Hangover’s suck. Period.
It’s a common consequence of over-consuming alcohol and it can vary in degrees, but is there a “cure”?
A cure might be the wrong word because a hangover will “cure” itself after some time. But research is showing that there are some supplements and strategies you can use to wake up with little to no hangover! Imagine taking a supplement before bed that cuts your hangover in half? Count me in. Before we get there, let’s do a quick hangover recap, then we’ll get into the cures.
Quick recap of some of the negative effects that a hangover has on your body:
Here’s an interesting quote from the Alcohol Hangover Research Group (AHRG and yes, it’s real):
“An alcohol hangover may result in impaired cognitive performance [3-5], negatively affecting the completion of everyday activities such as job performance  and driving . Within laboratory settings, mixed effects have been found on simple tests of short duration that require little effort and/or cognitive demand. More demanding tests that require cognitive resources for a sustained period, such as those measuring executive functioning, division of attention, and driving simulator performance, often show significant impairment. “
Lots of research also backs up the obvious - the severity depends on your blood alcohol levels (BAC) - the higher the number the more severe your hangover may be. The above statement also confirms things that you’ve probably experienced with a hangover, like shitty job performance and driving.
I know you’re probably thinking: “Thanks Einstein, it doesn’t take a genius to figure that out”. BUT it’s good to have these things confirmed in the literature.
There are also other interesting factors that can play a role in hangover severity such as: Hydration status, and even certain genes that may effect your hangover severity.
Anyways, enough talking about how shitty hangovers are.
Here’s what you can do to mitigate the damage and decrease your hangover severity and duration:
It seems obvious and this might be the easiest thing you can do - but drinking water while drinking alcohol (or between drinks) can really help decrease the severity of a hangover. Alcohol takes a lot of electrolytes out of your body and you become dehydrated quick! Not only does it suck to be thirsty as hell but dehydration on it’s own causes many side effects and decreased performance in your body. That adds a lot to a hangover.
Another thing to pay attention to is that proper hydration is not just water. Proper hydration includes an electrolyte balance as well. Simply drinking more water will help, but to optimally hydrate you need additional electrolytes to make up for the ones alcohol robbed you of last night.
Sodium is the most important in this case. Having salty food before bed or after drinking will help increase your hydration so you decrease your hangover .
That’s why you’ve heard of people drinking a Gatorade the morning after. Gatorade tastes great, but they’re also full of sugar. So if you’re trying to cut down - there are better alternatives.. Here are my two favs:
Electrolyte packets. There are countless nutrition and health companies that sell them and I’m not married to one specific brand. Just make sure you get a packet that has no calories or very low amounts so you’re pretty much putting flavoured electrolytes into your water!
PICKLES. Or pickle juice. I’m not even joking. Pickles taste great and they have a shit ton of salt in them. Pickle juice sounds gross, but drinking even 100ml will give you over 50% of the Daily Recommended Intake (based on a 2000cal diet). They also have a secret weapon that just might give it an edge over the electrolyte packets in terms of decreasing your hangover…
They naturally contain probiotics! A solid amount. We’ll touch on this more below.
How to hydrate properly after consuming alcohol:
There are no set guidelines for how much water you should drink but a rule I’ve used that seems to help is to drink at least as much water as you did alcohol. So if you had 3 pints in a night out (3 x 500ml = 1500ml) you’ll want to drink at least 1.5L of water throughout the night before bed.
In terms of adding electrolytes it’s recommended that you either eat some pickles, drink some pickle juice or use an electrolyte packet before bed!. Also, ALWAYS keep a glass of water bedside for when you wake up. You’ll likely need to continue drinking water upon waking up since your body utilizes it’s water content while you sleep to process and flush the alcohol out.
Liver Supporting Supplements
This one is less supported however there is some evidence to show that some supplements geared towards liver support can help process alcohol quicker and more efficiently therefore decreasing the hangover period! Basically the aim of these supplements is to help protect the liver from oxidative damage and to speed up the processing of toxins (in this case alcohol) out of the body in order to return to a normal (homeostatic) state.
