. An avid traveler, Andrew also has volunteered as an English teacher and humanitarian in countries throughout Asia.