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Home / Journal / What to Eat to Cure a Hangover and Why

What to Eat to Cure a Hangover and Why

The internet abounds with well-meant suggestions about what to eat to help dull the hangover pain. For some, it’s a plate of eggs, for others the gut-busting breakfast, and for others the humble banana.

While we all have our own tried-and-true cures or hangover pills that work to prevent horrible hangover symptoms, there are also numerous natural remedies. So, what are the best foods to cure your hangover? We’ve listed six options that have some scientific evidence to help ease your next-day pain.

1. Bananas

When you drink alcohol, you urinate more, literally flushing potassium down the toilet. When you're low on potassium, you may shake and feel weak. Sound familiar? A banana can boost those levels where you need them most.

Bananas are full of potassium which is depleted from our bodies when we drink alcohol. Bananas are also a good source of B6, a vitamin that is also purported to help with hangovers. As a matter of fact, a study published over 40 years ago found that people had fewer hangover symptoms if they took a total of 1,200 milligrams of vitamin B6 before, during, and just after drinking alcohol [1].

Besides, bananas also contain a lot of magnesium, which calms blood vessels and is known to ease headaches in some people. When combined with vitamin C, Magnesium supports the alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) enzyme that breaks down alcohol and eliminates it from the body [2].

Having a banana before bed and first thing in the morning may be a good bet to lessen the severity and duration of a hangover.

2. Honey

Honey is acclaimed by scientists for its ability to aid the body in quickly breaking down the alcohol you consumed. Because of its antioxidant properties, honey neutralizes the toxins from alcohol.

The Royal Society of Chemistry claims that the fructose in the honey – which is also found in golden syrup – is essential to help the body break down alcohol into harmless by-products [3].

The reason why hangovers can feel so painful is that alcohol consumption is first broken down into acetaldehyde, a substance which is toxic to the body. This is then converted – using fructose – into acetic acid which is then burned during the body's normal metabolic process and broken down into carbon dioxide which is breathed out of the body.

Serving the honey on toast adds potassium and sodium to the meal which also helps the body cope with the alcohol intake.

3. Tomato juice

When it comes to alcohol and its effects on the liver, studies have shown that tomato juice can boost liver function, which speeds up alcohol digestion. Other research suggests that the antioxidants and vitamins present in tomatoes quickly restock those lost during a night of drinking, making you feel better faster.

According to one of the studies, subjects were examined drinking 100mL of alcohol chased with 480mL of tomato juice. Then, these same subjects repeated the experiment with a chaser of 480mL of water. They found that when chasing with tomato juice, the blood alcohol levels in the subjects became 3 times lower than with the water. On top of that, the test subjects became completely sober 50 minutes faster with the tomato juice as opposed to the water [4].

The explanation may lay on the fact that tomatoes are a good source of vitamin A and C, beta-carotene, and the antioxidant lycopene. They also contain glutathione as well, which is the substance the body produces to help counteract hangover-inducing toxins.

4. Eggs

Eating eggs the morning after a big night out can do more than simply satisfy your taste buds – they are a nutritional powerhouse that can also help fight your hangover and improve alertness. Eggs are packed with protein, vitamins A, E, and B12, omega-3 fatty acids, choline and iron, and they’re also a great source of amino acids.

Research has shown that cysteine, the amino acid found in eggs, counteracts the poisonous effects of acetaldehyde, the chemical produced by the body as it metabolizes alcohol [5]. Acetaldehyde is responsible for the headaches, nausea, and other unpleasant consequences of drinking one glass too many.

What’s more, research from Cambridge University has found that egg protein can help us to stay awake and survive a hangover during the working day [6], supporting hangover symptoms. As well as being rich in vitamins, minerals, and protein, eggs make us feel fuller for longer, thus helping with weight control.

5. Green tea

Green tea is consumed routinely in Asian populations, who have greater longevity and lower mortality rates for diseases that are prevalent in Western society.

Studies have shown that consuming green tea can help lessen the long-term damage that alcohol has on the body. There is some evidence that green tea can help alleviate common hangover symptoms, including the dreaded hangover headache, nausea, and lessened ability to concentrate. It can also help to prevent serious liver and stomach damage before it occurs.

Given green tea's reputation as a powerful antioxidant, it may well protect the liver against excessive alcohol consumption. And that is exactly what scientists found in a study published by the Addiction Biology [7]. Rats were intoxicated with alcohol for 4 weeks, but the properties in green tea prevented damage to their livers.

For humans, drinking green tea has been shown to reduce stomach inflammation and nausea, so in addition to protecting the liver, it could also help with some hangover symptoms.

6. Ginger

Ginger grows naturally as a root and can be consumed in various forms. Although it’s more often used for its flavor, ginger is also used to prevent several ailments.

Ginger contains magnesium, zinc, and chromium which promotes healthy circulation, which in turn helps prevent chills, fevers and excessive sweating. It can be taken to reduce pain [8] and inflammation in the same way aspirin and ibuprofen are used.

But its most obvious benefit is that it helps to reduce nausea and the effects of alcohol on the stomach [9]. So, for those with a wicked hangover, a ginger tea may do the trick.

The final verdict: Can certain foods help your hangover?

Does any food really help take the morning-after pain away? Truth be told, there is no firm scientific evidence that consuming any of the foods above will actually cure your hangover. After all, nutrient deficiency is not likely to be a cause of hangover symptoms, nor are you likely to have such a deficiency after a single night of drinking alcohol.

While there is no ultimate hangover cure, it is essential that we must rehydrate, flush our system of the chemicals and toxins related to alcohol use, and relieve any pain we may be experiencing.

Bottom line is, rehydration is the most important part of feeling better. Drink as much water as you can. If you don't love the taste of water, add lemon, or try coconut water for a dose of added electrolytes. And if you have nausea, try ginger candy or tea to calm your stomach.

 

Sources:

[1] Vitamin B6 metabolism in chronic alcohol abuse

[2] Magnesium homeostasis and alcohol consumption

[3] Toast with honey is the little-known but ideal way to combat a hangover

[4] Alanine-fortified tomatoes relieve the acute alcohol-induced adverse effects in healthy men: a randomized cross-over study

[5] Reducing carcinogenic acetaldehyde exposure in the achlorhydric stomach with cysteine

[6] Activation of Central Orexin/Hypocretin Neurons by Dietary Amino Acids<

[7] Green tea extract protects against early alcohol-induced liver injury in rats

[8] Comparison of effects of ginger, mefenamic acid, and ibuprofen on pain in women with primary dysmenorrhea

[9] Ginger root against seasickness. A controlled trial on the open sea

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