Wake up with a serious hangover and you may be tempted by a pot of extra strong coffee — but morning java will likely make it more difficult to quickly recover from a night of untempered drinking.
What many may not realize is that, along with dehydration and a big dose of toxins in the body, hangover woes are often at least partly attributed to low blood sugar. The liver is responsible for supplying a portion of the body’s glucose, but when cocktails arrive, the liver diverts its attention to metabolizing the alcohol, temporarily inhibiting glucose production.
According to the nonprofit treatment and support site Alcohol Answers, the liver “works to get rid of [alcohol] as quickly as possible and will not release any glucose until all alcohol is metabolized.”
As FitDay puts it: “When you drink alcohol, maintaining healthy blood sugar levels is one of the first elements of metabolism to be shoved aside in your body's rush to excrete the toxins as efficiently as possible.”
Which brings us to why that cup of coffee is not the hangover cure you are looking for – caffeine disrupts liver function and glucose regulation even further.
Coffee has a powerful effect on glucose levels, argues medical doctor and The Blood Sugar Solution author Mark Hyman in the Huffington Post. Also, he adds, “Constituents in coffee can interfere with normal drug metabolism and detoxification in the liver, making it difficult to regulate the normal detoxification process in the liver.”
Caffeine on top of a hangover can even trigger a full-blown hypoglycemic attack, which shares much in common with a panic attack. Intense anxiety and heart palpitations may characterize hypoglycemia, says Mayo Clinic. Other symptoms, according to the Hypoglycemia Support Foundation, Inc., may include phobias, outbursts of temper and crying spells.
Of course, not eating enough can make the problem even worse. “Drinking heavily without eating can block your liver from releasing stored glucose into your bloodstream, causing hypoglycemia,” explains Mayo Clinic.
So for the underfed and overserved, a cup of coffee is exactly the wrong remedy. Ultimately, the liver is an important regulator of both toxins and blood sugar. For anyone who has tied on one too many, and then found themselves pacing the hall the next day like a cat trying to jump out of its skin, the answer may lie in the alcohol-caffeine connection.
3 better hangover options
There are no surefire cures for a hangover, but here are a few things that might help a bit:
- Tomato juice: A bottle of V8 helps restore blood sugar, according to Fox News, and the veggie juice’s “inflammation-fighting lycopene and serious hydrating factor don't hurt, either.”
- Snoozing: Sleeping it off is indeed one of the more reliable hangover treatments, according to Health.com.
- Pedialyte: Travel writer Nell McShane Wulfhart writing for Slate, swears by Pedialyte, the drink used to help rehydrate children suffering from vomiting and diarrhea. The drink can help replace lost fluids, electrolytes and zinc. Wulfhart recommends the popsicle-style Pedialyte Freezer Pops, which can be consumed without even sitting up.