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Drinking Habits

Does Milk Help Hangovers?

Published:
April 3, 2024
·
15 min read
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Written by
Reframe Content Team
A team of researchers and psychologists who specialize in behavioral health and neuroscience. This group collaborates to produce insightful and evidence-based content.
April 3, 2024
·
15 min read
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Certified recovery coach specialized in helping everyone redefine their relationship with alcohol. His approach in coaching focuses on habit formation and addressing the stress in our lives.
April 3, 2024
·
15 min read
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Recognized by Fortune and Fast Company as a top innovator shaping the future of health and known for his pivotal role in helping individuals change their relationship with alcohol.
April 3, 2024
·
15 min read
Reframe App LogoReframe App Logo
Reframe Content Team
April 3, 2024
·
15 min read

The Science Behind Milk as a Hangover Cure

  • Milk is commonly touted as a hangover cure, but the science doesn’t hold up.
  • The best way to cure a hangover is to hydrate, rest, and eat a solid meal.
  • Avoid the need for cures by preventing hangovers altogether. Reframe offers science-backed strategies to quit or cut back on alcohol so you can say goodbye to hangovers for good.

Have you ever woken up after a party feeling like your head is in a vise and your stomach is on a rollercoaster? Welcome to the world of hangovers! In this article, we’ll dissect the hangover, develop an understanding of the science behind it, and explore remedies, all the while focusing on the claim that a glass of milk can make the pain go away.

Can a glass of milk really be the elixir to your morning-after woes? Stay tuned! 

Understanding Hangovers

First, let's dive into the science of hangovers and why they turn our mornings upside down.

Hangovers are morning-after messengers, reminding us of our indulgences from the night before. They don't just disrupt our physical well-being; they turn our plans for a productive day into a struggle for basic comfort. But why does our body react this way?

A person drinking milk

Understanding the science behind a hangover is key to navigating the aftermath of a night out. They’re a blend of dehydration, chemical reactions, and the body's attempts to restore balance after being bombarded with more alcohol than it can handle. While everyone's experience might differ slightly, the common thread is that our body is working overtime to recover from a temporary onslaught of booze.

The Morning-After Blues


So, what does a hangover bring to the party? Here's the not-so-fun guest list:

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Moodiness
  • Sensitivity to light and sound

Hangovers are no fun, as anyone who’s ever had one can attest. Since the beginning of recorded history, humans have desperately searched for hangover cures. Over the years, some pretty absurd remedies have popped up — maybe we’ve even tried one or two of them!

Let’s zoom in on milk as a hangover cure. Some people swear by it, but is there any truth behind it?

Milk as a Cure: Origins and Beliefs

The origins of the milk-as-a-cure belief are somewhat nebulous. Milk has long been important for humans. In ancient times, it was viewed as a symbol of prosperity and abundance. It’s obviously associated with breastfeeding, which contributes to the perception of milk as a nourishing comfort food.

And milk is certainly nourishing! Thanks to modern dietary science, we know that it’s a rich source of essential nutrients like calcium, protein, and vitamins. Let’s get specific about milk’s wholesome nutritional offerings:

  • Calcium. Milk is famously high in this essential nutrient for bone health, muscle function, and nerve signaling. Our central nervous system uses calcium to recover from alcohol’s depressant effects. Calcium is also an important electrolyte, which helps us overcome the dehydration resulting from alcohol’s diuretic effect.
  • Vitamin B12. When we drink, our metabolism puts other tasks on hold to prioritize processing and eliminating alcohol. After all that work, it needs vitamin B12 to recharge. This vitamin is also essential for red blood cell formation and plays a role in maintaining our energy levels.
  • Protein. Protein builds and repairs tissues, helping us overcome that sprained ankle we got from stumbling around while drunk. It also helps repair the tissue damage caused by alcohol’s toxic by-products and stabilizes blood sugar levels (which can fluctuate during hangovers), reducing fatigue and irritability.
  • Potassium. Alcohol’s diuretic effect depletes our levels of potassium. Replenishing this essential electrolyte helps us restore proper fluid balance and allows our nerve signals to travel more effectively.
  • Phosphorus. This mineral works with calcium to build bones and teeth, and is an important part of energy production in our cells.
  • Riboflavin (vitamin B2). Another part of the amazing B vitamin family, riboflavin plays a role in energy production and cellular function. It helps restore the energy balance disrupted by alcohol consumption.
  • Vitamin D. Without vitamin D, our body struggles to absorb calcium. This is why milk in grocery stores is often fortified with vitamin D (you may also see this pairing in orange juice, yogurt, and sports drinks).

