Does Milk Help A Hangover

In this brief article, we will be answering the question, “does milk help a hangover?”, and will be discussing what happens during a hangover, its symptoms and how to manage them, and what to avoid during a hangover. 

Does Milk Help A Hangover?

No, milk does not help a hangover. On the contrary, milk may delay the alleviation of the hangover.

The withdrawal in the symptoms of hangover are related to the capacity of the body to eliminate the breakdown products of alcohol by the hepatic enzymes. Production of these enzymes can be favored by some medications and herbal plants, but also by some food items. Food has different effects on increasing and decreasing the rate in which the body removes the hangover symptoms. 

In a study evaluating different food items on the production of enzymes that function to remove alcohol and its products from the body, milk showed an effect on reducing the production of enzymes, which means milk is not recommended in the relief of hangovers. On the contrary, other dairy products, such as buttermilk and probiotic drinks had a positive effect on the production of such hepatic enzymes, favoring the elimination of hangovers (5). 

What Happens During A Hangover?

During a hangover, symptoms are manifested, characterized by an unpleasant and uneasy feeling that includes, but is not limited to, headache, fatigue, drowsiness, nausea, and in some cases, vomiting (5).

The alcohol intoxication is characterized by psychological, behavioral and somatic symptoms such as increase in the sensory threshold, prolongation of the response latency to external signal, muscle relaxation, motor impairment and ataxia, decrease in the cognitive function, disturbance of the memory (amnesia, blackout) etc. caused by a partial inhibition of the neocortex of brain (1).

As the concentration of alcohol in your system increases, you might experiencing the following signs and symptoms:

  • Blurred vision 
  • Decreased reaction time
  • Unreliable perceptions
  • Loss of coordination 
  • Loss of inhibitions, which generally leads to more drinking
  • poor judgment
  • Slurred speech

Even higher concentrations of alcohol in the blood are than produced by the accumulation of acetaldehyde, an intermediate metabolite of ethanol, as the alcohol intoxication and can cause the following (1):

  • Hiccups
  • Vertigo 
  • Sensitivity to light, motion, and sound
  • Confusion
  • Lethargy
  • Short-term memory loss
  • Vomiting and diarrhea
  • Loss of appetite 
  • Nausea  
  • Stupor
  • Slow breathing

Generally, five to eight drinks can result in a hangover for an average man, and three to five drinks are enough for an average woman; however, the specific symptoms vary greatly among individuals.

While other symptoms may resolve themselves soon, symptoms such as manual dexterity, reaction time, memory blackout, decreased visual-spatial skills, and lack of attention may remain adversely affected even after the alcohol level in your blood falls back to zero.

How Long Does A Hangover Last?

A hangover can last for as long as 72 hours after your spree of drinking, but most resolve themselves sooner. Ethanol is mainly metabolized to acetaldehyde through mainly two routes in the liver, alcohol dehydrogenase and microsone ethanol oxidation system. A sequence of chemical reactions follows to end finally to water and carbon dioxide (1).

However, the exact duration of a hangover depends on:

  • the amount of alcohol consumed
  • your extent of dehydration
  • your overall nutritional status
  • certain medication you might be taking
  • the health of your liver

A lesser known fact is that gender and ethnicity also affect the duration of a hangover.

What Factors Make a Hangover Worse?

Various factors can make a hangover worse, including body weight and gender. Alcohol metabolism is one of the biological determinants that can significantly influence drinking behavior and the development of alcohol dependence. Alcohol dehydrogenase, aldehyde dehydrogenase, the enzymes that are related to alcohol metabolism occur at different frequencies in particular ethnic groups and differ between races and populations (2).

For instance, people from certain ethnicities, such as Japanese, possess a genetically limited ability to break down acetaldehyde (the primary by-product of alcohol). This is where the phrase ‘Asian Flush’ comes from – reddening of the skin and quick hangovers even after consuming small amounts of alcohol.   

People suffering from migraines also have more difficulties with hangovers, along with those who have a compromised liver and cannot metabolize alcohol adequately. Alcohol intoxication results in vasodilation, which may induce headaches. Alcohol has effects on several neurotransmitters and hormones that are implicated in the pathogenesis of headaches, including histamine, serotonin, and prostaglandins (4). Therefore, migraineurs have hangover headaches more frequently than non headache patients, and probably with lower alcohol doses, but the relationship between the intake of alcohol and the migraine attack is not clear (3).

