How to Prevent a Hangover
Want to know how to prevent a hangover? Discover some useful hangover prevention tips according to the latest scientific research.
Alcohol can be fun, but it does come with a price. Anyone who enjoys a glass or two knows it only takes one too many to leave you feeling very suspect the following day.
And with 48% of adults drinking alcohol at least once a week in the UK, the age-old question of how to prevent a hangover continues to resonate with a large proportion of the population.
Luckily, we’re here to help.
In this article, we discuss a definition of a hangover and six common causes and offer some valuable guidance for avoiding hangovers before, during and after a night of drinking.
So, before popping that bottle or cracking that next can, let’s explore the best hangover-prevention techniques.
What is a hangover?
A hangover is the unpleasant experience sometimes suffered after a night of drinking too much alcohol. The symptoms of a hangover can include a headache, nausea, stomach pain, anxiety, sweating and general weakness, amongst other physiological and psychological effects.
The extent of suffering from a hangover will depend on the individual and the amount and type of alcohol consumed.
Hangovers may seem a by-product of popular drinking culture here in the UK. But we recommend anyone regularly experiencing hangovers should reduce their consumption for their overall wellbeing and the crucial health of their liver.
What causes a hangover?
A hangover is caused by overconsuming alcohol. Sometimes it can be just a couple of pints or a heavy night on the hard stuff. Either way, you’ll know the extent of the hangover when you awake the next day.
6 common causes of a hangover
The various symptoms you may experience from a hangover can be assigned to the following factors:
Alcohol is a diuretic. Meaning it causes your body to urinate and lose water. This process works through the production of the vasopressin hormone, which is a core component for the regulation of water excretion. Therefore, alcohol naturally causes you to become dehydrated by removing water from your system more quickly.
- Inflammation of the immune system
Alcohol causes opposing effects on the immune system. A moderate amount may reduce inflammation, while significant amounts can increase the risk of viral infections. The immune system can also produce physical and psychological symptoms, including difficulty concentrating, memory defects, and a general lack of motivation.
- Reduction in blood sugar levels
Symptoms of weakness, shakiness and tiredness can be assigned to blood sugar levels dropping. The consequence of reduced blood sugar levels will also affect mood and can be so severe that they can cause seizures.
- Expansion of blood vessels
When enough alcohol is drunk to intoxicate the individual, blood vessels relax and expand in a process known as vasodilation. At even higher volumes, alcohol causes vasoconstriction, whereby blood vessels shrink to increase blood pressure, causing intense headaches and migraines.
- Irritation of the stomach lining
By increasing stomach acid levels and delaying the stomach from emptying, alcohol causes abdominal pain and sickness by irritating the lining of your stomach.
- Lack of sleep
Finally, alcohol also causes sleep deprivation by disrupting our sleep cycles and preventing us from entering the deeper stages of sleep.
Plus, after a night of boozing, people tend to wake up during the night, leaving them tired and groggy the next day. Research from sleep expert Dr Jeff Rodgers shows that heavy alcohol consumption can reduce sleep quality by up to 40%.
Tips for before you drink: How to prevent a hangover the night before
Now you have some scientific insight into why you may feel a bit jaded after a night of drinking, here are some tips for how to stop a hangover the night before:
- Eat before drinking
The classic saying “don’t drink on an empty stomach” rings true with hangover prevention. By eating a wholesome meal before you start drinking, the alcohol will absorb slower into your system.
However, without food in your stomach, the alcohol is absorbed into the bloodstream more quickly. According to the National Library of Medicine (NLM), the food types to avoid a hangover are healthy fatty foods, such as avocado, coconut oils and nuts.
Other food groups include high volumes of fibre and protein. Dietary fibre is known to help control the postprandial glycemic and insulin responses alongside delaying gastric emptying. NLM research shows the effects of how dietary fibres improve health with gastrointestinal (GI) processes relating to these benefits and other potential glucose homeostasis and metabolic functions.
On the other hand, high-protein foods like eggs or meat are an excellent food type for hangover prevention in the same process of slowing down the absorption of alcohol in the stomach.
Finally, on the food front, a famous Korean food technology paper has proven that certain food types containing an abundance of amino acids and minerals, such as the leaves and shoots from asparagus plants, can reduce hangover symptoms with liver protective properties.
- Initial hydration
With dehydration being a natural diuretic response to alcohol consumption, drinking plenty of water before alcohol is another essential step for how to prevent a hangover.
We recommend a balance of sodium, potassium, magnesium, calcium, and chloride to ensure your cells stay as hydrated as possible before you start drinking alcohol.
- Increase your vitamin B and vitamin C intake
NLM studies reveal increasing your vitamin B and zinc intake has been proven as a potential method of how to stop a hangover the night before. Due to B vitamins being water soluble, they can both increase and reduce when the body is hydrating or dehydrating.
The more B vitamins you consume before drinking, the higher the levels will remain after the excretion caused by alcohol intake.
Specific studies on some hangover cures from NLM reveal products have proven that high levels of vitamin B result in improved alcohol symptoms.