The nutrients in milk contribute to overall well-being and might alleviate some indirect effects of a hangover, but its primary benefit is rehydration and replenishment of depleted nutrients. Its capacity to directly counteract a hangover is more folklore than fact.

But what about preventing hangovers? Beyond its nutritional profile, there’s a common belief that milk can “coat the stomach” and slow the absorption of certain foods and drinks — especially alcohol. Scientifically, this is a bit of a stretch. 

Let’s dive deeper into milk's supposed ability to diminish the effects of being drunk or high. Is there any truth to these claims, or are they just old wives’ tales?

Does Milk Sober You Up?

Some people swear that milk sobers them up when they’ve been drinking, but what does science have to say? To understand this, we first need to examine how the body metabolizes alcohol — then we can explore where milk might fit into the picture.

Alcohol Metabolism

Alcohol is absorbed into the bloodstream through the stomach and intestines. From there, it's primarily metabolized in the liver with the help of alcohol dehydrogenase (ALDH). This key enzyme converts alcohol into acetaldehyde, the toxic compound responsible for most icky hangover symptoms.

While it's true that eating a meal before drinking alcohol can slow its absorption slightly, it doesn't prevent intoxication or help us sober up. Furthermore, milk doesn't contain any magical ingredients that can alter the body's metabolic processes to break down alcohol faster.

The alcohol elimination process in the body is a fixed biological function, and no amount of milk consumption will change this. There’s only one magic ingredient for sobering up from alcohol — time! 

But what if you need to sober up from something else?

Does Milk Get Rid of Your High?

Much like “getting rid of drunkenness,” the notion of "getting rid of a high" involves counteracting the effects of a psychoactive substance. These chemicals interact with the brain and central nervous system in complex ways by changing the function of our neurotransmitters.

Neurotransmitters are responsible for our mood, consciousness, and physical sensations. Substances can alter our chemical balance quickly, but it often takes much longer for the body to restore balance. Unfortunately, there is usually no quick fix for a high, except in the case of life-saving overdose medications like naloxone (Narcan).

While some people might report feeling better or less intoxicated after drinking milk, this is likely a placebo effect from consuming a soothing, familiar beverage.

Alternatives to Milk for Hangover Relief

So, if there’s no magic elixir for kicking our hangover to the curb, what can we do for relief when we’re feeling less than great?

  • Stay hydrated. Water is your best friend for preventing and relieving hangovers. Sports drinks, coconut water, electrolyte drinks, and milk are all great, but be sure to drink good-old-fashioned water as well.

  • Eat to recover. Eating a nutritious breakfast helps maintain your blood sugar levels. Foods rich in vitamins, minerals, and proteins, such as eggs, avocados, as well as whole grains, can do wonders for hangover recovery.
  • Ginger tea. Ginger is known for its anti-nausea properties and helps kick-start digestion. Drinking ginger tea can settle your stomach and reduce that morning-after queasiness.
  • Sleep and rest. Time is the best cure for hangover relief. Alcohol disrupts sleep, so take it easy and give yourself extra time to rest and recuperate.
  • Avoid caffeine. It might be tempting to shake off the hangover fatigue with a cup of coffee, but this “solution” often ends up making things worse. Caffeine, like alcohol, is a diuretic. You might feel better at first, but hangover symptoms will take even longer to dissipate.

  • Prevent hangovers. Stay ahead of your hangover by drinking a glass of water as a break between alcoholic beverages. This slows you down and prevents overconsumption, ensuring you're well-hydrated before going to bed.


The best way to avoid hangovers is to drink in moderation or practice mindful drinking. If we’re already in the hangover phase, we can use this opportunity to reflect on our relationship to alcohol and consider making a hangover prevention plan for next time.

Conclusion

While milk can be a helpful tool in the hangover recovery process, it’s not a cure-all. Milk is rich in nutrients that nourish our body during the detox phase, and it’s an excellent supplement to water. While prevention is the best cure, our next best options are to rest, eat a good meal, and hydrate! 

Have you ever woken up after a party feeling like your head is in a vise and your stomach is on a rollercoaster? Welcome to the world of hangovers! In this article, we’ll dissect the hangover, develop an understanding of the science behind it, and explore remedies, all the while focusing on the claim that a glass of milk can make the pain go away.

Can a glass of milk really be the elixir to your morning-after woes? Stay tuned! 

Understanding Hangovers

First, let's dive into the science of hangovers and why they turn our mornings upside down.

Hangovers are morning-after messengers, reminding us of our indulgences from the night before. They don't just disrupt our physical well-being; they turn our plans for a productive day into a struggle for basic comfort. But why does our body react this way?

