Avoid bubbles and embrace beans: 3 easy ways to ease your hangover

By The Gut Health Doctor Team

Dr Megan Rossi in a lab looking through a microscope

Nausea, diarrhoea, fatigue… sound familiar? While drinking alcohol can make you feel good at the time, do you find yourself full of regret the morning after?

For those of you keen to celebrate the start of Spring and some extra bank holidays this month, you may be wondering whether it’s possible to enjoy a few extras without the subsequent suffering. As it turns out, you’re in luck. While nourishing your gut can’t cure or prevent a hangover, it can certainly ease it.

Three simple steps to get you started…

1. Choose your liquids wisely

A champagne toast at a wedding or prosecco at a garden party – the clink of a glass full of fizz can summon the sound of sunny days, but it’s good to know that anything with bubbles is likely to make you feel worse.

This is no old wives’ tale. Researchers from the HPRU Medical Research Centre in Guildford put this to the test by giving volunteers fizzy or flat champagne. Those given the fizz got drunk more quickly. That’s because the bubbles cause the alcohol to be more rapidly absorbed into your bloodstream and overtake your liver’s ability to digest it at such speed. The higher your blood alcohol concentration… the more toxic the impact on your body.

And while we’re on the subject of fizzy drinks — be cautious of mixers containing artificial sweeteners. A 2015 study from Northern Kentucky University found that if you drank vodka and diet soda or vodka and regular soda, the ‘diet’ version actually led to a 25% higher blood alcohol concentration. This is because the sugar slowed the alcohol absorption through the stomach (of course, a high-fibre meal would do this even better). Try switching out the sugary soda for soda water and alternate every other drink with a non-alcoholic option: our favourites include sparkling water with frozen berries or traditional kombucha (not the supermarket bought ‘fake’ types).

2. Eat well before, during and after

As always, look after your gut microbes! Prepping your gut with extra fibre before, during and after your night out is crucial to arming your microbes with the tools to support your gut-liver axis. Excess alcohol can have a negative impact on your microbes, especially those higher up the gut, where alcohol is absorbed. This impedes their production of the short chain fatty acids, such as butyrate, that help fuel the protective gut lining.

Because alcohol itself can also irritate and weaken our gut wall, toxins can more easily pass from our gut into our bloodstream, creating more inflammation (which may lead to the release of histamines). The result? You feel rough. But if your gut microbes are in good shape, they’re more likely to produce more butyrate, which may well help the body better withstand the inflammatory effects of alcohol.

The day before the party make sure you eat a good meal, like our gut-loving Greek baked beans. These provide the ideal mix of plant diversity, such as prebiotics (plant compounds that are microbe fertilisers) for your gut microbes to feast on. They may even satisfy those salty and carby hangover cravings the next day!

And don’t forget to prioritise eating food when you’re drinking in order to slow the absorption of alcohol and give your liver a chance to keep up.

3. Know your limits

Very few people have a true allergy to alcohol, but you may have an intolerance due to a genetic fault. This means you produce a less active form of an enzyme called aldehyde dehydrogenase, which breaks alcohol into acetaldehyde. Do you find that you suffer from nausea, vomiting, headaches and stuffy nose even after just one or two alcoholic drinks? Then this might apply to you.

How much alcohol anyone with an intolerance can withstand before feeling sick varies — while some can hold a few glasses fine, others can barely sniff a drink. Unfortunately, the only way around this one is to find your limits.

It may be a component of booze — not the alcohol itself — that’s the problem for you. Those sensitive to gluten may already know to avoid beer but were you aware of the sulfites and histamines commonly found in wine? In order to determine exactly what it is that doesn’t agree with you, it may be best to work with one of our intolerance and allergy specialist registered dietitians.


When it comes to helping your hangovers, there isn’t a one size fits all solution — but the good news is that a diverse diet rich in plants and fibre not only helps how your gut reacts to alcohol — it also supports liver function! So whether it’s a cocktail on the beach, a glass of champagne at a wedding or splitting a bottle of wine with friends over dinner, now you know how you can harnessing the power of your gut microbiome to ease some of those unwanted side effects.

But, of course, if the worst happens and you do wake up with a hangover, the key is hydration. While good old water will do the trick, you could also try an electrolyte drink, which contains salts such as potassium and may help you better absorb fluid while you rehydrate (particularly if you are suffering from diarrhoea or vomiting).

And as much as this advice can help, remember that there’s no better way to avoid a hangover than to drink responsibly. If you are having any issues with alcohol be sure to contact your GP with your concerns.


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