What is a hangover and what causes those awful symptoms like pounding head, aching muscles, foggy brain, dry mouth and eyes, fatigue, nausea and generally feeling sub-par? The main symptoms of a hangover are a result of bodily dehydration and nutrient depletion. Alcohol is a diuretic that increases urine production and leads to dehydration, especially if fluids are not being replenished. The body uses up its stores of the B-vitamin group and other nutrients to break down the alcohol. The by-product of the breakdown of alcohol is called acetaldehyde and is up to 30x more toxic than alcohol itself!
The first step to minimizing the worst effects of excessive alcohol consumption is to drink plenty of water at various stages during and after a night on the town! This allows the body to rehydrate, and while it may not completely ward off a hangover, it will alleviate some of the worst symptoms that stem from dehydration. Secondly, be sure to eat something nutritious before and after drinking to replenish the nutrients that the body uses to metabolize excess alcohol. This list contains some of the best hangover foods for a happy day after. And of course, the best hangover cure is to avoid a hangover in the first place and to enjoy alcohol sensibly and drink in moderation!
Avocados are one of nature’s treasure chests of nutrients. Rich in many nutrients including vitamins C, E, carotenoids, and potassium (an important electrolyte often depleted following excess alcohol consumption). Avocados are also good sources of glutathione; a powerful antioxidant depleted after a night of boozing as the liver uses it to break down the toxic by-product of alcohol called acetaldehyde. A healthy breakfast of mashed avocado with crackers can help replenish the nutrients the body uses to metabolize alcohol and ease hangover symptoms.
Bananas are an excellent food choice to ease a hangover, as they’re a rich in potassium, an electrolyte that gets depleted after drinking too much alcohol. They’re also a healthy carb source that will boost blood sugar levels (often low during a hangover as the liver is busy metabolizing excess alcohol and slow to release its glycogen reserves). A smoothie made with a banana, berries, some natural yogurt, and a little local honey will make a replenishing breakfast that should help you feel better.
As the liver is detoxifying excess alcohol and toxins after a night of overindulgence, it struggles to release glycogen stores, which can cause blood sugar levels to drop. This is one of the reasons we often crave carb-rich foods the morning after. A healthy berry smoothie made with some natural yogurt, oats, and a spoonful of local honey makes a nutrient-rich breakfast that will boost energy and keep blood sugar levels in a normal range.
Lemons are detoxifying for the liver and contain good amounts of Vitamin C that replenish depleted stores lost during excess alcohol consumption. Vitamin C is a robust antioxidant that helps calm the inflammation associated with hangovers and supports the immune system. Try a hydrating hot lemon drink with added ginger (to calm any hangover tummy upset) and honey to boost blood sugar levels (often low following a night on the town)!
Oats are an easily digested carbohydrate full of nutrients which are often depleted following a night out. Oats are an excellent source of B-vitamins and magnesium that support delicate nerves. They also contain a large supply of much-needed electrolytes and high amounts of the antioxidant manganese. As the liver is working overtime to metabolize toxins from the alcohol, it’s slow to release glycogen stores, causing blood sugar levels to drop. Porridge oats or oat cakes will help to restore blood sugar balance naturally and make a great breakfast choice to help ease hangover symptoms.
Ginger is an age-old remedy for nausea and vomiting, two very common and very unpleasant hangover symptoms. Try chewing on a piece of crystallized ginger for the two-fold effect of soothing nausea and boosting blood sugar levels (often low after a night on the town due to your liver holding on to its glycogen stores). Alternately, try sipping a comforting tea made with fresh ginger root and lemon sweetened with a little local honey.
Alcohol is a diuretic, meaning it suppresses hormones that prevent your kidneys from holding on to fluids and electrolytes. So overindulgence causes dehydration, a key factor of those dreaded hangover symptoms (pounding headache, dry mouth, fuzzy head…). Coconut water is a fantastic drink for the morning after. It’s especially effective in rehydrating as it supplies fluids and replenishes electrolytes like sodium and potassium, which become diminished through excess alcohol consumption.
Vitamin C is an important nutrient for preventing hangovers for a few reasons. Some studies indicate the inflammation response in people who are hungover may be the partial cause of their symptoms. Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant that has anti-inflammatory properties and so can be of benefit on that front, as well as for keeping the immune system strong. In one animal study, Vitamin C was even shown to protect the liver from alcohol better than milk thistle, which is saying something. Consider taking a high-quality vitamin C supplement before a night on the town.
DHM is a substance derived from a tree that studies have shown to hold promise for avoiding hangovers. It works to prevent hangovers by two mechanisms. The first is that it increases the efficiency of your body to break down alcohol and the toxic by-product of alcohol called acetaldehyde. Secondly, it inhibits alcohols effects on GABA receptors, which then palliates the “glutamine rebound” from drinking, that overstimulates the nervous system and is responsible for restless sleep and anxiety. For these reasons it may help prevent hangovers.
In the liver, Andrographis increases bile flow and offers protection to hepatocytes (liver cells). Andrographis is specific for pitta in the blood and in combination with its bitter and cooling qualities, is well suited to clearing liver infections and inflammation. As andrographis has very effective hepatoprotective as well as anti-viral activity, it should be considered in hepatitis and all forms of sluggish liver where there is a reduced ability to digest fats or alcohol.
Milk Thistle is one of the most effective herbs for optimizing liver function and protecting liver cells. It contains silymarin, which has been found to increase glutathione, a powerful antioxidant that is critical for liver detoxification. While Milk Thistle may help to shorten the duration and intensity of a hangover, it will be far more effective if taken before and during consumption of alcohol.