Figuring out how to prevent a hangover while hungover is no fun. While there are plenty of folk remedies that people use to prevent a hangover—drinking through a straw, taking an aspirin, eating lots of bread to absorb the alcohol—a new study documents a hangover remedy that may actually work. In research to be published in the Journal of Food Science, Korean researchers found that extracts taken from the leaves and shoots of asparagus boosted levels of key enzymes that break down alcohol after heavy drinking. And if you don't usually keep asparagus extract on hand, the good news is eating asparagus before or after drinking can also serve as a hangover remedy, according to the study's lead author.
Heavy alcohol (ethanol) drinking leads to a number of unpleasant physical and mental symptoms, including fatigue, thirst, headache, nausea, vomiting, and so on. In addition, ethanol itself and acetaldehyde, a metabolite produced in the course of ethanol breakdown, may induce a number of toxic results, especially in the liver. "The two key enzymes, alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) and acetaldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH) quickly metabolize ethanol into the 'nontoxic' acetate," explains Deokbae Park, PhD, professor of medicine at Cheju National University School of Medicine in Korea. "Our study basically aimed to find any diet to promote the breakdown of ethanol by stimulating the two key enzymes," he says. By adding the extract to liver cells in the lab, they determined that asparagus is high in amino acids that stimulate those enzyme functions, accelerating the breakdown of alcohol. In an informal trial that wasn't part of the study, Park found that volunteers who drank a beverage containing the extract reported fewer hangover symptoms.
Of course, the only 100 percent effective way to avoid a hangover is to not drink alcohol. But when you choose to imbibe, here are some natural remedies that can prevent a hangover, or help you feel better fast.