One of the distinct pieces of advice I walked out of New Student Orientation with was to drink a cup of water after every alcoholic beverage you drink in order to prevent feeling hungover the next day. The logic behind this is that you’d be combating dehydration caused by alcohol (either by excess urination or vomiting) by hydrating your body with water. According to the Mayo Clinic, symptoms associated with the overconsumption of alcohol include: mood swings, headaches, increased sensitivity, disorientation, and vomiting, among many other effects. After seeing so many people wearing sunglasses and buying bottles of coconut water Saturday and Sunday evenings at work, I began to wonder if this method of preventing dehydration was actually true. And if it was, maybe I could save a life and tell the next hungover person I saw: “Hey, I don’t know if you know this, but drinking water after consuming alcohol will make you feel less like a walking zombie and more like a semi-conscious human being the day after partying; it’s scientifically proven.” However, this statement hasn’t been proven, and there are two sides to the question: drinking water prevents hangovers and drinking water doesn’t prevent hangovers.
I came across this article titled “7 Evidence-Based Ways to Prevent Hangovers”, which seems ironic because the actual content of the article presents no evidence whatsoever. This was a recurring pattern prevalent in the research I conducted; articles would claim that drinking water cured hangovers, yet they didn’t really show any concrete evidence confirming this. Scientists have even published that they do not necessarily understand the causes of hangovers. If scientists themselves can’t really prove anything, then where are all these people getting this information from? It seems like these claims that water prevents hangovers are heavily reliant on anecdotal evidence, but we already know that storytelling isn’t concrete evidence. In the same manner, there are a lot of third variables woven in between this statement. For example, a person’s level of resistance to alcohol, if the person ate throughout the night, or the amount of alcohol consumed can affect whether the person will be hungover the next day.
Some studies argued that drinking water alone won’t prevent your hangover, but it can help minimize the effects associated with hangovers. After having over 25% of people in a study report that they are immune to hangovers, Canadian and Dutch scientists in the Utrecht University conducted a controlled experiment with over 789 Canadian students to understand drinking habits. They took into consideration students’ alcohol consumption, the time span during the consumption of these beverages, and how severe their hangover symptoms were the next day. With these surveys, scientists found that students were drinking too little to experience hangover symptoms the next day– students that reported hangover immunity had blood alcohol levels of less than 0.10% (third variable). To further investigate the effects of hangovers, the scientists asked 826 Dutch students if they succeeded in preventing being hungover by drinking water/eating fatty foods during and after a night of drinking. About 54% of students surveyed reported eating or drinking water after consuming alcohol. Nevertheless, students also reported that although they felt slightly better than if they had not consumed food and water, these methods didn’t prevent them from being hungover.*
When I started researching if water was actually effective for reducing the effects of alcohol, I expected to find articles confirming the statement. To my surprise, some articles surfaced negating the “myth” that water is a hangover remedy. I always thought that this statement was a fact. I figured that not only does drinking lots of water throughout the night help keep you hydrated and less thirsty, it also makes you less likely to excessively consume alcohol if you have a full bladder. In this case, although there were a lot of articles “confirming” that water helps cure hangovers, the only evidence presented was that drinking water doesn’t prevent hangovers. Therefore, even though it might lessen hangover symptoms such as thirst, it is not a proven scientific fact that drinking a cup of water after every alcoholic beverage consumed can prevent hangovers from occurring.
*If you’re looking for a way to prevent hangovers, the best way to do this is by abstaining from alcohol consumption.
**Click on the meme for a relatable Buzzfeed post!