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If you’re someone who suffers badly from hangovers, there’s a good chance you’ve been trying and testing all different methods to reduce some of the discomforts.
In this article, we’re going to take a closer look at vitamins that may support normal metabolism and recovery.
Before we dive in, it's important to mention that there are very few studies on the use of vitamins for hangovers. The studies that are available are small and preliminary. The information in this article focuses on vitamins that have antioxidant properties and are involved in the metabolism of the food and drink we consume. Vitamins do not prevent or "cure" hangovers.
What causes hangovers
To understand whether vitamins could support recovery, we first need to go over how drinking too much alcohol causes hangovers.
There are several different factors that are responsible for your hangover symptoms including, but not limited to:
Alcohol is a diuretic which means it makes you produce more urine. It does this by blocking the release of a hormone called vasopressin from your pituitary gland. This hormone is essential for water regulation via your kidneys. As a result, drinking alcohol without proper hydration can lead to dehydration.
2)Poor sleep quality
Alcohol is well-known to reduce sleep quality by preventing your brain from reaching the deeper stages of sleep. In particular, studies show that alcohol blocks your brain from reaching the REM stage of sleep. It’s why you won’t feel fully rested even if you’ve slept enough hours.(1)
Alcohol is broken down by your liver to produce toxic by-products such as acetaldehyde. Acetaldehyde is broken down further into harmless acetic acid. Drinking over your limits can result in a build-up of acetaldehyde which is highly toxic. It breaks down to form free radicals which react with your cells causing cellular inflammation.(2)
In summary, the science of hangovers is complicated and involves a combination of damaging factors. The points listed above are just some of the main reasons that scientists believe contribute to hangover symptoms.
What vitamins are good for a hangover?
Before we start this section, we must reiterate that the research into vitamins for hangovers is very much limited. We aim to cover the available studies (at the time of writing) and highlight their weaknesses. But most of the information below focuses on vitamins with general antioxidant properties and ones that are involved in the metabolism of the food and drink we consume. Vitamins do not prevent or "cure" hangovers.
Vitamin B Complex
B vitamins are very important for your body’s metabolism of nutrients. Some of which are particularly important when it comes to alcohol.
Your body’s requirement of some B vitamins goes up during periods of overindulgence.
Vitamin B1 (Thiamine)
Vitamin B1 has an important role in energy production from the food we eat.
It’s the most common vitamin deficiency in chronic alcohol abuse. A small study (77 people) in an American emergency department also found that 15% of people attending ER, after binge drinking, were deficient in vitamin B1.(3)
Vitamin B3 (Also known as Nicotinamide or Niacin)
Vitamin B3 is a precursor to a co-factor called NAD. NAD is essential for the metabolism of most of the nutrients you consume including alcohol. Over-indulgence in food and drink can increase your body’s requirement of vitamin B3.
A small study in 23 healthy subjects found that those who had a diet rich in vitamin B3 and Zinc reported less severe hangovers.(4)
This vitamin is required by your body to package and make amino acids, carbohydrates, and fats.
A study showed that giving 400mg of vitamin B6 before, during, and after drinking reduced hangover severity in test subjects by 50%. But it's important to emphasize that these are huge doses of vitamin B6 and several multiples higher than your daily required intake.(5)
Vitamin B2 is what makes your urine turn fluorescent yellow after you take multivitamins. Once again, it’s important for metabolism and also helps regenerate antioxidants, as well as other B vitamins.
In summary, the above-mentioned B vitamins are vital components for keeping your liver working and alcohol can increase your body’s requirement for them.
Vitamin E is purely an antioxidant vitamin. Its main function is to clear up “reactive oxygen species”, also known as free radicals.
Deficiency in vitamin E is rare and usually only occurs in people who aren’t able to absorb it properly.
There are no studies looking into Vitamin E with regards to liver function or alcohol hangover.
Most people associate vitamin C with the immune system. But its main function is the production of collagen and wound healing.
Aside from this, vitamin C is also a powerful antioxidant. In fact, it works in harmony with Vitamin E because it restores and regenerates the antioxidant function of vitamin E.(6)
What about Vitamin B12 for a hangover?
Vitamin B12 is a cofactor in DNA synthesis and amino acid metabolism. It has a vital role in your nervous system and red blood cells which keeps things working.
Unlike the other B vitamins mentioned in this article, your liver has the capacity to store Vitamin B12 and supply your body for 3 to 5 years before you develop a deficiency.(7)
Lots of sources and products recommend B12 for hangovers. But it has no relevant role in recovery or metabolism.
Can vitamins cure a hangover?
You've probably guessed the answer to this by now. Vitamins do not cure or prevent hangovers. Nor do they protect the liver from the damaging effects of alcohol.
Anything else to consider?
Hangovers are a sign from your body that you’ve drunk too much. Although vitamins support normal metabolism and antioxidant pathways, they’re certainly no magic cure.
The only real way to prevent a hangover is drinking within your limits and making sure you give your liver a chance to clear alcohol and its by-products before they cause too much damage.
Drinking plenty of water throughout your night and having a meal before going out can go a long way in preventing the worst hangovers.
In addition, sticking to lighter-colored drinks can also help because they contain fewer congeners. Congeners are biologically active compounds formed naturally when alcohol such as wine and whiskey are made. They are responsible for the distinctive tastes and aromas you get with these drinks. But unfortunately, they are known to exacerbate hangovers.
So, that brings us to the end of our look into the best vitamins for a hangover.
We’ve walked you through the basics of how alcohol affects your body and explained how some vitamins work to support your body’s normal metabolism.
Remember, supplements are here to support your goals but they must be combined with a healthy lifestyle overall. No supplement can beat sticking to drinking less alcohol and having plenty of rest.