Updated 05 July 2013

Get through the morning after

A hangover is the result of damage inflicted on the nervous system by alcohol. Here's what you need to know.


You have a hangover. You've vowed to never drink again, but between now and beer with the guys after work you have an important presentation to make.

According to the late Cape Town neurologist Prof. Peter Rose-Innes, a hangover is the result of damage inflicted on the nervous system by alcohol.

The best way to avoid a hangover is to avoid drinking too much. Having stated our prim disapproval of your behaviour, we'd like to help. There are dozens of hangover cures touted in bars and on the internet, but here are some that are reputed to work. Combining them ought to help.

  • Drink plenty of water: Alcohol dehydrates you, so replenish your system. Some drinkers swear by sports drinks such as Energade. Drinking plenty of water before your excursion to the bar will also help. So will quaffing water between alcoholic drinks.
  • Take vitamins: Booze drains your body of vitamin C. So does coffee and smoking - even passive smoking. Standard cures such as Guronsan C and Regmakers contain large doses of vitamin C, but taking the standard vitamin supplements will help.
  • Eat something: Some veteran drinkers swear by a greasy hamburger and a milkshake or a full breakfast, complete with bacon and eggs. We wouldn't recommend either, but would suggest a healthy breakfast if you can face it. A good restorative is dry toast with honey – no butter. Honey will help settle your stomach and ease the sore dry throat you got from singing bawdy pub songs.
  • Be pale: Make a note to yourself not to mix your drinks and to stick to pale drinks. White spirits such as vodka will leave you with less of a hangover than darker drinks such as whisky, brandy and – sadly – bourbon. Sweet drinks also play havoc with your blood-sugar levels, so avoid large ones containing rainbow colours and paper umbrellas.
  • Also don't be tempted to try the so-called "hair of the dog". Drinking to alleviate the symptoms of a hangover is one of the classical steps toward alcoholism. You should avoid doing so.
  • A famous remedy is the so-called Aunt Emma's Cure. It's made with one large can of tomato juice, three tablespoons of vinegar, the juice of one lemon, four slices of onion, three tablespoons of sugar, four stalks of celery and two teaspoons of Tabasco sauce. Blend the ingredients, let the ingredients stand overnight, strain and serve.

If you find you have hangovers on a regular basis, you should seek help.

- (William Smook, Health24, updated September 2009)


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Dr Elliot Shevel is a South African migraine surgery pioneer and the founder and medical director of The Headache Clinic in Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town, South Africa. The Headache Clinic is a multidisciplinary practice dedicated to the diagnosis and treatment of Primary Headaches and Migraines. Dr Shevel is also the main author of all scientific publications generated by his team. He recently won a high level science debate in which he was able to prove that the current migraine diagnosis and classification is not based on data. Tertiary Education - Dr Shevel holds both Dental and Medical degrees, and practises as a specialist Maxillo-facial and Oral Surgeon. Follow the Headache Clinic on Twitter@HeadacheClinic.

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