Hit the wine trail too hard? Bartenders and doctors talk hangover cures

hangover cures

Photo by Carrie Miller

Probably since the dawn of man, consumers of alcohol have been searching for the perfect cure for the dreaded hangover.

But is that like searching for the fountain of youth? I mean, does it really exist?

Whether it’s the well-known Bloody Mary, Alka-Seltzer, two Advils at night or some green concoction your brother-in-law makes in his blender (and swears by), there are hangover cure suggestions aplenty from all walks of life. And many insist bartenders know best.

“They say that if you take a lemon wedge and put some bitters on it with sugar, that it will help you get rid of it,” said Jason Nappi, 24, a bartender at Cody’s BBQ & Grill in Riverhead.

He said he often serves up sweet tea with vodka for people looking to avoid a hangover, because sugary drinks supposedly help by “coating the stomach.”

Since 10 different bartenders could give 10 different answers on the hangover question, I consulted two local physicians to see if there’s any science to back up the claims.

Dr. Alexis Hugelmeyer, director of community education at Peconic Bay Medical Center, said sugary juices could have a benefit.

“Alcohol will give you a sugar rush and when you go to sleep at night, your blood sugar will drop,” so eating or drinking something with sugar could bring blood sugar levels back up and result in some relief.

“The main reason we get hangovers is because the body becomes dehydrated,” Dr. Hugelmeyer said.

Alcohol is a diuretic, so it makes the body lose water, she said.

She recommends waking up to a drink that contains electrolytes — such as Gatorade or SmartWater — because drinkers lose these minerals when they urinate, which happens more frequently while drinking. It’s also a good idea to sip such drinks before going to bed, she said.

Over at the Old Mill Inn in Mattituck, bartender Caroline O’Connell said she’s heard people swear by taking a morning shot of tequila with pickle juice — a “hair of the dog” approach. The salty pickle juice could help an upset stomach, she said.

Dr. Hugelmeyer and naturopathic physician Ashley Lewin, of the Integrated Wellness Center in Riverhead, agreed that morning-after cocktails, like a Bloody Mary or shot, do not offer any benefits. It’s typically the juices mixed with them that do the body good.

“Curing a hangover with more alcohol is clearly not the answer,” Dr. Hugelmeyer said.

Speaking to Ms. O’Connell’s salt tip, Ms. Lewin said a pinch of a good sea salt (not your cardboard container of Morton’s) mixed with water would help restore lost minerals to the body.

Ms. O’Connell also said eating spicy foods with Tabasco sauce could help in sweating out all the alcohol.

Sweating it out is a good idea, Dr. Hugelmeyer said, but she also recommends exercise to get the metabolism going.

“Exercise will help speed your metabolism of the alcohol through your liver,” she said.

Not all hangovers are so easily shaken off, however. Some can last as long as 24 hours, according to the Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (And anyone over 25 could attest to the dreaded two-day hangover.)

While the best cure for a hangover is not to get one, Dr. Hugelmeyer said, eating while drinking — and alternating drinks with a glass of water to stay hydrated -— is probably the best way to minimize a morning hangover.

As for medication, stick to an ibuprofen, experts say, such as Advil or Nuprin, Acetaminophens such as Tylenol can cause liver damage if taken with too much alcohol, said Ginny Corazzini, pharmacist at Southold Pharmacy.

Most important, Dr. Hugelmeyer added, if you’re going to enjoy a few drinks, “remember to drink responsibly, and hand over the keys.”