It's safe to say most of us have experienced the dreadful aftermath of a night out having a little too much fun, also called a hangover.
A hangover is a collection of symptoms that show up after the overconsumption of alcohol. Symptoms will depend on the person, type of alcohol beverage, and amount consumed however they commonly look like the following:
low focus and mood
In most cases, symptoms are mild and will disappear after about 24 hours. However, if you do experience more severe symptoms consult your doctor or health care provider immediately.
If you are going to drink there are some guidelines you can follow in order to minimize the negative effects:
never drink on an empty stomach, always have a balanced meal or snack containing some healthy fat, protein, and fiber to slow the absorption of alcohol into the bloodstream and reduce gastrointestinal irritation
stay hydrated by drinking at least 1 glass of water alongside every alcohol drink
choose lighter liquors such as gin, clear tequila, and vodka which have less of an impact on your blood sugar. Darker liquors such as whiskey, dark tequila, brandy, and red wine also contain chemical compounds called congeners, which contribute to hangover symptoms.
Less alcohol is always a more prudent choice as the effects of alcohol can have numerous consequences on human health.
If you do choose to drink, there are many natural supplements that can help to prevent and treat a hangover which we will explore below:
5 natural hangover cures that actually work
Activated charcoal is made most commonly from slowly burnt coconut shells but also wood or peat.
It has historically been used as a treatment for food poisoning and diarrhea by trapping harmful chemicals and toxins for them to be eliminated by the body (1). This process is known as adsorption, which is basically the process of attracting and binding molecules to a specific surface.
During or after drinking, activated charcoal may help to minimize the effects of alcohol due to its capabilities to bind onto toxins and potentially decrease alcohol absorption in the gut (2).
Check with your health care provider before supplementing with charcoal, as it can bind to medications and nutrients and thus should not be used on a regular basis.
Electrolytes are minerals that carry an electric charge and serve vitally important functions in the body such as nerve transmission, acid/base (pH) balance, waste removal out of the cell, water balance in the body, nutrient absorption into the cell...
The most common electrolytes include potassium, sodium, magnesium, and calcium.
When drinking alcohol, these electrolytes can be lost or depleted, promoting symptoms known as a hangover. This can be worsened in cases such as diarrhea, vomiting, or sweating which can deplete electrolytes even more. Electrolyte replenishment either with foods or supplementation can help to restore levels lost.
Potassium is particularly important, as the Standard American diet typically depletes potassium levels, as well as alcohol consumption. You may have heard bananas are a good post hangover food and this is because they are naturally rich in this electrolyte.
Magnesium, another mineral eliminated excessively through the urine from alcohol consumption, is a common deficiency as it is also depleted from chronic stress and low dietary intake.
Coconut water is a good natural source of electrolytes that can help to rehydrate the body. You can include coconut water as a strategic drink before, during or after alcohol consumption to reduce unwanted symptoms.
N-acetyl cysteine (NAC)
A precursor to glutathione, the body's master antioxidant, N-acetyl cysteineis the supplement form of the amino acid, cysteine.
When you drink alcohol, the body is exposed to increased free radicals which can damage tissues and increase inflammation. NAC can help to decrease free radical damage while also supporting the liver in detoxification (3).
Its role in antioxidant production, detoxification and liver support may help to prevent side effects from toxins such as alcohol.
Cysteine is also found abundantly in eggs, a great food to include with breakfast after a night out!
Well known for its ability to treat nausea and stomach upset, ginger can be effective for treating digestive symptoms stemming from alcohol intoxication.
Ginger is also a source of antioxidants and liver-protective compounds that can help to target free radicals in the body and lower induced oxidative stress due to alcohol consumption (4).
Consuming a cup of ginger tea can be a great way to receive the benefits of this herb while soothing the digestive system.
A vitamin, but also an important antioxidant, vitamin C can be depleted by alcohol consumption. Vitamin C can help to protect the liver while also decreasing oxidative stress and neuroinflammation triggered by alcohol (5).
Taking vitamin C may help to minimize hangover symptoms by speeding up the clearance of alcohol in the bloodstream (6).
You can get vitamin C from foods such as leafy greens, citrus fruits, broccoli and bell peppers or from supplementation.
There seems to be no limit to what curcumin can do!
This bioactive compound found in the herb turmeric has potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects which have shown to be beneficial in treating alcohol toxicity (7).
The liver is an organ that is particularly impacted by alcohol consumption, especially from chronic use. When the liver is continuously trying to detoxify alcohol it can become damaged and inflamed by this process which also increases toxins and inflammatory chemicals.
Curcumin has been shown to exert protective effects on the liver by increasing antioxidant and anti-inflammatory chemicals in the body to combat oxidative stress (8).
Though you will receive benefits from cooking with the herb turmeric, curcumin supplementation is usually recommended for therapeutic effects.
Laurence Annez is a Certified Nutritional Practitioner and Health Coach, specializing in PCOS and women's hormones. She also holds a degree in Creative Writing and has extensive experience writing on health and wellness topics. Laurence's mission is to inspire and motivate individuals to take control of their own health and reach their ultimate health goals.