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Is magnesium good for hangovers? It's a common question with a not so straight forward answer.
People have been looking for a natural hangover remedy since the discovery of alcohol. However, there are so many health fads out there that it’s hard to separate the facts from the myths.
Magnesium is one of the most abundant minerals found in your body and is essential for life. It’s involved in the normal functioning of your metabolism, nervous system, and muscles to mention a few.
In this article, we aim to take a closer look at the relationship between magnesium and alcohol to answer the question: Is magnesium actually good for hangovers?
Does drinking alcohol affect magnesium levels?
Studies have shown that "acute heavy" drinking and "chronic" alcohol use can lead to urinary magnesium loss.(1)(2)
And there are a couple of ways this is thought to happen:
Firstly, alcohol is a diuretic which means it increases the amount of urine you produce. It does this by blocking the release of vasopressin from your pituitary gland which is involved in the control of water regulation by your kidneys.
Along with water, minerals such as magnesium are also lost.(3)
2. Increased magnesium use
When alcohol is metabolized (broken down) in your liver, toxic by-products such as acetaldehyde are formed. These react with your cells causing inflammation and is one of many ways drinking too much alcohol is thought to cause hangovers.
During this inflammatory process, magnesium is used up by metabolically active immune cells. Secondly, magnesium is used up during the metabolism of alcohol and during the inflammatory process that occurs after heavy alcohol consumption.(4)(5)
With all that said, it's important to emphasize that the studies mentioned above are mostly reporting magnesium loss in acute heavy (i.e binge drinking) or chronic (i.e long-term damaging use of alcohol). Alcohol consumption within recommended limits is unlikely to have such an impact.
Causes of a hangover
Before we get into whether magnesium works as a hangover remedy, we first need to go over how alcohol affects your body:
We mentioned above that alcohol is a diuretic. In fact, for every glass of wine you drink, you lose approximately 120ml more water. If you’ve had a few glasses of wine, this quickly adds up which causes dehydration. Dehydration is one of the main causes of a hangover and is responsible for symptoms including dry mouth, feeling light-headed, and lacking energy.
One of the main toxic by-products of alcohol metabolism is Acetaldehyde. It's a highly unstable molecule that breaks down into charged particles (free radicals) that react with the cells it comes into contact with causing cellular inflammation.
Your body utilizes an array of antioxidants that neutralizes free radicals before they cause damage. However, during periods of overindulgence, this system is quickly used up.
3. Sleep disturbance
Alcohol also significantly disrupts your sleep quality and is an often overlooked cause of a hangover. Alcohol blocks your brain from reaching the REM stage of sleep. Without getting to this stage, your mind won’t be fully rested.
Is Magnesium good for hangovers?
The science of hangovers is complicated and there are so many different factors that play a role.
Magnesium depletion is potentially a small contributor in some way. But it's not been studied in hangovers specifically. Also, it's highly unlikely that replenishing magnesium by itself is going to have a significant impact on hangovers because of the complex and multifactorial nature of hangovers.
So, to answer the question: is magnesium good for hangovers?
The answer is, we don't know.
What we do know is that there is a relationship between magnesium levels and alcohol consumption, particularly when drinking over recommended limits.
Is magnesium a hangover cure?
One thing’s for sure, magnesium will not "cure" or "prevent" a hangover!
If you’re considering taking magnesium supplements for hangovers, it’s important to realize that they are not all the same.
Generally speaking, magnesium supplements arent absorbed very well from your gut. People often chose a supplement with the highest magnesium content in the belief that this will deliver the highest amount.
However, the type of magnesium is much more important as the way the supplement dissolves in your gut determines how much is absorbed.
For example, studies have shown that magnesium citrate is better absorbed than magnesium oxide.(6)
The food you eat also has an impact on magnesium absorption. High protein and fatty foods tend to increase the absorption of magnesium.(7)
It’s important to be aware of some side effects of taking magnesium. In most cases, magnesium is very well tolerated and the majority of people will have no side effects.
One of the most common side effects of taking magnesium is diarrhea and abdominal discomfort. These are also common hangover symptoms so it’s something to be aware of.
Anything else to consider?
Hangovers are a sign from your body that you’ve had too much alcohol for your liver to handle. Trying to “cure” a hangover with magnesium or any other supplement is not the best approach.
The best way to cure a hangover is to prevent it from happening in the first place. Drinking less at a slower pace, eating before going out and making sure you drink plenty of water is all that’s required to prevent the worst hangovers.
Sticking to lighter-colored drinks may also help. This is because darker drinks like red wine and whiskey contain a much higher concentration of congeners. These are by-products produced during the aging process of alcohol which has been shown in studies to make hangovers a lot more severe. You can read more about this in our article about congeners.
Magnesium for hangovers – Final verdict
That brings us to the end of our look into whether taking magnesium for hangovers has any benefit.
Magnesium levels are known to drop in heavy and chronic alcohol use. However, It’s unlikely that casual drinking in moderation is going to have a significant impact on magnesium levels.
Whether magnesium is good for reducing hangover symptoms is currently unknown. It could potentially support your body’s antioxidant defenses.
If you’re interested in other natural remedies which could potentially help with hangovers, check out our article on the best vitamins for a hangover.