Dear Reader, I feel your hangover pain. No, really, I do. My head, like yours, is splitting and I am asking myself, again, whether maybe I should stop drinking. (Spoiler alert: I probably won’t) So here we are, together, united in our post-big-night pain and frankly neither of us needs another article advising us that we should have drunk in moderation. It’s too late for that.
We just need to know what vitamins and supplements we can take to ease our hangover misery.
Why do we feel like crap? When we drink the body converts all those lovely negronis/beers/glasses of champers into acetaldehyde and from there into acetate where it is metabolized into CO2 in heart, muscle and brain cells. Don’t tell Greta Thunberg that you’re adding to global warming through your drinking.
Fun fact: acetaldehyde is a known carcinogen so, yeah, the fact that you feel bad is the body’s way of saying things are not great, and we need to have a bit of a heart-to-heart chat. Your body can metabolise acetaldehyde at about the rate of one drink an hour, but that will vary depending on gender, weight and genetics. I’m convinced my Irish and Scottish mates inherited a gene that gives them hangover super-immunity. Sadly, I did not get that gene. Or maybe I am drinking more than one drink an hour.
Everything you read will tell you this process of metabolising acetaldehyde takes as long as it’s going to take and there is pretty well nothing you can do to speed up the process. Kind of like waiting on the phone for your airline or telco customer service. But there are three cofactors that help move that process along;
1) NAD+ (nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide) is used in both the conversion of alcohol to acetaldehyde and then from there to acetate.
2) Folate is a B group vitamin that is involved in the metabolism of acetaldehyde, and is needed for the proper functioning of ALDH (the enzyme that converts acetaldehyde into acetate)
3) Iron is another mineral that is involved in the metabolism of acetaldehyde
Could a stack of NAD+, folate and iron help? Maybe. Just be careful with excessive consumption of iron, especially for men.
On the herb side of things , milk thistle is a plant that has traditionally been considered hepaprotective – that is it looks after the liver you’ve been battering lately. Studies have been mixed and generally negative effects have been minimal.
Ginger is often recommended for vomiting or nausea. Hopefully you’re not actually puking, but getting some fresh ginger in a smoothie would give you some well-needed hydration as well as some calming ginger love.
Artichoke leaf helps to increase the production of bile which helps with the digestion of fats and may assist with some of your symptoms. If you don’t happen to have any artichoke leaf hanging around in your cupboard, most bitter foods generally help with this – dark green leafy vegetables, dandelion tea (more on that in a moment) and lemon are great options.
Dandelion leaf is another hepa-protective plant that has been used in traditional medicine and may reduce hangover symptoms. Obviously don’t pick any from the side of the road as it may have been sprayed with chemicals or peed on by dogs. Dandelion is, being a “weed”, unsurprisingly very easy to grow and actually has a tonne of great vitamins and minerals so is a worthwhile addition to your herb garden.
Finally, drink plenty of water, get yourself out walking so you move the lymph through your body and hey, maybe next time we can both aim for moderation.
As always consult your physician before taking any vitamins or supplements as they may interfere with medications and every person has a different set of needs.