On the other hand, by supporting the liver in detoxifying the effects of alcohol, vitamin C can remove free radicals within the body before they cause damage. Vitamin C also recycles glutathione, a vital antioxidant in liver health.
- Drink a cup of matcha
Matcha tea, known more commonly as “green tea”, is believed to help with hangover prevention before drinking alcohol.
With detoxification properties protecting the liver, matcha tea is also high in antioxidants that can reduce the harmful effects of free radicals released from drinking. Clinical research published by the NLM shows that matcha tea can protect against alcoholic liver injury.
- Take a magnesium supplement
Like vitamin B, magnesium is another mineral which gets removed via excretion. Losing too much magnesium from drinking a diuretic like alcohol can result in muscular pains and headaches.
Taking a magnesium supplement before you drink will top up your magnesium levels before they begin to deplete.
- Take a prickly pear (Opuntia ficus indica) extract supplement
A study published by the NLM shows the positive effects of taking an extract from the opuntia ficus indica (OFI) plant (prickly pear) helps diminish the body’s inflammatory responses.
The study highlights that the prickly pear extract helped battle hangover symptoms, reducing their severity by 62%.
Tips while drinking: How to prevent a hangover when drunk
By having a wholesome meal high in protein, fibre and healthy fats alongside plenty of water, Vitamins B and C before a nice warm cup of green tea, you’ve put yourself in a prime position for how to prevent a hangover the night before.
But what happens if you’re already drinking? Here are some hangover prevention tips.
- Stay hydrated
Drinking a glass of water or a non-alcoholic beverage in between drinks is another hangover prevention method. Not forgetting that remaining hydrated can also keep your vitamin B and magnesium levels up.
Therefore, staying hydrated while drinking can potentially reduce hangover symptoms to a minimum.
- Pace yourself
Drinking in moderation can be the difference between a thick or clear head in the morning. A standard rule of thumb for the average person is sticking to one drink per hour. Through this process, your stomach will absorb less alcohol and ultimately protect your liver from fewer alcoholic toxins.
What’s referred to as the “Green Zone” by Princeton University reveals a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level of under 0.06. According to their ‘Drink Smart’ information for students, keeping your BAC below 0.06 can have the following benefits when compared to heavier drinking:
- Improved mood, decreased anxiety and increased mental performance.
- Increased muscle coordination and better sleep.
By pacing yourself and matching every alcoholic beverage with a glass of water, you can reduce your hangover symptoms and feel more revitalised the next day while having a good time.
- The type of alcohol
Some studies have shown that certain types of alcohol can produce varying impacts on the intensity of hangovers. While all alcoholic drinks contain a core component of ethanol, according to Oxford Academic, those with higher amounts of congeners are believed to worsen the hangover.
Containing toxic chemicals including methanol, isopentenyl and acetone, drinks with high volumes of congeners include darker liquids, such as whiskey, cognac, and red wine. Lighter spirits such as vodka and gin are known to contain fewer congeners, with tequila as the exception to the colour-congener rule.
Tips for after drinking: How to not feel hungover
Finally, if you’re wondering how to avoid a hangover when you arrive home, the good news is that it’s not too late.
- Hydrate before you go to bed
Before going to bed after a few drinks, sometimes the last thing we want to do is dispatch a pint of water. No doubt this is why it sits barely sipped on the bedside table until the morning (when it’s too late).
But for the same reason as the other two points, water consumption will help rehydrate you and restore any vitamin B you consume between last urinating and going to sleep.
Some swear on a pint of water before bed as a hangover cure. Although it's no guarantee of hangover prevention, the point remains that a little more water will do no more harm.
- Eat a healthy breakfast or late-night meal
You can help counteract the risk of low blood sugar levels by eating a healthy breakfast or late-night meal. This solution will mitigate some symptoms but not all. Sometimes, the symptoms are too severe to escape, despite drinking water or eating the right food.
- Take liposomal glutathione supplements
When the body consumes alcohol, it breaks it down into a highly toxic compound called acetaldehyde. Like how your liver enzymes and antioxidants become enriched by green tea and vitamin C, glutathione gets produced by a mixture of amino acids.
Considered by medical experts as the "master antioxidant" in the body, a liposomal glutathione supplement channels the benefits of glutathione within the body and helps remove acetaldehyde by supporting your body’s natural detoxification pathways.
- Take milk thistle (Silymarin) supplements
The compound known as silymarin is found in milk thistle supplements and can help combat toxic congeners and acetaldehyde. Studies are not yet entirely conclusive, but many medical researchers believe it may have the ideal properties to help avoid a hangover and protect the liver.
Silymarin is also an antioxidant, and according to another journal published by the NLM, it can help neutralise free radicals produced by the body when it absorbs and metabolises alcohol.
Find your perfect hangover prevention supplement and protect your liver.
Enjoying a few drinks doesn’t mean you can’t still love your liver and feel fresh the next day. Although there are no guarantees in eradicating hangovers, the tips above are brilliant methods of preventing one from happening and supporting your liver’s functions.
For more information on how our product can support your liver, visit our website.