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Vitamin C for hangovers

Evidence based

Does Vitamin C Help Hangovers?

Afterdrink Author Kathy Caldwell
Kathy Caldwell

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  1. This article is based on currently available scientific evidence at the time of writing and fact checked.
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Evidence based

Are you wondering whether Vitamin C helps with hangovers? If you’ve landed on this article, chances are you’re thinking of trying vitamin C for a hangover but arent sure whether it works or not.

You’ve probably tried a few supposed hangover cures but nothing worked that well. Well, you’re not alone. There are so many hangover cure myths that it’s hard to separate the facts from the fads.

Is vitamin C the answer to your hangover woes?

In this article, we’re going to cover everything you need to know about Vitamin C and how it’s used by your body. More specifically, we’re going to look at whether it has any role in alcohol metabolism and hangover prevention.

Most people think of immune health when you mention Vitamin C, but it actually has many other important biological functions that could help hangovers.

Table of contents

What does Vitamin C do?

Vitamin C is an essential nutrient that is obtained purely through your diet. This means your body is unable to produce Vitamin C and you can become deficient if you don’t eat enough.(1)

Citrus fruits, berries, tomatoes, potatoes, and green leafy vegetables are excellent sources of vitamin C.

When you mention Vitamin C, most people immediately think of the immune system. And although it is important for immune health, its other major function includes collagen synthesis and antioxidation.

Connective tissue

Vitamin C is vital for the normal production of collagen which makes up your connective tissues. “Connective tissue” is the term used to describe the scaffolding that holds your body together. This includes your skin, bones, gums, and organs to mention a few.

As a result, severe Vitamin C deficiency leads to a condition called Scurvy which presents with bone pain, bleeding gums, easy bruising and poor wound healing.

However, this function of Vitamin C is unlikely to help hangovers.

Antioxidant

Did you know that Vitamin C is also a powerful antioxidant?

It’s actually one of the lesser-known facts about this vitamin and is responsible for many of its health benefits.(2)

Antioxidants neutralize “free-radicals”. These are produced as a natural by-product of metabolism and you get significant increases during periods of over-indulgence.

Free-radicals damage the cells they come into contact with causing inflammation and have been attributed to all inflammatory diseases such as heart disease, arthritis, and dementia.(3)

That’s not to say that taking antioxidants like Vitamin C will prevent these conditions from happening. That’s simply not true and the processes behind these medical conditions are far more complex.

That said, the metabolism of alcohol produces lots of “free-radical” by-products. So, does that mean Vitamin C could help support your liver during periods of overindulgence? Next up, we’ll find out if vitamin C has any benefits for a hangover.

Does Vitamin C help hangovers?

To see whether vitamin C helps hangovers, we first need to go over how alcohol affects your body.

The science of hangovers isn’t simple. There are several different factors that cause your typical hangover symptoms including, nausea, headache, muscle aches, anxiety, and dry mouth.

Firstly, alcohol is a diuretic which means it makes you pee more fluid than you are drinking. We all know that once you break the seal, the flow doesn’t stop. That’s because alcohol blocks the release of a hormone in your brain called ADH which is responsible for reabsorption of water in your kidneys. Therefore, if ADH release is blocked, your kidneys keep on flushing out excess water. As a result, drinking too much alcohol can cause dehydration which is one of the main causes of a hangover.

Secondly, your liver breaks down alcohol to produce toxic by-products that react with your cells causing inflammation. In normal circumstances, these by-products are neutralized by antioxidants. However, during periods of overindulgence, your body’s antioxidant system can become overrun and depleted.

Finally, alcohol significantly reduces your sleep quality. It does this by blocking your brain from reaching the “REM” stage. REM sleep is where dreams happen and is required to feel fully rested. That’s why you’ll feel tired after drinking alcohol, even if you’ve had your 8 hours of sleep.

So, can vitamin C help counteract some of the damaging effects of drinking alcohol?

Clearly, it’s a tall order for a single vitamin to achieve.

There are some studies that have shown that antioxidants like Vitamin C should theoretically help reduce liver inflammation. That said, it’s only been shown to help in small scale studies in rats and there is no evidence for this benefit in humans as yet.(5)

The antioxidant properties of vitamin C could help support your body’s natural defences. However, more research needs to be done.

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When to take vitamin C for a hangover

Although we’ve said that it’s still uncertain whether taking vitamin C helps hangovers, you may still want to try it anyway.

Once you’ve woken up with a hangover, nothing much will help because the damage is done by this stage. Many people take Vitamin C supplements in the morning in the hope that they’ll get some relief. Unfortunately, there is no evidence this works.

Therefore, if vitamin C is going to have any benefit for your hangover, you’re better of taking it before, during or straight after drinking alcohol. This way, it’s available for your liver to utilize should it need it.

Vitamin C and alcohol

There are a lot of myths regarding Vitamin C when it comes to alcohol and hangovers.

Firstly Vitamin C is not involved in alcohol metabolism and, therefore, will not speed up how fast alcohol is broken down.

Secondly, for the healthy individual who drinks socially, alcohol does not deplete Vitamin C levels.

On the other hand, chronic alcohol use is a risk factor for Vitamin C deficiency. The cause for this is not fully understood but it’s thought to be from a combination of poor nutrition, liver inflammation and reduced absorption from the gut.(4)

Vitamin C does not speed up alcohol metablism.

Can you take Vitamin C with alcohol?

Because Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin, anything that’s unused by your body is flushed out via your kidneys.

Vitamin C is generally well-tolerated with minimal side effects in most people. It’s safe to take with alcohol and there are no negative interactions between the two.

Anything else to think about?

Hangovers are a sign from your body that you’ve had more than your liver can handle. You only get hangover symptoms if drinking over your limits and the symptoms are caused by a combination of dehydration, poor sleep quality, and inflammation.

The best way to “cure” a hangover is by preventing them from happening in the first place. Drinking within your limits, keeping well hydrated and eating a meal before going out is all it takes to prevent the worst hangovers.

Aside from this, you could also try sticking to lighter colored drinks like gin and white wine instead of whiskey and red wine. The reason is, darker colored drinks contain much more congeners. And these have been shown in studies to make hangovers a lot worse. You can read more about this in our article about congeners.

Vitamin C for hangovers – Final verdict

That brings us to the end of our look into whether Vitamin C helps hangovers or not. Currently, there are no studies that have shown that it’s beneficial for hangover prevention or recovery. It’s also certainly not a magic cure.

With that said, it’s a vitamin that could help support your body’s normal antioxidant system. And there are plenty of people that swear by taking vitamin C for a hangover.

If you’re interested in whether other vitamins are good for hangovers, check out our article on the best hangover vitamins.

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