help my hangover
Updated: Sep 19, 2019
Wouldn’t it be nice if we could wake up after a night out and feel normal?
Unfortunately for me (and anyone else out there like me) my body seems to have difficulty breaking down alcohol. It doesn’t take much more than one 6oz glass of wine for me to wake up the next morning grasping for my water bottle and thinking to myself “what have I done”. We all know alcohol isn’t the best for us, but we also know that life is about moderation. This blog post is going to share some information and research that proposes ways to increase our body’s ability to deal with the toxin we refer to as alcohol.
~Please remember this post is purely educational~
Firstly we have to understand why it is that we get hungover. Research shows it is a combination of dehydration and inflammation due to the toxic effects of alcohol (1).
Now we can move onto ways to try and decrease these effects:
Sadly for us, one study concluded that there was indeed no evidence to suggest that we could treat or prevent hangovers and that we should just abstain from alcohol all together (2).
I didn’t love this answer so I continued to research and here is what I found:
Most of us know this by now, but the more water we can consume hungover the better! Alcohol is a diuretic and dehydrates our body leading to our dreaded hangover symptoms.
Along with our water we can supplement electrolytes (sodium, potassium, chloride, calcium, magnesium). These get depleted as well as we become dehydrated. Supplementing these may help relieve hangover symptoms (3). Where can we find these?
vegetables, avocado, bananas and table salt are easy and natural options
electrolyte tablets and powder ~ head to your local natural pharmacy and check them out
Vitamins are involved in many pathways in the body, including our ability to breakdown and get rid of alcohol in our bodies. Because of this, they have been shown to play a role in reducing hangover symptoms such as headaches, nausea, shakiness and hypersensitivity (6).
Vitamin B1 is required as what is called a co-enzyme in the breakdown of alcohol
Vitamin B6 specifically has been shown to help decrease hangover symptoms (7)
As discussed in a previous post, B vitamins are water soluble. When we consume more alcohol, we pee more, and therefore lose more B vitamins. This means that drinking can deplete our B vitamins, so replenishing our bodies with them may be helpful
Vitamin C and E are antioxidants which may be helpful as well
Activated charcoal has become another sought after hangover pill. This is due to it’s ability of absorbing alcohol and preventing it from entering our blood. One study showed that it may be effective but only at higher doses (8).
The Famous Party Smart Pill
My mom swears by these! They contain various different extracts of herbs all proposed to help prevent a hangover. Studies have shown that they actually do enhance alcohol metabolism (9).
Prickly Pear Cactus
This is otherwise known as a Opuntia ficus indica. It’s goal is to reduce oxidative stress and inflammation. One study even concluded that it was a more effective antioxidant than Vitamin C at the same dose (10)! Research shows that taking this supplement prior to drinking can help prevent symptoms that are occurring due to inflammation (11).
I love artichokes! In herbal medicine, artichoke (Cynara scolymus) leaves are used as what we call a hepatoprotective (protects the liver), diuretic (makes our kidneys produce more urine - helps get rid of the alcohol), and an antioxidant (protects us from the damaging effects of alcohol). For the same reasons it has been proposed to work for similar hangover symptoms (4).
Otherwise known as Silybum marianum, Milk Thistle is a herb that has a profound effect on the liver. It has been used to treat conditions affecting the liver such as Hepatitis, Alcoholic Liver Disease and toxin-induced liver diseases (12). As a result of its antioxidant activity within the liver, it may protect our liver and help us rid the body of toxins producing our hangover.
Lastly, things that aren't so naturelle but have research on:
There hasn’t been a pharmaceutical agent created for a hangover itself, however there are agents that aim to treat the symptoms of a hangover. This includes Tylenol (acetaminophen) in treating headaches and nausea (4). I do want to mention, however, that it is a bad idea to combine alcohol with Tylenol as it predisposes you to stomach ulcers and possible liver damage (4). If taken the morning after drinking (200mg) 8-12 hours Tylenol has been shown to reduce headache, nausea and vomiting (5).
Since this is a naturelle website, however, we want to find much better alternatives to Tylenol!
Hair of the dog
The mimosa or caesar in the morning may seem to help the hangover, but we must be careful. It has been shown to be a key marker of binge drinking (4). However, don’t feel bad if you do use this method occasionally as another study showed us that about 11% of social drinkers have used the method over the past year (13).
It has been said that the reason why this topic isn’t as heavily researched it due to the fact that it is controversial in nature. It would not be doing justice to society if we supported heavy alcohol consumption by providing an easy way out of it’s subsequent punishment, known as a hangover (4). I don’t want to downplay this concept but want to provide you with some information and research that you can take in however you please :) xo
1) Crippen, R., Bhargava, M., & Morse, T. F. (2004). U.S. Patent No. 6,827,932. Washington, DC: U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
2) Pittler, M. H., Verster, J. C., & Ernst, E. (2005). Interventions for preventing or treating alcohol hangover: systematic review of randomised controlled trials. Bmj, 331(7531), 1515-1518.
3) Rydberg, U., Myrsten, A. L., & Neri, A. (1977). Urinary electrolytes and diuresis in hangover. In Alcohol and Aldehyde Metabolizing Systems (pp. 391-398). Academic Press.
4) C Verster, J., & Penning, R. (2010). Treatment and prevention of alcohol hangover. Current drug abuse reviews, 3(2), 103-109.
5) Kaivola, S., Parantainen, J., Österman, T., & Timonen, H. (1983). Hangover headache and prostaglandins: prophylactic treatment with tolfenamic acid. Cephalalgia, 3(1), 31-36.
6) Creasey, D., & Cummins, B. (2005). U.S. Patent Application No. 11/065,652.
7) Wiese, J. G., Shlipak, M. G., & Browner, W. S. (2000). The alcohol hangover. Annals of internal medicine, 132(11), 897-902.
8) Crippen, R., Bhargava, M., & Morse, T. F. (2004). U.S. Patent No. 6,827,932. Washington, DC: U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
9) Venkataranganna MV, Gopumadhavan S, Sundaram R, Peer G, Mitra SK. Pharmacodynamics and toxicological profile of PartySmart, a herbal preparation for alcohol hangover in Wistar rats. Indian J Med Res 2008; 127: 460-6.
10) Tesoriere, L., Butera, D., Pintaudi, A. M., Allegra, M., & Livrea, M. A. (2004). Supplementation with cactus pear (Opuntia ficus-indica) fruit decreases oxidative stress in healthy humans: a comparative study with vitamin C. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 80(2), 391-395.
11) Wiese, J., McPherson, S., Odden, M. C., & Shlipak, M. G. (2004). Effect of Opuntia ficus indica on symptoms of the alcohol hangover. Archives of Internal Medicine, 164(12), 1334-1340
12) Abenavoli, L., Capasso, R., Milic, N., & Capasso, F. (2010). Milk thistle in liver diseases: past, present, future. Phytotherapy Research, 24(10), 1423-1432.
13) Verster JC, Kuerten Y, Olivier B, van Laar MW. The ACIDsurvey: methodology and design of an online survey to access alcohol and recreational cocaine use and its consequences for traffic safety. Open Addict J 2010; 3: 24-31.
14)Rydberg, U., Myrsten, A. L., & Neri, A. (1977). Urinary electrolytes and diuresis in hangover. In Alcohol and Aldehyde Metabolizing Systems (pp. 391-398). Academic Press.