How do foods and drinks help hangovers? How do you determine the best food for hangovers? Read on to discover how to choose the best anti-hangover drink and food, if greasy food is good or bad after drinking and more…
Why Hangover Foods & Drinks?
Little therapeutic intervention can be done to control hangovers. If only there were a cure to hangover, then drinking would be the order of the day done without qualms. Like the common cold and menstrual cramps, the only way we could control it is by treating its symptoms.
Hangovers have not really spurred interest in researchers as the society believes in the legitimacy of its symptoms. The belief is that it occurs as a worthy punishment for excessive drinking which is otherwise preventable.
There is no real cure for a hangover as it comprises many factors. If anything, hangover symptoms are self-healing and there is not much economic output that overrides the monetary and time input on research. However, by understanding what is deficient and malfunctioned after a bout of heavy drinking, you can control each and every symptom.
Alcohol causes the following effects; (LIEBER 1995)[i]
Dehydration and electrolyte imbalance
- Low blood
- Circadian rhythm disturbance
- Gastrointestinal disturbances
In general, hangover is a well understood case of ethanol poisoning with intoxicating effects on body organs.
How to choose Healthy Drinks and Best food for Hangover
Therefore hangover foods and drinks that have been used since time immemorial impose a negative feedback mechanism on the above effects. This helps in the controlling the fluid compartments in the body, controlling the pH in the gut and regulating hormones and neurotransmitters.
Such foods and drinks help by;
- Rehydrating the body
- Replacing the lost electrolytes
- Raising the blood sugar level
- Combating headaches
- Controlling diarrhea and vomiting
- Acting as comfort foods
- Preventing compulsive application of the ‘hair of the dog’
You probably wondering how they would act as comfort foods. Some of the weirdest hangover cures devised seem to have not biochemical therapy but inclined to atonement rather than therapeutic relief. It is psychological. Take a look at the common burnt-toast remedy. Same goes to some non-food methods of mentioned to have hangover-relieving powers such as running a whole 10 kilometers. No connection whatsoever and the worst you could do is further dehydrate yourself. It however, seems to work for some raising the concern that hangovers vary with different persons and so does the cure.
In as much as hair of the dog may bear some biochemical sense, it prolongs your hangover and may even make it worse at the long end. According to the Swedish National Laboratory of Forensic Medicine, the liver enzymes get acquainted to ethanol first then methanol. Some alcoholic drinks contain methanol as their congener and degradation of methanol to formic acid results in even worse symptoms. Methanol is highly toxic. During application of the hair of the dog, intake of more ethanol displaces the methanol due to its higher affinity for the enzymes and relieves the symptoms. However, methanol will still catch up with you in the long run. Even worse, you are drunk and won’t recover any sooner. (G. L. S. Pawan)[ii]
Means of combatting hangovers may be divided into:
- Before drinking
- While drinking
- Pre-retirement to bed
- Morning after
Therefore the food and drink you intend to consume should be configured to the time and stage of drinking. The most effective drink that caters for both before and after meals is water. Proponents encompassed in such a strategy will keep you going strong in the adversities of a hangover.
Criteria to check when choosing a food or drink
- Should be rehydrating – replaces lost water from vomiting and diarrhea associated with hangovers. Balance of water level also regulates the blood pressure in blood vessels of the head reducing the kabob of pounding headaches. The National Institute of Health recommends taking a chug-a-lug of water after each alcoholic drink.
- Should contain the most vital of body electrolytes to replace that which had been lost such as magnesium and potassium
- Should bear some anti-inflammatory properties – alcohol causes inflammation of the gut. This may result in abdominal discomfort and finally nausea and diarrhea.
- Should be able to provide a strong layer over the lining of the stomach. Morsels of food prevent the absorption of alcohol in to the system.
- Should be able to flush out toxins
- Should replenish any lost glucose from diuresis or under-synthesis of glucose. Glucose production is disrupted during drinking.
- Should contain anti-oxidants to repair damaged cells
- Should replenish lost nutrients
- Some foods and drinks trigger the body to produce endogenous endorphins that relieve pain
- Some foods hamper the consumption of excessive alcohol
Now you can choose whatever food or drink you have in you kitchen or that exists in the market based on the above criteria. However, not all these properties are present in one food or drink. It is therefore important to supplement foods and further gear them towards the symptoms you have. (The New Yorker)[iii]
Best Food for Hangover
Based on the above criteria, what then are the best foods to rely on for hangover prevention or relief?
Leafy greens – these are also good sources of potassium which is a very pertinent electrolyte. You could get leafy greens in the range of lettuce, cabbage, spinach and radish.
Soup – one of the most effective cures of hangovers are soups. Countries have branded it in their own language while others calling it with its forthright indication. The ‘hangover soup’ is a special concoction of cabbage and smoked meats for Hungarians. Pickle juice may also be used in the preparation of a Russian hangover soup. Chicken soup helps restock sodium and water too like all other soups. It however contains cysteine that jumpstarts the liver functions.
