Excessive thirst, headache, sensitivity to light and sound, dizziness, bloodshot eyes, perhaps even nausea and vomiting are among the unpleasant side effects of being over served. Next time you're tempted to drink alcohol in excess, make sure you have the facts. Here are a few hangover myths debunked.

1. Hangover symptoms occur while the alcohol is still in your body. Actually, hangover symptoms begin when your blood alcohol level approaches zero after being elevated.

2. Urinating removes alcohol from your body and helps you sober up. The ingredient ethanol in drinking alcohol is a diuretic. It makes you pee more than normal, which can lead to dehydration—one of the main causes of hangover symptoms. According to DrinkAware, for every gram of alcohol you drink, your urine excretion increases by 10 ml. Furthermore, drinking alcohol also reduces the production of vasopressin, a hormone that tells the kidneys to reabsorb water rather than flush it through the bladder, further leading to increased urination.

3. Alcohol is alcohol—it doesn't matter what you drink. This is partially true. Since alcohol increases urination and leads to dehydration, switching to drinks with less alcohol volume won't make a difference whether or not you develop a hangover. On the other hand, alcohol also contains ingredients called congeners. They are more prevalent in darker liquors, so drinking lighter alcohols (such as vodka) can potentially lessen your risk of hangover.

4. Having another drink in the morning will relieve hangover symptoms. This is better known as the "hair of the dog" approach to recovery and it doesn't work. Drinking more alcohol doesn't allow your body to recover. Your brain cells stay dehydrated and your blood vessels remain dilated, which causes the classic hangover headache.

5. Over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers speed recovery. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, such as ibuprofen, can ease the pain of hangover headaches. However, not all OTC pain relievers are alike. Acetaminophen—the main ingredient in Tylenol®—needs to be metabolized by the liver just like alcohol does. Drinking prevents the liver from fully breaking down the toxins in acetaminophen, putting you at risk of damaging your liver, even at low doses. Stick to ibuprofen to treat the inflammation and reduce the pain.

The only way to prevent a hangover is moderate alcohol consumption and the only cure for a hangover is time. If you plan to party, drink plenty of water before, during, and after to prevent dehydration and never drink on an empty stomach. And, of course, don't drink and drive!

Allison Massey, MS, RD, LDN, CDE, reviewed this article.



Mayo Clinic. "Hangovers," Web. 14 December 2011. Accessed 30 November 2013. http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/hangovers/DS00649

DrinkAware. "Dealing with a hangover," Web. Accessed 30 November 2013. http://www.drinkaware.co.uk/check-the-facts/health-effects-of-alcohol/hangovers/dealing-with-a-hangover

Brian Dalek, "3 Hangover Mistakes You Always Make," Men's Health, 27 April 2012. Web. Accessed 30 November 2013.

R. Douglas Fields, "St. Patrick's Day Hangover Doubles Risk of Brain Stroke," Psychology Today, March 17, 2013. Web. Accessed 30 November 2013.

Richard Stephens, Jonathan Ling, Thomas M. Heffernan, Nick Heather, and Kate Jones. "A Review of the Literature on the Cognitive Effects of Alcohol Hangover," Alcohol and Alcoholism 43(2) (2008): 163-170. Web. http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/573322