There are also a host of products that contain blends of herbs and fruit extracts that have proven anti-oxidant and liver supporting properties. One such supplement with SOME research done in rats called “Party Smart” has proven to speed up the process of alcohol detoxification. This is what they say:
“Party Smart relieves unpleasant after effects of alcohol. When alcohol is consumed, it is mainly converted into acetaldehyde (an intermediate metablite of alcohol metabolism) by the liver.
The build up of acetaldehyde in the liver results in hangover symptoms such as headache, nausea and vomiting, body ache, burning sensation in stomach, and drowsiness.
Party Smart prevents these hangover symptoms by rapidly eliminating acetaldehyde from blood.
Party Smart enhances acetaldehyde metabolism by increasing ADh (alcohol dehydrogenase) and ALDH (aldehyde dehydrogenase) activity, without any side effects.”
You can purchase this product online or at most health food and supplement stores. In our neighbourhood you can find it at Healthy Planet.
Personally speaking, I’ve tried it a few times. I’d say I had a 50/50 effectiveness. A couple times my hangover was DEFININTELY less severe. Then 1 or 2 other occasions I didn’t notice a difference. After consulting a few experts they seemed to think I may have messed up the timing of taking the pill or I drank too much and should have either taken 2 pills or simply not drank that much. DUH.
There are other hangover cure supplements that may help decrease the severity but they’re based on the same model: Either replacing important vitamins and minerals like B vitamins and electrolytes or by liver support. There’s no harm in trying, just make sure it’s something that covers those topics.
Milk Thistle has been used for centuries as a supplement that helps aid liver (and other filtering and processing organs) diseases. However, there is not enough evidence to really confirm it’s effectiveness. Research is hit or miss. Some show a positive influence on liver health markers, however other research shows no improvement in terms of lowering mortality rates in chronic alcoholics and other liver damage.
Having said that, the proof that some liver markers change for the better is a good sign that it might be doing something to help.
Milk thistle can be found as a supplement on it’s own or an ingredient to certain hangover remedies and supplements.
The Hangover Book
A man by the name of Shaughnessy Bishop-Stall wrote a book on hangover cures. He spent over 10 years researching different hangover cures first hand.
At the end, he came up with a solution that includes most of the ingredients we covered up there!
After drinking but before sleep – milk thistle, for the liver; the amino acid and immune system aid N-acetylcysteine; vitamins B1, B6 and B12, which boost metabolism; and that famous gift to Jesus, frankincense – an anti-inflammatory.
Congeners are compounds naturally occurring in alcoholic beverages that result from sources such as the grains, wine skins, and/or casks used in the making of beverages, or that are added during production. These include substances such as amines, amides, adetones, acetaldehydes, polyphenols, methanol, histamines, fusel oil, esters, furfural, and tannins [4, 68, 69]. Although ethanol alone or with almost no congeners is sufficient to produce a hangover , congeners may worsen alcohol hangover severity .
Many biodynamic/organic alcohol producers DO NOT add congeners to their products. This will likely result in less of a hangover. I personally remember when I went to the Hofbrauhaus in Munich, I drank enough to put me out the entire next day - but when I woke up I hardly felt anything but some dehydration and I ended up hiking up the Neuschwanstein Castle that very same day!
Turns out, the Hofbrauhaus uses only local ingredients, brews the beer in their garden/venue and adds no preservatives. Go figure!
Take Away Points
Drink lots of water and electrolytes BEFORE going to bed
Have a glass of water (preferably with electrolytes) bedside for when you wake up
Try a liver supporting supplement like Party Smart before bed
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Verster, J. C., Stephens, R., Penning, R., Rohsenow, D., McGeary, J., Levy, D., … Alcohol Hangover Research Group (2010). The alcohol hangover research group consensus statement on best practice in alcohol hangover research. Current drug abuse reviews, 3(2), 116–126.
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Gopumadhavan, S., Rafiq, M., Azeemuddin, M., & Mitra, S. K. (2008). Ameliorative effect of PartySmart in rat model of alcoholic liver disease.
Venkataranganna, M. V., Gopumadhavan, S., Sundaram, R., Peer, G., & Mitra, S. K. (2008). Pharmacodynamics & toxicological profile of PartySmart, a herbal preparation for alcohol hangover in Wistar rats. Indian Journal of Medical Research, 127(5), 460.