Hangover Cures

Hangovers. Natures way of reminding you you’re not as cool as you thought you were last night. No you can’t dance. No that story is not still funny. And that chick you were talking to.…just NO.

It’s one of fundamental laws of physics; e=mc2, gravity is proportionate to the mass of the object and every jagerbomb has an equal and opposite reaction.

What I’m here to say is drinking is fine, just take the learner wheels off! Like all things in health and life, there’s a better way to do this and all it takes is a tiny bit of planning. Once you’ve learnt this and implemented it you’ll never have such deep hangovers again. This is a momentous occasion!!

What I love about hangovers as a habit coach, is they’re a microcosm of the problems with the rest of your health. If you had to do a Haiku of your entire health life between 15-65 years old it could read something like:

hangover haiku.PNG

Even though I’m a PT, I am an expert on hangovers. I’ve been training people for 15 years now on and off, while maintaining what is slightly misleadingly called a healthy social life. I call it a balanced approach to fitness.

We’re not here to do the traditional PT thing and try to convince people to stop or even reduce their drinking. That’s a job for your husband/wives/mums. No I’m not going to do that because like most habits telling people not to do them has a pretty low success rate. What we recommend is adding habits rather than taking them away. Yes later on you might want to stop drinking gin for breakfast, but it’s more likely to occur if you add what are called “Preparatory Habits”.

A pre drinking routine. Setting up food and hangover cures before the act. So you have the right fuel in you before you start and the right fuel in the fridge for the aftermath.

If you’re ready to give up alcohol entirely and cannot be bothered with 12 steps I’ll give you one more from the Roman scholars, to create distaste for drink- mix owl eggs with wine and drink that for three days. Apparently this will stop you wanting to drink any more. And cry.


What is a hangover?

Many people experience an extreme aversion to the smell, taste, sight, or the thought of alcohol. Hangovers vary, so the range and intensity of symptoms may be different between individuals and from one occasion to another. Who’s got a favourite from this list?


reasons for hangover.PNG


Hangovers happen for a few different reasons, BIGGEST of which is dehydration. The other reasons involve losing other substances when dehydrating and toxic stuff that's either in the drink or created in your body when your liver works overtime to get rid of the built up booze. 


hangover effects.PNG


Alcohol is a diuretic. When you drink alcohol, you pee more. This happens because the main sort of alcohol in drinks, ethanol, suppresses anti-diuretic hormone (ADH),  the hormone that allows your kidneys to return water to your bloodstream.

The effect is additive, so drinking more alcohol increases the level of peeing and subsequent dehydration. Alcohol also stimulates the bladder, so you'll feel the urge to pee sooner than you would ordinarily. Some people believe you can stave off the need to pee by waiting as long as possible to "break the seal". There is no truth in this, if you think your practical experience says otherwise, you might need to consider your measuring technique!

How Much More Do You Have To Pee?

Ordinarily, you produce 60-80 milliliters of urine per hour. Each shot of alcohol causes you to produce an additional 120 milliliters of urine. According to the August 2010 issue of "Alcohol and Alcoholism," you'll produce less urine from drinking alcohol if you are already dehydrated.  The biggest dehydrating effect is seen in people who are already hydrated. If you’re full of water you pee more. But you should still aim to start hydrated, because the morning after hydration levels are STILL higher in people that start hydrated.

Ok let’s suck some eggs. Can You Reduce a Hangover with water? At the risk of telling you something you have been trying to ignore for 20 years. Yes.

If you drink water or a soft drink with alcohol, or ply it full of ice, the diuretic effect of the alcohol is reduced by about half. That’s saving you 60 milliliters of urine. PLUS gives you more water. This means you'll get less dehydrated, which helps to reduce your chance of getting a hangover

Now there’s one important factor at play with water, which may be a deal breaker….. Does it stop you getting pissed?? We all want to feel a bit drunk most of the time don’t we….

Does a bear piss in the woods? YES. It dilutes the alcohol in your stomach so less gets in to your bloodstream. AND it stops you drinking as much booze because your mouth is full. Simple. Now for many people that might seem like enough reason to give it a miss. But I’ve seen some of you drunk and frankly you could do with being a little bit less pissed.


Hangover Causes According To Chemistry

Apart from the dehydration there are some other reasons you get hangovers


hangover table.PNG


Toxic Acetaldehyde Build-up

You get a hangover mainly because the ethanol in the drink caused increase urine production, leading to dehydration. But Ethanol is then metabolized into acetaldehyde, which is actually a lot more toxic, mutagenic, and carcinogenic than the alcohol itself. Your body only has a small store of the enzyme that brakes it down acetaldehyde dehydrogenase, so has to keep producing more as you get to your 4th, 5th and 17th drinks. Some researchers think acetaldehyde build up is THE main cause of hangovers. 



The metabolism of methanol to formaldehyde and formic acid is next most likely to cause the symptoms of the hangover. In the liver, methanol takes 10 times longer than ethanol to break down.
All types of alcoholic drinks contain some methanol. Whiskey, cheap red wine, fruit brandy and other

dark spirits contain the most, sometimes as much as 2% by volume. Vodka and other clear drinks contain the least.



