In a culture where celebrations are often fuelled by alcohol, many of us will be searching for a hangover cure to erase the negative effects of the previous night.
Here, at 121 Dietitian, we firmly believe prevention is better than the cure. So we have done some research on hangover cures.
With so many so-called hangover cures circulating the web. We’ve looked at the studies on each one in order to determine which one is actually the best. Here are our findings…
Coffee and paracetamol for hangover
Caffeine is thought to raise energy levels while paracetamol relieves aches and pains. However, researchers at Temple University in Philadelphia have revealed that black coffee can worsen a hangover. While scientists at the University of Washington believe that taking paracetamol as well can be deadly, as caffeine triples the amount of a toxic by-product created when paracetamol is broken down. This toxicity is the same substance responsible for liver damage when alcohol and paracetamol react together.
You may be up against your genes on these too! As a nutrigenomics practitioner I see many patients with genetic issues. The CYP1A2 gene codes for the CYP1A2 enzyme, which is responsible for caffeine metabolism in the liver.
Paracetamol is degraded via a minor pathway by CYP2E1 to the liver-toxic metabolite NAPQI. This is toxic even at therapeutic doses, causing hepatotoxicity.
Milk thistle for hangovers
Available as a tablet or in liquid form. This is an abstract from the milk thistle plant. It is believed its properties aid the body in metabolising alcohol more quickly. Some studies have shown that silybin and silymarin, found in the plant, protect the liver from toxins. They also boast the benefits of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. However, most of the studies surrounding this were carried out on alcoholics so there is really no proof of its effect in preventing or curing a hangover.
Water for hangover
One our favourites by far, and one of the most widely recognised hangover prevent/cure techniques, drinking water with alcohol. One pint before bed is believed to reduce the effects of a hangover by diluting some of the nasty by-products of alcohol.
Bacon sandwich for a hangover
The hangover choice for many. This tradition dictates that bread soaks up alcohol from the night before, alleviating the effects of a hangover. In fact, a study at Newcastle University’s Centre for Life has indeed confirmed that a bacon sandwich can offer relief. Rather than bread ‘soaking up’ the alcohol, it’s the carbohydrate laden effects which boost blood sugar levels, speeding up the body’s metabolism and the process at which the body gets rid of alcohol. Furthermore, rich in protein and amino acids, bacon reverses the effects of alcohol in depleting brain neurotransmitters. But be careful, and stay hydrated as the saltiness may get you later.
Isotonic sports drink for a hangover
The theory here is that the products contain tiny, easily digestible particles of carbohydrates which help the body to rehydrate faster than by drinking water. Leeds Metropolitan University have revealed that sports drinks are one of the best remedies for restoring blood sugar levels, and their calories can rehydrate the body up to 40% more effectively than water. But remember to monitor both your alcohol and isotonic sports drink intake as anything in excess is damaging.
Exercise for a hangover
Probably the last thing a lot of people would turn to in a hungover laden state, sweating off a hangover is thought to be a myth. Findings from a government survey revealed that exercise will simply compound your body’s fluid debt and increase your symptoms further.
Hair of the dog
Many believe that having a drink the next day will ease the recovery process by diminishing the effects of alcohol withdrawal. However, rather than alleviating symptoms, another drink is just elongating the recovery process, lengthening the point at which you feel better. This is a dangerous option and can damage your liver and organs if habitual.
Eggs for a hangover
While often eaten as part of a hangover fry, eggs are also consumed raw as they contain a substance called cysteine, which is believed the fight free radical damage to the body. However, if feeling queasy, eggs can be hard to stomach and watch for any bacterial contamination. You may find it easier and more helpful to consume a supplement L-Cysteine. This was a small study so not convinced its a miricle cure!
Prickly pear cactus for a hangover
Taken before a night out in either tablet or pill form. Prickly pear cactus is believed the reduce the likelihood of a hangover. Research at Tulane University, New Orleans tested 64 healthy medical students and indicated that the extracts reduced three out of nine hangover symptoms – nausea, dry mouth and loss of appetite. Halving the risk of a severe hangover. Again a small study and not one to be jumping up and down about for a true cure. This does however highlight the importance of a rich polyphenol diet. Many fruits are a fantastic sources of antioxidants and fluids. Ensuring you consume these daily will support your body if needing to eliminate excess alcohol.
Alka-Seltzer for a hangover
One of our least favourites, containing a concoction of aspirin, paracetamol and caffeine. It is believed that Alka-Seltzer before heading to bed will leave you feeling revived and hangover-free in the morning. Research at Leeds Metropolitan University revealed that while they can help a headache and neutralise excess stomach acid, the main benefits are probably from the effect of drinking the water that they are dissolved in. They aren’t recommended for sensitive stomachs.
Artichoke extract for a hangover
Believed to help the liver process alcohol, there is conflicting findings on the effect of Artichoke extract. The journal Phytomedicine showed that a supplement of 400mg extract of artichoke leaf extract helped stomach problems, and there is anecdotal evidence that it reduces indigestion, an upset stomach and nausea. Experts however at King’s College London and South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust along with the Canadian Medical Association believe this has no effect on a hangover and you are wasting your money.
Sleep for a hangover
A cure which we love, in theory, sleeping should be the best cure for a hangover. But many people find it hard to nod off, or keep waking up. This is a result of a chemical called acetaldehyde, produced as your body metabolises alcohol. The effects of this can leave you feeling hot and sweaty, increasing your heart rate and making you feel nauseous. This metabolism interferers with rapid eye-movement sleep which is why sleep quality is poor, reducing your ability to recover fully the next day.
Ultimate Hangover cures: the 121 Dietitian way
ADH genes play a major role in ethanol metabolism to acetaldehyde. So if you have any issues with SNPs on ADH1B these can lead to significantly increased enzyme activity and high levels of acetaldehyde.
Crazy stats: the rate of ethanol conversion to acetaldehyde is reported to be up to 70% higher for the ADH1C wild type genes than for the variant genotype if you want to explore this further with me do check out Lifecode Gx for testing and I can go through the report for you.
Our advice is simple:
- Eat well before you go out drinking
- drink slower and pace yourself
- if thirsty drink a non-alcoholic drink first, and or
- consider diluting your alcohol
- definitely interspersing with healthy soft drinks is a winner
- choose plain or fizzy water.
By doing all of the above you should reduce or avoid the effects of dehydration and drop in blood sugar levels which trigger the symptoms of a hangover.
We also recommend if out for a session avoiding dark spirits and red wine as they contain congeners, the coloured chemicals, which can result in an aching head.
Don’t forget when you get home:
Try to have fluids such as water, decaf tea or orange juice before bed and when you waken up in the morning try to get more fluids in. The chances are you will feel good if you have stuck to the advice. If not and you do feel bad if you can face food, do try and eat to stabilise your blood sugars and assist in eliminating that excess.
As mentioned a gentle natural choice you can have instead or as part of your night is water – fizzy or still. If you don’t like the plain options why not consider a natural flavoured one. We like this range- Dash Water.
For help with alcohol misuse
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Information checked & correct on 24th December 2022
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