A person drinking milk

Understanding the science behind a hangover is key to navigating the aftermath of a night out. They’re a blend of dehydration, chemical reactions, and the body's attempts to restore balance after being bombarded with more alcohol than it can handle. While everyone's experience might differ slightly, the common thread is that our body is working overtime to recover from a temporary onslaught of booze.

The Morning-After Blues


So, what does a hangover bring to the party? Here's the not-so-fun guest list:

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Moodiness
  • Sensitivity to light and sound

Hangovers are no fun, as anyone who’s ever had one can attest. Since the beginning of recorded history, humans have desperately searched for hangover cures. Over the years, some pretty absurd remedies have popped up — maybe we’ve even tried one or two of them!

Let’s zoom in on milk as a hangover cure. Some people swear by it, but is there any truth behind it?

Milk as a Cure: Origins and Beliefs

The origins of the milk-as-a-cure belief are somewhat nebulous. Milk has long been important for humans. In ancient times, it was viewed as a symbol of prosperity and abundance. It’s obviously associated with breastfeeding, which contributes to the perception of milk as a nourishing comfort food.

And milk is certainly nourishing! Thanks to modern dietary science, we know that it’s a rich source of essential nutrients like calcium, protein, and vitamins. Let’s get specific about milk’s wholesome nutritional offerings:

  • Calcium. Milk is famously high in this essential nutrient for bone health, muscle function, and nerve signaling. Our central nervous system uses calcium to recover from alcohol’s depressant effects. Calcium is also an important electrolyte, which helps us overcome the dehydration resulting from alcohol’s diuretic effect.
  • Vitamin B12. When we drink, our metabolism puts other tasks on hold to prioritize processing and eliminating alcohol. After all that work, it needs vitamin B12 to recharge. This vitamin is also essential for red blood cell formation and plays a role in maintaining our energy levels.
  • Protein. Protein builds and repairs tissues, helping us overcome that sprained ankle we got from stumbling around while drunk. It also helps repair the tissue damage caused by alcohol’s toxic by-products and stabilizes blood sugar levels (which can fluctuate during hangovers), reducing fatigue and irritability.
  • Potassium. Alcohol’s diuretic effect depletes our levels of potassium. Replenishing this essential electrolyte helps us restore proper fluid balance and allows our nerve signals to travel more effectively.
  • Phosphorus. This mineral works with calcium to build bones and teeth, and is an important part of energy production in our cells.
  • Riboflavin (vitamin B2). Another part of the amazing B vitamin family, riboflavin plays a role in energy production and cellular function. It helps restore the energy balance disrupted by alcohol consumption.
  • Vitamin D. Without vitamin D, our body struggles to absorb calcium. This is why milk in grocery stores is often fortified with vitamin D (you may also see this pairing in orange juice, yogurt, and sports drinks).

The nutrients in milk contribute to overall well-being and might alleviate some indirect effects of a hangover, but its primary benefit is rehydration and replenishment of depleted nutrients. Its capacity to directly counteract a hangover is more folklore than fact.

But what about preventing hangovers? Beyond its nutritional profile, there’s a common belief that milk can “coat the stomach” and slow the absorption of certain foods and drinks — especially alcohol. Scientifically, this is a bit of a stretch. 

Let’s dive deeper into milk's supposed ability to diminish the effects of being drunk or high. Is there any truth to these claims, or are they just old wives’ tales?

Does Milk Sober You Up?

Some people swear that milk sobers them up when they’ve been drinking, but what does science have to say? To understand this, we first need to examine how the body metabolizes alcohol — then we can explore where milk might fit into the picture.

Alcohol Metabolism

Alcohol is absorbed into the bloodstream through the stomach and intestines. From there, it's primarily metabolized in the liver with the help of alcohol dehydrogenase (ALDH). This key enzyme converts alcohol into acetaldehyde, the toxic compound responsible for most icky hangover symptoms.

While it's true that eating a meal before drinking alcohol can slow its absorption slightly, it doesn't prevent intoxication or help us sober up. Furthermore, milk doesn't contain any magical ingredients that can alter the body's metabolic processes to break down alcohol faster.

The alcohol elimination process in the body is a fixed biological function, and no amount of milk consumption will change this. There’s only one magic ingredient for sobering up from alcohol — time! 

But what if you need to sober up from something else?

Does Milk Get Rid of Your High?

Much like “getting rid of drunkenness,” the notion of "getting rid of a high" involves counteracting the effects of a psychoactive substance. These chemicals interact with the brain and central nervous system in complex ways by changing the function of our neurotransmitters.

