20 Dec 2023 Article

How to manage a hangover?

Obviously, prevention is better than cure. It goes without saying that it is important to keep your alcohol consumption under control because drinking too much can have serious health consequences. But then again, there are not that many people who can do that very well: keep their own alcohol consumption under control. So, what do you do if you had one too many last night?

What happens to your body when you drink alcohol?

Symptoms such as headache, fatigue, nausea and diarrhea are the most common consequences of alcohol overconsumption. The aftereffects of alcohol can be terrible.

The main cause of the ailments of alcohol after the party is dehydration. Alcohol is a powerful diuretic, a substance that forces the body to remove fluid too quickly. Alcohol makes you urinate a lot. That is why the advice is: drink a glass of water after every glass of alcohol (or even better: several glasses of water). Drinking plenty of water the next day is also an important piece of advice.

When we consume alcohol, the body converts the alcohol into acetyl aldehyde. This is a free radical and a toxic substance. Acetyl aldehyde narrows the blood vessels. This effect, known as vasodilation, causes headaches.

Alcohol also irritates your stomach lining and disrupts intestinal motility (the movements of the intestines). This causes nausea and diarrhea.

To top it all off, alcohol disrupts your sleep rhythm, further contributing to the overall feeling of fatigue and malaise the next morning.


First of all, you have to compensate for your fluid loss. Alcohol promotes urination because it inhibits the release of vasopressin, a hormone that reduces urine volume from the kidneys. If your hangover includes diarrhea, sweating, or vomiting, you may become even more dehydrated. Although nausea can make it difficult to swallow anything, even a few sips of water can ease your hangover.

When you are dehydrated, your body loses the electrolytes it needs to function. The most important electrolytes are the minerals sodium and potassium. You may have heard that sports drinks with electrolytes are good for a hangover for this reason. But most sports drinks contain (too much) sugar, which may make you feel even more nauseous. The Nutrition Center of the Netherlands recommends drinking plain water instead of sports drinks.

Coconut water without added sugar is another good rehydrator. It contains few calories (about 12 per 100 ml) and a lot of the electrolyte potassium. Potassium is actually the most important electrolyte that you need to compensate, because it ensures fluid balance in cells. A glass of coconut water provides 600 mg of potassium. For reference, we need about 3500 mg of potassium per day.

Tomato juice is also a good source of potassium. It contains approximately 550 mg of potassium per glass.

Drinking black and green tea can also be very helpful. Both black and green tea contain caffeine and, in addition to rehydration, can help relieve dizziness and fatigue.

Of course, another way to boost electrolyte balance is to eat foods rich in electrolytes. In this case, we are mainly talking about the electrolyte potassium. Exotic fruits, such as papaya, guava, mango, and kiwi contain significant amounts of potassium. All types of melon (watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew melon) also contain a lot of potassium.

Blood sugar levels stabilization

Alcohol lowers blood sugar levels, so in theory some of the fatigue and headaches of a hangover could be caused by a brain not having enough of its main fuel, glucose. In addition, many people forget to eat when they drink, causing their blood sugar levels to drop further.

That’s why most people crave convenience foods when they’re hungover, such as toast, pizza or pasta. Of course, you don’t always feel like having pizza when you just wake up. That’s why, in my opinion, oatmeal is the best food for the morning after. It slowly releases sugar into your bloodstream and also calms your stomach.

If you suffer from stomach and intestinal complaints, you can eat toasted bread, potatoes and bananas in addition to oatmeal. These foods are very gentle on the digestive system and provide the necessary glucose.

Salt (in moderation)

Sodium is another electrolyte, besides potassium, that is lost when drinking alcohol due to dehydration. Sodium is the most important component of salt and therefore of all salt-rich foods. A cup of broth can therefore help you recover faster from a hangover. In some countries, the liquid from pickled gherkins is drunk as a hangover remedy. (Yes, I know) And in Asian countries, miso soup is the answer to hangovers (and to everything, really). You should, of course, be careful with salt consumption, so don’t overdo it.

Finally: other methods

  • Ibuprofen seems to work better against hangover headaches than paracetamol.
  • Fresh air and exercise can also help.
  • Drinking more alcohol the next day will DEFINITELY NOT help, no matter what they say.


Enjoy the holidays, but drink in moderation!

Yours, Valerie