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Ask the Diet Doctor: Hangover Cures

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Q: Can taking a B-vitamin supplement help you overcome a hangover?

A: When a few too many glasses of wine last night leave you with a throbbing headache and a nauseous feeling, you’d probably give anything for a quick-fix hangover cure. Berocca, a new product full of B vitamins that recently hit U.S. shelves, has been considered one for many years. The belief that B vitamins will cure a hangover comes from the idea that alcoholics often have vitamin B deficiencies, yet assuming that restoring these nutrients will cure symptoms of a hangover is a rather large leap of faith—not science.

B vitamins are effective at replenishing nutrients lost as a result of heavy drinking, but they won’t necessarily cure the symptoms of a hangover. So is there anything that will help? Despite almost 2,000,000 Google search results for the phrase “hangover cure,” science has yet to find a consistent and credible solution to curb the headache, nausea, vomiting, irritation, tremor, thirst, and dry mouth that can plague you after a night of drinking. However, there are some strategies that can help you out while we wait for this scientific breakthrough.

1. Drink plenty of water. Dehydration is one of the easiest ways to get a headache (post-drinking or not). Drinking ample water during your night out and when you wake up is key to reducing the negative effects of dehydration that come with a hangover.

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2. Choose a headache medication with caffeine. Caffeine is added to many OTC headache meds, as it can make them nearly 40 percent more effective through driving faster uptake of the medication by your body. There is other research to suggest that caffeine itself may aid in headache relief, but the way in which it does this is not well understood. Also, keep in mind that different people are impacted by caffeine differently; for some it may make the headache worse.

3. Take prickly pear extract. It probably won’t prevent a hangover, but this plant extract was shown in one clinical trial to reduce the severity of a hangover—specifically nausea, loss of appetite, and dry mouth—by 50 percent. When choosing a supplement, know that a dose of 1,600 IU is needed for the anti-hangover effect.

4. Try borage oil and/or fish oil. The symptoms of a hangover are partly driven by inflammation from prostaglandins, a unique type of hormone-like compounds in your body that are made from long chain omega-3 fats EPA and DHA (the ones that make fish oil so famous), the omega-6 fat GLA (found in borage or evening primrose oil), and arachidonic acid. Research from the early 1980s shows that when a person takes a drug that inhibits prostaglandin production, their hangover symptoms were all significantly reduced the next day. Since you don’t have prostaglandin inhibitor drugs at your disposal, the next best thing is a combination of borage oil and fish oil. This duo works at the molecular level to block the production of inflammatory prostaglandins while increasing production of anti-inflammatory prostaglandins.

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