Waking up with a sore head after a big night of drinking will probably leave you reaching for greasy food and a pack of painkillers. Rather than putting more pressure on your liver with complex foods and chemicals, have you considered antioxidant supplements? Certain herbs, roots and algaes have potent properties that may support your body’s natural detoxification process. Here we’ll look at five natural supplements that might help ease the unpleasant after-effects of a boozy night out.
What Causes a Hangover?
First, let’s look at what causes the typical pounding head, shaky hands and dry mouth – markers that you’ve had more alcohol than your body can handle. Three key factors contribute to these unpleasant effects:
We all know that staying hydrated with hangover drinks can lessen the severity of hangovers. That’s because alcohol is thought to be a diuretic, meaning it causes your body to remove fluids from your blood through the kidneys, ureters and bladder at a much faster rate. Dehydration and electrolyte imbalance cause the most commonly experienced symptoms like headaches, dry mouth, thirst and weakness.
After alcohol enters your system, your body has the hefty task of breaking it down. Toxic byproducts such as acetaldehyde are formed during liver metabolisation. When you drink beyond your body’s capabilities, these toxins cause inflammation, resulting in pain and body aches typical of a hangover.
Even if you get to bed at a reasonable time, just a few glasses of wine can significantly reduce sleep quality. In order to feel rested, you should pass through all four stages of sleep; however, alcohol reduces REM sleep and can cause you to wake up during the night.
Alcohol can irritate the stomach lining and increase acid production in your digestive system. Many people experience nausea and vomiting after a night of drinking.
While the supplements listed here cannot replace water, sleep and drinking within your limits, they might help your body process alcohol more efficiently.
The liver is the body’s main detoxifying organ and it takes a battering after a big night of drinking. Milk thistle is a herbal extract that’s often promoted as a remedy for hangovers thanks to its liver-supporting properties. Milk thistle is a powerful antioxidant and natural detoxifier that can help break down the toxic byproducts of alcohol metabolism.
While research into milk thistle as a hangover remedy is inclusive, a study published by the World Journal of Hepatology in 2014 suggests that it may protect the liver. By neutralising some of the free radicals resulting from alcohol consumption, milk thistle can help minimise some of the symptoms of inflammation. However, they won’t help with the effects brought about by sleep loss and dehydration like headaches and fatigue.
Milk thistle is largely taken as a supplement in pill or capsule form and can be taken both before and after taking alcohol. Always read the manufacturer’s guidance.
This golden spice might just be the golden hangover companion. Turmeric is renowned for its powerful anti-inflammatory properties and for promoting liver cell regeneration and repair. What’s more, turmeric has pain-relieving benefits and can provide a natural alternative to liver-damaging painkillers like ibuprofen.
You can enjoy turmeric in golden milk, made by gently heating milk (plant-based or dairy) with turmeric, ginger, pepper, cinnamon and some sweetener if desired. Don’t skip the black pepper, though, as it enhances the absorption of curcumin, turmeric’s most bioactive anti-inflammatory compound.
This spicy root is your go-to if you’re feeling nauseous after drinking. Ginger is not only rich in nutrients but also soothes the gut and is used as an effective anti-sickness remedy. It’s typically used to treat morning sickness in pregnant women and seasickness and nausea after surgery or chemotherapy. You can combine the two powerful herbs, turmeric and ginger, in the golden recipe above or boil a few fresh pieces in water to make ginger tea.
Spirulina is a blue-green cyanobacterium that boasts the title of being one of the most nutrient-dense foods in the world. Vital nutrients are often depleted when we drink alcohol, so spirulina is a great way to top them back up. The anti-inflammatory properties of spirulina can help to alleviate stress on the liver by helping it process all the alcohol.
Spirulina can be taken in capsule, pill and powder form, as well as spirulina drinks. Sparkling spirulina drinks from brands like fulcompany provide you with nutrient-dense spirulina and make great soda alternatives, helping you stay hydrated with added electrolytes.
This colourful fruit is from the prickly pear cactus found in Mexico and southern Arizona. It has been used historically to help deal with liver problems due to its polyphenol content. Polyphenols are antioxidants that can prevent inflammation and oxidative stress.
A 2004 study published by JAMA Internal Medicine journal found that taking prickly pear extract prior to drinking reduced hangover severity. Those who had the prickly pear extract experienced fewer hangover symptoms the next day, most notably, nausea, dry mouth and loss of appetite. While the results are promising, more similar studies are needed. Prickly pear extract is often used as a drink or pill supplement.
While the only way to guarantee a hangover-free day is to avoid alcohol altogether, these intelligent herbs and roots are highly nutritious and can help your body with its natural detoxification processes.
As with everything in life, there are no quick fixes. Taking a supplement will not make up for a night of heavy drinking. Instead, supplements and antioxidant-rich drinks should be used as a supporting aid, potentially being used instead of liver-taxing fast foods and painkillers. They are antioxidant-rich and might just help you get back to your best faster.