Kill your hangover

First aid for the morning after

A greasy pizza, litres of Sprite, sex, or even more beer; ask around for people’s tips to cure a hangover and you’ll get a lot of different answers. Is there actually one that works, though?
By Paulien Plat / Translation by Sarah van Steenderen

So you’ve had a few too many and the next morning you wake up nauseated, with a dry mouth and a throbbing headache. There’s not a single student this hasn’t happened to. ‘Alcohol is basically a type of poison and it makes your body sick’, explains Janneke Vos, nutritionist and health sociologist who got her master’s degree in health, care, and wellbeing last year.

A hangover has three distinct causes. Dehydration is the main one: alcohol is a diuretic. This is why you’re so thirsty in the morning, and why you have a headache. As alcohol breaks down in your body, a toxic substance, acetaldehyde, is created, which exacerbates your headache and gives you the shakes. Excessive drinking also agitates your stomach lining, causing the nausea.

There’s not much you can do about feeling like crap, says Janneke. ‘All you can do is wait for it to be over.’ Eating something can help settle your stomach, ‘although it could also backfire and make the nausea worse’. Rushing to the loo on wobbly legs is no one’s idea of a good time. What about the other consequences of heavy drinking? Is there any way to cure them? Better yet, can you prevent them?

A litre of water

‘A kiwi and some bouillon, that’s my go-to when I’m hungover’, says Karlijn Saris (23), a journalism student. ‘That just treats the symptoms, though’, mocks her boyfriend Jostein Trentelman (24), who studies medicine. ‘I just make sure I’m prepared.’ He makes sure to eat some greasy food before he starts drinking. But the most important thing, Jostein says, is to drink a lot of water before you go to bed. ‘Like, a lot. At least a litre.’

Meri Cools (24), another journalism student, swears by drinking Sprite the next day. ‘I’ll easily drink a whole bottle. Sometimes even two.’ She once read that this particular drink can help fight a hangover. ‘I also just really like it.’

Janneke confirms that Sprite works, although any other soda would work just as well, as long as it’s not a light drink. ‘Sugar and salt can help you take in fluids better.’ You’d normally get that from food, but if your stomach is feeling iffy, lemonade, cola, or Sprite work just as well. If you’d rather take in some salt, bouillon will do the trick.

Jostein’s tip of drinking a litre of water before bed is a good one as well. ‘Your body gets some extra fluids during the night, which means it doesn’t take the eight hours for you to wake up before your body can start replenishing’, says Janneke. Karlijn’s kiwi is probably more of a placebo. ‘It’ll make you think you’re being healthy, so you’ll feel better. Fruit does contain a lot of fluids, so that’s good, but there’s really nothing else in it that helps against a hangover.’

Greasy food

Eating a big helping of fries or a pizza before you start drinking will have an effect, but not necessarily a good one. Your body will absorb the alcohol more slowly, which means you don’t feel the effects as much while you’re drinking. ‘But your body does absorb every single drink in the end. So it won’t help prevent a hangover’, warns Janneke.

Many people crave greasy food after they’ve been drinking all night. Does that help to prevent a hangover? Janneke doubts it. ‘It might be soothing? But I’m just guessing.’

Other swear by having sex or a round of jogging. ‘I promise it works’, says a friend of mine who prefers to remain anonymous. Janneke says these activities might work because the body produces endorphins when you do them. Endorphins are analgesic and make you feel happy. Like a natural opiate. ‘You feel better only temporarily, because they don’t help combat the dehydration, your stomach being upset, or the acetaldehyde.’

Coffee and beer

What about a shot of coffee? ‘It is a fluid, so it does help you hydrate. The caffeine wakes you up. But it only masks your hangover; it doesn’t cure it’, says Janneke. Hair of the dog, aka more beer, also won’t help you get rid of your hangover. ‘You’re only making it worse. If you go to a festival and drink for three days straight, you’re absolutely ruined afterwards.’

The most effective solution is also the simplest one: have a glass of water for every glass of alcohol. ‘It’s better to not drink at all, but if you really must, this is definitely the best way to do it.’

If you forget this wise lesson during the night, just do what makes you feel best the morning after. There simply is no miracle cure to rid you of your hangover. ‘You just have to wait it out’, says Janneke. ‘Until then, you’re pretty much screwed.’


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