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What to Eat (and Avoid) When You Have a Hangover

March 20, 2019

Beth Lipton is a writer and certified health coach. She is a contributing editor at Clean Plates.

You eat your vegetables, you work out, you get good sleep, you manage stress—we see you over there, keeping up your healthy habits. But even the best of us sometimes overindulge. It happens. No judgment.

Going overboard on alcohol never feels good the next day, of course. What can you do to ease the pain and suffering? We asked experts to share their best advice.

What’s a hangover?

Before we dive in, a little info. A hangover can show up as headache, nausea and/or diarrhea, sensitivity to light, fatigue, and even depression or anxiety. The one we’re talking about here is often caused by drinking too much too fast, as our bodies can usually only process one alcoholic drink per hour. There are other culprits to note, including dehydration, impurities in the alcohol, mixing types of alcohol and drinking on an empty stomach. Regardless of the specifics of what caused it, you’re not feeling too hot.

The Morning After

Resist the urge to brew some joe or open the medicine cabinet. “Alcohol irritates the lining of the stomach and digestive tract, leading to feelings of nausea and indigestion,” says Bethesda, Maryland-based internist Dr. Sonya Chawla. So when you’re hungover, “Avoid coffee, NSAIDs (like Advil, Motrin, Alleve, etc.) and spicy foods, which can further irritate the stomach after alcohol intake. Heavily acidic foods like tomatoes, blueberries or citrus may also be irritants.”

Instead, “Get in a solid meal that has a nice combination of protein, good carbohydrates and healthy fat,” advises registered dietician Lauren Harris-Pincus, author of The Protein-Packed Breakfast Club. “You don’t want a donut, that’s not going to fill you up or help you feel better. You need something that will stabilize your blood sugar, but not leave you so quickly that you don’t have a chance to feel better.”

About the old advice to tuck into a greasy diner breakfast, “When you feel lousy you want comfort food, and that’s what people think of when they think of comfort food,” Harris-Pincus says. “But have a healthier version to get that balance of nutrients. That’s what’s really going to help you feel better.”

Drink up (no, not like that)

“Dehydration is the number one reason why people feel so lousy” after a night of drinking, Harris-Pincus says. Hydrating is an important tool for feeling better.

“Hydration is key,” Dr. Chawla says. “And while water is excellent, opt for beverages like coconut water or even Pedialyte, which have both sugar and electrolytes that the body needs to restore its balance after a night of drinking.”

Plus, being dehydrated is another reason to reach for a healthy breakfast. “If you’re dehydrated, you’re also low on electrolytes, so what you need is good nutrition,” Harris-Pincus notes. “Blend up a smoothie with some coconut water in it if you can’t stomach food. You won’t feel better until you hydrate.”

Stay well

“The best approach to a hangover, of course, is preventing one,” Dr. Chawla says. “Remember the body can usually metabolize one alcoholic drink per hour,” so take it slow.

Also, “Have a glass of water in between each alcoholic drink, that can really help,” Harris-Pincus says.

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