Having a fun night out at the bar with friends is all fun and games until the next morning when the dreaded hangover sets in. Symptoms include a mouth as dry as the Sahara Desert, an upset stomach, nausea, dehydration, fatigue, a headache—the works. So, what do you do to get rid of such horrendous side effects? A lot of 20- and 30-somethings swear by Pedialyte—the drink of choice when you have the stomach flu—as a hangover remedy. But does it actually work? Is sipping on some Pedialyte the cure for a hangover?
Kelli McGrane, MS, and registered dietitian for the food tracking app Lose It!, unpacks the theory and settles the great debate about whether Pedialyte is the best beverage to consume after a night out drinking.
How can Pedialyte help you recover from a hangover?
"The only true 'cure' for a hangover is time; however, Pedialyte can help manage some of the symptoms and possibly speed up recovery," says McGrane. "Hangovers are largely due to a buildup of acetaldehyde in our bodies."
Acetaldehyde is a naturally-occurring, colorless liquid that's found in anything from ripe fruits and vegetables to cigarette smoke, and it also happens to be the chemical compound that's formed in the metabolism of alcohol.
"When alcohol is metabolized by the liver, it breaks down into acetaldehyde, which is then further broken down into acetate, which can be expelled from our bodies," explains McGrane. "However, when we drink more than our livers can process, it takes longer for acetaldehyde to be broken down into acetate, resulting in hangover symptoms such as nausea, rapid heart rate, flushing, and altered sleep."
One of the most common symptoms of a hangover is dehydration, which can cause you to feel lightheaded or dizzy and even cause a headache. For this reason, Pedialyte is a suitable beverage to choose because it replenishes electrolytes and, of course, rehydrates you, too. It also packs a bit of sugar, which also can help alleviate hangover symptoms.
"Blood sugar levels can drop slightly while the liver processes alcohol, [and] the sugar found in Pedialyte acts quickly to help increase your blood sugar," she says.
The registered dietitian suggests eating fast-digesting carbohydrates such as crackers or toast to help expedite the process of building your blood sugar levels back up. She also advises pairing the simple carbohydrate with a protein or healthy fat to prevent your blood sugar levels from dipping back down. A serving of healthy nuts like almonds or cashews would suffice.
"Drinking also decreases the body's stores of glutathione, an antioxidant needed to help break down toxic byproducts of alcohol metabolism. Eggs, as well as vitamin C-rich fruits and vegetables, are good ways to increase the production of this antioxidant in your body," says McGrane.
What nutrients are you lacking when you're hungover?
"Rehydration and replenishing electrolytes are top priorities when you're hungover. Specifically potassium and sodium, which is why you may see recommendations for eating a banana or sipping on broth," she says.
Are there any misconceptions about Pedialyte?
"Drinking Pedialyte can help us feel better when we're hungover, leading many to believe that it 'cures' hangovers. However, just because those dehydration symptoms go away, there are still effects of alcohol poisoning from the acetaldehyde build-up that Pedialyte can't cure. The only way to avoid this build-up is simply by not drinking in excess," says McGrane.
McGrane says it's hard to beat Pedialyte, as it provides your body with both water and electrolytes, as well as a small amount of sugar. However, it's also crucial for one to continue to hydrate themselves with water throughout the rest of the day to fully recover.
"While you won't be able to completely ward off a hangover in the morning, if you've already consumed excess alcohol, drinking Pedialyte prior to falling asleep can help prevent being dehydrated—and experiencing the resulting symptoms—in the morning," she says.
Preventive care pro tip: Sip on the colorful beverage before your head hits the pillow for a less excruciating hangover the next day.