Eggs – this protein is stocked with amino acids that boost the liver after a tiresome work on ethanol. Cysteine and taurin are one such pair. It is important to note that cysteine works on acetaldehyde that is the toxic metabolite of ethanol.
Salad – you can prepare salad that contains a wide array of the mentioned foods. Add some fruits such as banana, water-melon and leafy greens. You could decide to make a more palatable salad by adding some sweetened fermented milk or yoghurt.
Other good Hangover Foods
Prickly pear – though a dessert ingredient, this fruit has been shown to reduce hangover symptoms in a study carried out by doctors from Tulane Health Sciences Center, New Orleans. With two groups of subjects, one given a placebo, the former showed reduced symptoms when they consumed alcohol than the placebo group (the Green Pharmacy Guide to Healing Foods)
Oats – this carbohydrate will do your body good as it is rich in calcium, magnesium and iron. With it being a carbohydrate, it also directly boosts the blood sugar level.
Honey on bread with coffee – make yourself a complete breakfast with these. The honey boosts the glucose level in the blood and bread goes well with it. Coffee is a stimulant. You will need this for the sedation, inactivity and fatigue.
Best Anti-Hangover Drinks (What to Drink for a Hangover)
Buckets of water
Taking water is highly advised before and after drinking before you retire to bed. It is also good to gobble down several glasses the morning after if you still have a dry mouth. Mixing water with some other food is also beneficial. Koreans, for instance, mix a bowl of water with honey to fight the hypoglycemia. Water is the elixir of life. It is also a diuretic that helps push the alcohol and its toxins out of the body.
Sports drinks have become a favorite in some continents especially the West in relieving the symptoms of hangover. They are mostly seen alongside alcohol bottles in parties. One such brand is ‘Red Bull’ which is a mixture of vodka with herbal liquor. Its effect is pegged upon reducing the sedating properties of alcohol via its caffeine content.
However, sports drinks could do more harm than good as they encourage excessive intake of alcohol. You could be drunk and not know it placing you at high risk of alcohol poisoning (Maria Lucia Souza Formigoni, a psychobiology researcher at Federal University of Sao Paolo)[iv]. Its effects are however not comparable to a killer hangover and taking it will relieve the symptoms.
Coconut water helps restore the lost fluid and electrolytes. Coconut also contains five of the electrolytes that are found in blood. As compared to most sports drinks, coconut water has more electrolytes placing it higher on the scale.
This is a drink that is intended to rehydrate children and provides both sodium and potassium. Glucose and sodium are strategically added to improve its absorption. Its indication has seen its use in the treatment of occasionally alcohol consumption and morning sickness.
Teaberry and wintergreen
Brewing a hot cup of tea spiked with these ingredients helps combat inflammation. These spices contain methyl-salicylate which is an anti-inflammatory. This prevents gastrointestinal discomforts, nausea and diarrhea.
Ginger and Peppermint tea
This kind of herbal tea reduces nausea. It also reduces motion sickness.
Since alcohol disrupts the body’s ability to produce glucose, a glass of apple or banana will help replace it. Your brain is physiologically dependent of glucose for its energy and even synthesis of neurotransmitters. Restoring the reservoir douses the fatigue and other hypoglycemic symptoms. Banana helps flush out toxins and also replenishes electrolytes such as potassium. Potassium is essential for neuronal efficiency and therefore calms down shaky movements and tremors.
This drink has in it salt and vinegar. Sodium levels from the salt replenish sodium levels.
Greasy Foods for Hangover-Do they work?
Greasy food can work only if taken before drinking. After drinking, greasy food will be of almost not help. What is the explanation for this?
Before drinking, the fat in the greasy food will actually coat the lining of your stomach thus lowering the absorption rate of alcohol. As WebMD puts it, it is the same tactic in the Mediterranean—“swallowing a spoonful of olive oil,” . The same basic principle applies, oil coating your stomach and intestines, slowing the absorption of alcohol.
After drinking, greasy foods may worsen the condition.Why? The fat will not absorb the alcohol. After all the alcohol has already been absorbed by your body.
Recommended Further Reading
- What is a hangover? Meaning, Causes, without drinking & Help
- What does a hangover feel like? Signs & Symptoms of a Hangover
- How long do Hangovers last? 2-3 & 4 Day Hangover Symptoms & Causes
- How to get over a Hangover-Remedies to get Rid, Cure, Fix, Prevent Hangovers fast
- Blowfish, Alka Seltzer, Berocca & Pepto Bismol Reviews, Ingredients & Side Effects-Best Hangover Medicine & Pills
- Hangover Headache-Cure & Relief
Sources & References
[i] LIEBER, C.S. Medical disorders of alcoholism. New England Journal of Medicine 333:1058–1065, 1995.
[ii] G. L. S. Pawan, Proc. Nutr. Soc. 1973, 32, 15A
V Alcohol Hangover Mechanisms and Mediators Robert Swift, M.D., Ph.D.; and Dena Davidson, Ph.D.