Does Drinking Beer Fix a Hangover?

A man is pouring beer.
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The pounding head, sour stomach and dry mouth of a hangover can make the binge of the night before seem like a very bad idea. Having another beer for breakfast might make you feel better temporarily, but it will do nothing to "cure" your hangover. Drinking when you have a hangover only prolongs the agony. Time is the only sure cure for your overindulgence and a reminder to go lighter on the libations in the future.

Physiology of a Hangover

When you drink, your body converts the alcohol into acetaldehyde, a toxin that affects brain activity, explaining the decreased judgment and lowered inhibitions characteristic of the intoxicated. Alcohol is a diuretic, causing you to excrete more fluid, in the form of urine, than you take in. So, you wake up with a dry mouth and pounding headache. Alcohol also irritates the stomach, leading to nausea, and may affect balance, hence the dizzy feeling some people have.


Hair of the Dog

People often talk about drinking "the hair of the dog that bit you" as a cure for a hangover. This seems to have come from the idea that a hangover is a symptom of your body's withdrawal from alcohol. Give the body more alcohol and you stop the withdrawal. But putting more alcohol into your body only perpetuates the problem. You might feel a little better for a little while, but you'll crash again as soon as that beer wears off. Continuing to drink to try to stave off a hangover could lead to a serious alcohol problem.

Hangover "Cures"

There's no known immediate cure for a hangover, but you can do some things to relieve your discomfort. Since alcohol dehydrates, drinking water and juice can help you feel better. Eat some light carbohydrates, such as dry toast, to boost your blood sugar and take ibuprofen with the food. Don't take acetaminophen, which can damage your liver, or aspirin, which may further irritate your stomach. Some people report taking B vitamins eases their distress, but the only thing that will definitely cure your hangover is time, about eight to 12 hours on average.


Preventing a Hangover

To avoid the pain of a hangover in the future, the short answer is to drink less. Alternate a non-alcoholic drink, such as a glass of club soda or water, with every alcoholic drink. Eat while you drink. Food slows the absorption of alcohol into your system. If you continue a pattern of drinking a lot and find you no longer suffer from hangovers, you may have built up a tolerance to alcohol, which could signal a more serious drinking problem.