Hangover Cures, Found On Your Plate

By Megan Patiry on January 15, 2014

When the normally pleasant chirping of birds outside your window sounds like the screeching of an oncoming freight train and the morning light streaming in has you convinced you’re witnessing a solar flare, it’s safe to say last night was a thirsty one … and that a hangover has officially set in. Common collegiate wisdom has you rolling out of bed (slowly) in anticipation of a greasy, fatty breakfast to soak up the remaining Jaeger in your bloodstream and to quiet your roiling stomach. Or perhaps you’re even higher up on the college – wisdom totem pole, asking for a little “hair of the dog,” aka “pour me a mimosa to cure me from Jack Daniels.”

Unfortunately, none of these so-called tricks will help to ease your hangover, and may even make it worse. But, before you go rolling back into bed, there are quite a few food remedies for hangovers that can help to turn down the volume of your headache and let you safely venture into the brightness outside.

Rise and Shine: Hydrate

Photo by DowntownRickyBrown via Flickr

The first thing you should do upon waking with a hangover is something you’ve heard many times before: drink water. According to Kate Hilbern in an article for The Independent, “one 250ml glass of wine (or other alcohol) causes the body to expel 800 to 1,000ml of water.”

“That’s four times as much liquid lost as gained, which explains the heavy traffic to the loos in bars and restaurants,” Hilbern said.

Colin Wilson, research scientist at Water Wellpoint, also explains that hangover headaches are essentially brought on by dehydration, which causes the body to try to steal water from the brain.

“This makes the brain decrease in size and pull on the membranes that connect the brain to the skull,” Wilson said.

Many experts state that having a glass of water between each drink you order is a way to balance the diuretic effect caused by the alcohol, and to also be sure you are well hydrated before you even consume your first alcoholic beverage. The morning following a night of drinking will probably still leave you with a dry mouth and slight dehydration, however, so be sure to drink about eight ounces every hour. Also, nix the coffee (oh, the blasphemy!) since it’s also a diuretic and will leave you even more dehydrated than before, worsening symptoms.

Break the Fast, Nix the Toxins 

Potassium – Rich Foods

Photo by The American Yoga Academy via Flickr

Since your body has been depleted of water, it has also been depleted of several essential minerals and electrolytes – specifically potassium. Foods such as bananas and kiwis are good choices to replace these and refuel your energy stores. However, don’t be tempted to reach for a sports drink; instead, grab a coconut water, which according to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, “contains the same five electrolytes found in human blood (Gatorade has only two).”


Photo by beauty_goodness_truth via Flickr

Alcohol showcases its toxic effects as the liver begins to break it down, creating a by-product of alcohol metabolism called acetaldehyde, which is considered even more toxic than alcohol itself. Luckily, our bodies produce glutathione, an enzyme that effectively gets rid of the toxin. That is however, until our liver is overloaded with too much alcohol, leaving the unchecked acetaldehyde roaming about our stomachs, causing nausea and vomiting.

Enter the life-giving egg: eggs contain a compound called cysteine, which breaks down acetaldehyde, and taurine, which aids in maintaining healthy liver function, according to Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD.

Chicken Soup and Oats


Photo by pretty,strange via Flickr

Along with potassium, sodium is another essential nutrient lost during the dehydration effects of alcohol. By choosing a sodium-rich food, such as chicken soup, you can replenish the lost electrolyte and add in more of the toxin-fighting cysteine that can be found in the chicken.

Oats are another option for soaking up toxins and getting a great dose of B-vitamins and magnesium, which lends sustained energy. They also raise your blood sugar levels, effectively neutralizing acids in the body.


Going back to popular belief, the consumption of fatty foods does have its place in hangover lore, just not the one many think it does. According to Dan Dahl, a medical doctor at Stanford Health, it’s important to eat fatty foods before you start drinking, rather than after, so that your stomach has that extra lining.

“Eating fatty foods after the night is done won’t give you quite the same benefits,” Dahl said.

To further reiterate this idea, in folk tradition Mediterranean cultures commonly take a spoonful of olive oil before a night of alcohol to line their stomachs, which is a healthier fatty food option opposed to indulging on fries and burgers.

Whatever you do, resist the urge to splurge on unhealthy sweets or fatty foods during your hangover, as these can further irritate the stomach and heighten nausea. If you are vomiting during this time, be sure to keep drinking water and perhaps some decaffeinated herbal tea to calm your stomach. Remember, hydration is one of the most important steps you can take to re-balance your body.

By this time, hopefully every sound doesn’t have you wincing, your eyes are no longer squints and your stomach feels like it belongs to you again. Next time you’re in for a cocktail night, be sure to triple fist: with your drink, your water, and your olive oil, of course.


Megan is a freelance writer, organic foodie, health activist, and spontaneous traveler. She also has a passion for adventure, hiking, yoga, and paradoxically, chocolate in all its raw, gluten-free forms.

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