Systemic inflammation happens when you’re blood is dehydrated and acidic and is carrying compounds like acetaldehyde. Inflammation is a precursor to some nasty diseases… but in the short term it’s also a large reason for your body and headaches.



The basic effect of ethanol-induced diuresis is enough to cause a hangover, but it seems that congeners can make things even worse.

During fermentation and distillation, congeners – byproducts – are produced. Congeners can include acetone, acetaldehyde, tannins, and flavorants. As a general rule, darker liquors contain higher levels of congeners, with brandy ranking highest.

Alcoholic beverages that contain few congeners (e.g.vodka, gin or pure ethanol) are associated with a lower incidence of hangover.





Drinking an alcoholic beverage that contains impurities or preservatives can give you a hangover, even if you only have one drink. Some of these impurities may be other alcohols besides ethanol and methanol. Sometimes impurities are intentionally added, such as zinc or other metals which may be added to sweeten or enhance the flavor of certain liqueurs.


What Can we DO about it?

There are probably as many cures for hangovers as there are drinks in the world.  Of course, drinking water is the number one thing to do and there's some truth to the idea that eggs, bananas, and fruit can also help replenish nutrients that the alcohol stole from your body. Fresh fruit is nice because it's high in fluids and will help rehydrate you

You can’t always avoid hangovers. For some, they are inevitable, along with death and taxes. If you’ve got a hangover, here are the basic ways to improve your situation, and I won’t mention the stuff annoying people always suggest, like “have less than 13 drinks”.

Yeah we’ve narrowed it down so we can tell you which drink gave you the hangover. It was the 17th drink.


1.    Water

Undisputed no1 prevention and cure. If you’re not managing your fluid all the other points here are quite literally pissing in the wind.

2.    Food 

The simple way of getting many of the necessary compounds in to your body without buying and taking handfuls of supplements. If you’re not doing this and throwing loads of pills down your throat in the morning, you’re in denial!

Obviously Drinking on an empty stomach increases your blood-alcohol level faster. CARBS BEFORE DRINKING do help ‘soak’ up the alcohol. They don’t actually soak up the alcohol they just keep your blood sugar better regulated, but whatever’s easiest to remember.

Egg yolk contains Cysteine (in the form of N-acetyl cysteine), an amino acid that directly counteracts the negative effects of acetaldehyde. It is quickly used up in the detoxification process. Eggs are rich in cysteine, so there is some scientific benefit to the 'raw egg' remedy.


3.    Supplements

a.    NAC

b.    Thiamine & other B’s

c.     Milk Thistle

d.    Magensium

e.    Vitamin C

f.      HTP-5 & Tryptophan


Take n-acetylcysteine supplements (at least 200 mg) half hour before your first drink. NAC is known to reduce acetaldehyde toxicity and increase glutathione, and, since acetaldehyde toxicity represents a massive contribution to the hangover effects, it appears to be an effective way to combat hangovers. It’s even more effective when combined with thiamine (Vitamin B1) & Cysteine In fact, one of the more popular “hangover pills” uses both NAC, Cysteine and thiamine as its active ingredients.


Milk thistle extract (active ingredient: silymarin) has also been shown to protect the liver from ethanol toxicity. The plant’s seeds have been used for centuries as an (apparently effective) folk treatment for jaundice (PDF), which is caused by liver dysfunction.

Magnesium is an important anti-inflammatory mineral that many people are deficient in. Alcohol depletes magnesium. Hangovers seem to be connected to inflammation. Taking magnesium (which you should already be doing if your diet is lacking) on a heavy drinking day might be helpful, too.

Thiamine (B1) helps prevent the buildup of glutarate in the brain, which may be associated with part of the headache associated with a hangover. And lack of it causes liquid to be drawn from the brain (the thirsty body draws water from the brain, constricting it)

Other B vitamins are depleted when you drink, so taking a B vitamin complex may be beneficial. Being water-soluble, you cannot overdose on thiamine. If you consume an excess, you simply pee it out. 

Yes you can eat thiamine. But if you have a pot at home in case of emergencies you can improve your chances if you just take a thiamine tablet 40-60 minutes before the first drink. Alcohol reduces thiamine absorption but thiamine tablets anytime during the evening with food are OK.


Vit C

Detoxifying alcohol and its metabolites leaves free radicals floating around in the body. Vitamin C is an excellent antioxidant, so having enough available will help minimize tissue damage, inflammation and hangover discomfort. Alcohol also depresses the immune system, so consider taking vitamin C to help ward off the cold or flu after drinking

Berrocca isn’t bad http://www.berocca.co.uk/what-is-it/


4.   Salts

Rehydration Sachets before bed!

An electrolyte sports drink (e.g., http://ors.uk.com/  or just Vitamin Water) is even better than water at rehydrating your body and replacing lost minerals.

The sugar in the sachets will also help restore normal blood sugar levels. After a big drinking session you are most likely hypoglycemic.


5.     Sugar

Chocolate isn't a textbook cure for a hangover, BUT a welcome one!!