Neurotransmitters are responsible for our mood, consciousness, and physical sensations. Substances can alter our chemical balance quickly, but it often takes much longer for the body to restore balance. Unfortunately, there is usually no quick fix for a high, except in the case of life-saving overdose medications like naloxone (Narcan).

While some people might report feeling better or less intoxicated after drinking milk, this is likely a placebo effect from consuming a soothing, familiar beverage.

Alternatives to Milk for Hangover Relief

So, if there’s no magic elixir for kicking our hangover to the curb, what can we do for relief when we’re feeling less than great?

  • Stay hydrated. Water is your best friend for preventing and relieving hangovers. Sports drinks, coconut water, electrolyte drinks, and milk are all great, but be sure to drink good-old-fashioned water as well.

  • Eat to recover. Eating a nutritious breakfast helps maintain your blood sugar levels. Foods rich in vitamins, minerals, and proteins, such as eggs, avocados, as well as whole grains, can do wonders for hangover recovery.
  • Ginger tea. Ginger is known for its anti-nausea properties and helps kick-start digestion. Drinking ginger tea can settle your stomach and reduce that morning-after queasiness.
  • Sleep and rest. Time is the best cure for hangover relief. Alcohol disrupts sleep, so take it easy and give yourself extra time to rest and recuperate.
  • Avoid caffeine. It might be tempting to shake off the hangover fatigue with a cup of coffee, but this “solution” often ends up making things worse. Caffeine, like alcohol, is a diuretic. You might feel better at first, but hangover symptoms will take even longer to dissipate.

  • Prevent hangovers. Stay ahead of your hangover by drinking a glass of water as a break between alcoholic beverages. This slows you down and prevents overconsumption, ensuring you're well-hydrated before going to bed.


The best way to avoid hangovers is to drink in moderation or practice mindful drinking. If we’re already in the hangover phase, we can use this opportunity to reflect on our relationship to alcohol and consider making a hangover prevention plan for next time.

Conclusion

While milk can be a helpful tool in the hangover recovery process, it’s not a cure-all. Milk is rich in nutrients that nourish our body during the detox phase, and it’s an excellent supplement to water. While prevention is the best cure, our next best options are to rest, eat a good meal, and hydrate! 

Summary FAQs

1. Is milk good for hangovers?

Milk is a healthy source of carbs, fat, protein, electrolytes, and other nutrients. It’s a good way to replenish after a night of drinking, but it’s not as important as drinking water. Milk will not speed up hangover recovery.

2. What are some alternatives to milk for hangover recovery?

Water is your best friend when recovering from a hangover. Coconut water and electrolyte mixes (such as Liquid IV or Gatorlyte) are other good beverage options, and herbal teas with ginger and mint can soothe an upset stomach. If you can handle it, a smoothie is a great way to pack in tons of nutrients while hydrating (but it’s not a substitute for water!).

3. Does milk sober you up?

No. The only way to sober up from alcohol is time. If you’re trying to sober up, drink some water, take it easy, get some rest, and plan to eat a nutritious meal once you’re feeling up to it.

4. Does milk kill your high?

Much like with hangovers, the only way to get over a high is to get through it (with a few exceptions such as overdose reversal drugs). If you’re trying to get through a high, take it easy, hydrate, and if necessary, reach out to a trusted friend or your local emergency services.

Kick Hangovers to the Curb With Reframe!

Although it isn’t a treatment for alcohol use disorder (AUD), the Reframe app can help you cut back on drinking gradually, with the science-backed knowledge to empower you 100% of the way. Our proven program has helped millions of people around the world drink less and live more. And we want to help you get there, too!

The Reframe app equips you with the knowledge and skills you need to not only survive drinking less, but to thrive while you navigate the journey. Our daily research-backed readings teach you the neuroscience of alcohol, and our in-app Toolkit provides the resources and activities you need to navigate each challenge.

You’ll meet hundreds of fellow Reframers in our 24/7 Forum chat and daily Zoom check-in meetings. Receive encouragement from people worldwide who know exactly what you’re going through! You’ll also have the opportunity to connect with our licensed Reframe coaches for more personalized guidance.

Plus, we’re always introducing new features to optimize your in-app experience. We recently launched our in-app chatbot, Melody, powered by the world’s most powerful AI technology. Melody is here to help as you adjust to a life with less (or no) alcohol. 

And that’s not all! Every month, we launch fun challenges, like Dry/Damp January, Mental Health May, and Outdoorsy June. You won’t want to miss out on the chance to participate alongside fellow Reframers (or solo if that’s more your thing!).

The Reframe app is free for 7 days, so you don’t have anything to lose by trying it. Are you ready to feel empowered and discover life beyond alcohol? Then download our app through the App Store or Google Play today! 

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