Big Night Drinking Alcohol? Does Coffee Help Your Hangover?
You've just woken up on a Sunday morning after a few too many drinks. Your head is pounding, your mouth is dry, and the sunlight pierces your soul like a dagger. Last night was fun, but 'F-ME' you're feeling it now. You desperately grab your phone and manage to type in 'Coffee hangover' and end up here looking for some advice.
Should you reach for the coffee?
But, come to think of it, does coffee REALLY help a hangover? Does this heavenly brew actually offer any real relief to the symptoms you suffer through? Yes...but there is a caveat...
First, let’s talk about Hangovers
If it’s to be explained in the simplest way, a hangover is basically the effect of an excessive consumption of alcoholic beverages. It can cause weakness, muscle aches, rapid heartbeat, stomach pain, nausea, dizziness, headaches, dry throat (feeling of thirst), and increased sensitivity to light and sound.
Scientists use the medical term veisalgia for this baffling phenomenon. And here’s a brief look at the possible causes of veisalgia or hangover:
- Dehydration - With alcohol being a diuretic, it is easy to point fingers at dehydration as a possible cause for hangovers.
- Chemical imbalance in your body - Alcohol can cause an unwanted accumulation of the compound called NADH, puts your metabolic system in chaos, and affects electrolyte levels too.
- Presence of the toxic compound acetaldehyde - This compound is a byproduct of alcohol being processed in our body. Certain levels of acetaldehyde can cause nausea, skin flushing, and vomiting.
So, what can Coffee do for you and your Blasted Hangover?
Now that you know what you’re up against, let’s look into how coffee can help with hangovers.
Coffee is in the honor roll of famous hangover ‘cures’, along with the common favorite ‘hair of the dog’. The latter simply refers to ingesting a bit of alcohol to combat the symptoms of hangovers.
Some say it works, but Dr. Daniel K. Hall-Flavin, M.D says it will only “provide a numbing effect”.
Maybe most people are just famished after a night of drinking, but many also swear by a greasy breakfast as a hangover cure. Unfortunately though, the excessive oil can actually make your stomach even more upset once the momentary comfort passes.
So, is coffee just like these two? Another ‘mythical’ way to alleviate hangover symptoms? Not really.
We all know that coffee contains caffeine, a substance that can affect your body in many ways, as it is easily absorbed into your system. For someone who is seriously hung over, caffeine offers what it does best - make you feel less sleepy.
If you have important tasks you cannot put off on a hung over kind of morning, the caffeine jolt may prove helpful. Do note though, that the energy boost is short-lived (about three hours).
A warm cup of coffee may also improve your mood a bit, as caffeine aids in elevating dopamine amounts. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that sends ‘happy signals’ to your brain, so you may briefly feel a bit more comfortable after drinking coffee.
Your beloved brew however, has a two-pronged effect on a hangover's most overwhelming symptom, a headache.
If you happen to consume coffee regularly, you have most likely developed a dependency on it. If this is the case, it is best that you consume your requisite morning cup when you’re hung over to avoid withdrawal symptoms, like a worsened headache for example.
On the other hand, if you consume too much caffeine in your condition, you can also suffer from increased blood pressure. And this can potentially make your hangover headache even more excruciating.
There’s a truth to what coffee CANNOT do for your hangover
Let’s first dispel the original assumption to what coffee can do to your hangover - it doesn’t make you instantly sober. The caffeine may ‘wake you up’ for a short while, but the effects of alcohol on your body will still linger.
Coffee will not help your very upset stomach either, especially if you drink without consuming any food. The caffeine increases the acid in your stomach, which may aggravate your vomiting. It can possibly cause heartburn too.
And no, drinking several cups of coffee is not the same as drinking water to re-hydrate your body when you’re hung over. In fact, with coffee being a natural diuretic, excessive consumption may even worsen your already dehydrated state.
How do you make coffee work for you then?
Coffee enthusiasts know for a fact that coffee has its merits, but when you’re hung over, you have to exert a bit more effort in making it instrumental to improving your condition.
Here’s what you can do:
- Drink water and eat a bit of bland food (like unsalted crackers) before you consume your cup of joe. This helps settle your stomach acids, and safely elevates your blood sugar levels too.
- Reduce your ‘hangover morning’ coffee consumption. Remember, your body needs to re-hydrate. Half a cup should do the trick.
- If you feel the need to continue drinking coffee, consume it in smaller portions and dilute it with lots more water.
- It was found that coffee does offer some significant relief when paired with pain medicine.
In a recent study done by prof. Michael Oshinsky of the Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, he administered small amounts of caffeine together with an anti-inflammatory drug on laboratory rats.
The test showed that the combination soothed headaches and deterred the toxic compound acetaldehyde.
If possible, skip the coffee. Try making yourself a glass of juice from fresh fruits instead.
In the following video, you can get an idea of why natural juices work better than another shot of alcohol or an additional cup of coffee.
The Bottom Line
Now isn’t it nice to know that your favorite brew can somehow help you ease a hangover? Just keep in mind that the best way to deal with hangovers is to get plenty of rest, be properly hydrated, and stay away from alcoholic beverages.
We still choose to drink coffee when hung over however, it gives us pleasure no matter what state of mind we’re in. Check out our homepage for 100 more reasons to have another coffee.