The question: Can certain foods cure a hangover?
The answer: Your first strategy is to try to prevent a hangover in the first place. If you’re going to drink alcohol, do so on a full stomach to slow the absorption of alcohol from your stomach into your bloodstream. Before going to a party, eat a meal that includes protein, grains and vegetables. If your party doesn’t include dinner, be sure to eat a hearty snack before you go.
Limit yourself to one standard drink per hour, the rate at which your liver can process alcohol. (One standard drink is equivalent to 1.5 ounces of hard liquor, five ounces of wine or 12 ounces of regular beer.) To slow your pace, sip on water between drinks. Doing so will also help combat the dehydrating effect of alcohol.
Choosing clear drinks (e.g. white wine, lighter beers, vodka, gin) instead of dark-coloured drinks (e.g. red wine, dark beers, brandy, whisky) may also help a little. Darker drinks contain compounds caused congeners, which are broken down into toxins that can worsen a hangover. Even so, the more alcoholic beverages you drink – regardless of colour – the more likely you will have a hangover the next day.
If you do drink too much and end up with a hangover, eating certain foods may help you feel better. Hangover symptoms such as digestive upset, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, shakiness, irritability and headache are brought on by dehydration and low blood sugar. While altering your diet probably won’t cure your hangover (only time will do that), it might offer some relief.
Start your “hangover diet” by drinking plenty of water to replenish your body’s fluids. Other good fluid choices include sports drinks and 100-per-cent fruit juice to replace lost electrolytes (sodium, potassium, chloride). Fruit juice is also a source of fructose, a natural sugar that’s thought to speed the body’s metabolism of alcohol. Fruits with a higher fructose content include prunes, pears, apples, peaches, cherries, grapes, dates and mango.
To stabilize your blood sugar and ease nausea, include starchy carbohydrates in your diet such as toast, cereal, crackers and pasta with a light tomato sauce. Stick to lower fat foods that are easy to digest. You might crave a greasy burger and fries, but chances are it will only make digestive symptoms worse.
If you can’t face solid food, have a bowl of brothy vegetable or tomato soup. Both are good sources of electrolytes sodium and potassium. Consider drinking peppermint or ginger tea, as both may help ease stomach upset and nausea.
A diet to help ease a hangover should also include vitamin C-rich foods such a citrus fruit, strawberries, raw red pepper and tomato juice (it is also high in electrolytes). Vitamin C is an antioxidant that can help mitigate some of the free-radical damage to cells caused by alcohol. It’s also needed to help neutralize the toxic effects of an alcohol byproduct called acetaldehyde. After drinking, consider taking a vitamin C supplement (500 milligrams) before bed and once again in the morning.
Many people take a B vitamin supplement at bedtime to help avert a hangover, yet there’s little research in this area. It’s true that drinking alcohol depletes the body of many B vitamins, especially B1 (thiamin). Taking a B complex supplement can replenish lost vitamins and may shorten recovery time if hangover symptoms are related to a low level of B vitamins.
Leslie Beck, a registered dietitian, is based at the Medisys clinic in Toronto. She can be seen every Thursday at noon on CTV News Channel’s Direct http://www.lesliebeck.com