Also, individuals on certain medications that interfere with the breakdown of alcohol and acetaldehyde also suffer from worse hangovers.  

Surprisingly, the speed at which you drink also affects the state of your hangover. A healthy individual can metabolize at least one drink’s worth of alcohol in an hour, so anything less than that will cause problems.

Lastly, there is also evidence suggesting that the type of alcohol matters more than the number of drinks. For instance, darker beverages such as brandy, whiskey, red wine, and tequila may lead to worse symptoms as compared to clear drinks such as vodka and gin. 

The reason is that dark beverages contain dangerous chemicals called congeners which enhance ethanol’s harmful effects. These compounds contribute to the taste, smell, and appearance of alcoholic beverages. Research has shown that beverages composed of more pure ethanol induce fewer hangover effects than do beverages containing a large number of congeners, such as whiskey, brandy, or red wine (4).

What Things Should You Avoid During A Hangover?

To avoid feeling worse, here are some things you should steer clear of during a hangover:

  • Contrary to popular advice, avoid consuming more alcohol during a hangover – this will simply enhance your misery. Additional drinking will only enhance the existing toxicity of the alcohol consumed during the previous bout and may increase the likelihood of even further drinking (4)
  • Prevent further dehydration by consuming liquids such as milk (as we’ve mentioned), water, or chicken soup.
  • Avoid painkillers such as acetaminophen (Tylenol). These will overburden your already stressed liver and can cause dangerous swelling or liver failure.
  • Do not consume unpalatable combinations such as eggs with raw fish in Tabasco sauce! They are hard to digest normally, so you’ll definitely throw them up during a hangover. 

If Not Milk, What Can Help A Hangover?

Consumption of fruits, fruit juices, or other fructose-containing foods is reported to decrease hangover intensity. In addition, adequate sleep may ease the fatigue associated with sleep deprivation, and drinking nonalcoholic beverages during and after alcohol consumption may reduce alcohol-induced dehydration. Besides, certain medications may provide symptomatic relief for hangover symptoms (4). 

Even though there is no significant evidence that any of these can effectively prevent or treat a hangover, very limited and well-designed scientific studies reveal that some of the following might help improve the symptoms of a hangover.

  • vitamin B6, preferably before drinking.
  • fitness or energy drinks such as Gatorade, since they will rehydrate and replenish the body of lost water and nutrients
  • moderate exercise might be helpful, but only if you stay well-hydrated.
  • bland foods containing complex carbohydrates, such as toast or crackers, can counter low blood sugar levels in people subject to hypoglycemia and can possibly relieve nausea 


In this brief article, we answered the question “does milk help a hangover?” and discussed what happens during a hangover, its symptoms and how to manage them, and what to avoid during a hangover. 

In this brief article, we answered the question “does milk help a hangover?” and discussed what happens during a hangover, its symptoms and how to manage them, and what to avoid during a hangover. 

If you have any questions and comments please let us know.


  1. Kuribara, Hisashi. Alleviation of the Drunken Frenzy/Hangover-like Symptoms by SJS, a Japanese Herbal Medicine, in Mice. Bulletin of Tokyo University and Graduate School of Social Welfare, 2016, 3, 127-135.   
  2. Cichoż-Lach, H., et al. Genetic polymorphism of alcohol-metabolizing enzyme and alcohol dependence in Polish men. Braz J Med Biol Res, 2010, 43,: 257-261.
  3. Panconesi, A., Bartolozzi, M.L. & Guidi, L. Alcohol and Migraine: What Should We Tell Patients?. Curr Pain Headache Rep, 2011, 15, 177–184.
  4. Swift, Robert, and Dena Davidson. Alcohol hangover: mechanisms and mediators. Alc health res world, 1998, 22, 54.
  5. Srinivasan, Shraddha, Kriti Kumari Dubey, and Rekha S. Singhal. Influence of food commodities on hangover based on alcohol dehydrogenase and aldehyde dehydrogenase activities. Current res food sci, 2019, 1, 8-16.