The sugar in a piece of chocolate may help relieve symptoms of hypoglycemia, (low blood sugar), experienced after a bout of drinking. Additionally, the clever people from the University of Texas Health Science Centre, note that chocolate stimulates the pleasure centres of the brain by aiding in the release of the chemicals dopamine and serotonin. This means that chocolate may improve your emotional state when fighting an uncomfortable hangover. Who knew? BUT, you should eat chocolate in moderation. Too much chocolate can give you a headache.


6.   Exercising with a Hangover


Alcohol acts as a depressant to your body, which means it slows brain activity. This also slows the release of endorphins. This is why you wake up feeling tired, lackluster and depressed. That and the dawning realisation you spent next months food budget on jager bombs!

Moving your body and getting some exercise, will help stimulate the release of endorphins again, perking you up and making the world seem less unwelcoming place!


Healthy Exercise

A run!! To speed up metabolisation of the alcohol and to deliver extra oxygen to your cells, which will help speed up the detoxification of harmful substances. Of course if you’re not that way inclined you could walk OR sit on your sofa breathing in pure oxygen from a cylinder in between inhaling Kettle Chips.

Let’s face it when you're hungover, you may be more uncoordinated than usual. Your body may not work very well and you could do yourself some damage at CROSSFIT….. so any exercise should be super simple, maybe stick to walking in a straight line!

Warning if you are seriously bad you may be too dehydrated to run and it could make you worse, sip water and walk, no heroes.


7.    Painkillers, Mood enhancers & IV drips

Take a couple of pain relief tablets by all means. But don’t overdo it, they will put more strain on your already troubled liver, with some potentially harsh side effects.


Let’s talk suicide Tuesdays!

SEROTONIN LEVELS ARE knocked by hangovers, so if you feel particularly bad you can take tryptophan and HTP-5 to help boost it. Again not bad things to have a pot of in your cupboard ready for emergencies, buy it once and it’ll probably last you a year or two of hangovers.

Plus keep your blood sugar level normal as hypoglycaemia impairs tryptophan transport to the brain. If you’re up to it exercise will boost your endorphins and counteract your negative mood.


IV Drips

I actually tried an IV drip on a hangover recently. I’ve got a nurse friend and she came round after a massive Christmas party and hooked me up to a drip. And I have to say it genuinely worked. I got up at 5.30am the next day for a client and I was 100% fine. Which is a minor miracle! So if you can afford to have a nurse come round to your house and drip you do it! Think it’ll set you back about £200 to visit them!! In the US http://www.hangoverclub.com/ & http://www.hangoverheaven.com/ are already doing emergency 45min services in New York for $200… hopefully it’ll come to the UK soon!


HERE’S MY DUE DILLIGENCE…. If you think you drink too much then I recommend you take a simple test here: https://dontbottleitup.org.uk and they will offer you some advice and ‘drink coaching’ with a person or a free drink coach app.


So what’s the actual plan?


I know Mike Tyson said everyone’s got a plan until they get punched in the face. But with a plan you’ve got a chance of not feeling like he’s punched you.


Prep 1

Eat before you drink. Have a well-balanced meal with healthy fats such as olive oil, carbs such as brown rice, tortillas and protein from eggs before drinking.


Prep 2

Take NAC, Thiamine, Milk Thistle

Drink plenty of fluids before and during alcohol consumption. Have a glass of water or fruit juice between drinks to prevent the dehydrating effect of alcohol. And prevent you drinking as much!!

A cup or two of green tea before embarking on a bar-hop appears to be good for one’s liver. It may also reduce hangover symptoms.


Before Bed

Drink something with electrolytes. A rehydration sachet or drink the original: coconut water.

More Thiamine/B-complex + Milk Thistle


Morning After

Replenish your vitamin and mineral intake the morning after to help deal with the hangover. Take a multivitamin that contains Thiamin OR a B-complex, Vitmain – C, Milk Thistle. This will not help you prevent your hangover, but it may alleviate some symptoms associated with the vitamin deficiencies.




Drink coffee, which can actually reduce the swelling of blood vessels in the head that may be causing your headache. It’s good for fatigue, too, and its reputation as a diuretic is highly exaggerated.

If you can stomach it, make yourself a smoothie with a couple of teaspoons of ginger and turmeric with whatever fruit and veg will help you wash it down (I recommend beetroot, apple, celery). Should help quite a bit with the nausea as long as it doesn't come right back up!

Eat eggs, which are high in cysteine – think NAC. But don’t have them fried and fatty with bangers and bacon… have bubble and squeak for extra veggie vitamins, smoked salmon for the protein, with a nice sprinkle of parsley for the some extra B-vits.

Exercise. It may be the furthest thing from your mind, but do something. Just get off the sofa you slob!

Sofa Snacks? Eat coconut, which is high in potassium. Drink coconut water for electrolytes. And have some chocolate with green tea.


Have the bone broth casserole you prepared before, which provides electrolytes and minerals. Get loads of veggies in for fibre.



Good luck with that in February... Now off for your January Detox!

Happy New Year!









Hangovers: Not The Ethanol, Perhaps The Methanol, British Medical Journal, January 4, 1997;14: pp.2-3

James Hardy