Nutrition expert Patrick Holford shares his secrets to preventing a hangover, handling alcohol and hangover cures that work…

It’s time for celebrating another long and busy year, but for many, the after-effects of a season of overeating and overindulging take their toll.

The good news, according to world-renowned nutrition expert Patrick Holford, is that it is possible to join in the celebrations and minimise the dreaded after-effects.

The secret to handling alcohol and avoiding a hangover is to understand how your body processes alcohol, says Holford.

“Marking the end of a challenging year is a good reason to celebrate. But waking up on 1 January with the mother of all hangovers is perhaps not the best way to start the new year,” says Holford.

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How alcohol affects your body

Everyone has their own hangover fix for after the damage has been done, but the key to avoiding all the unpleasant effects of alcohol is preparation.

“Even in small quantities, alcohol depletes nutrients and minerals in the body, which is why you feel the effects. Putting aside any benefits a glass of red wine may have for heart health, there is no question that alcohol taxes both your liver and your gut. Fortunately, preparation can enable you to be merry and not pay the price the next day,” says Holford.

The liver helps detoxify the body, but it has a limit and, thereafter, it metabolises this alcohol into substances that damage the lining of the gut, depletes vitamin C levels and dehydrates the body.

“Alcohol is detoxified in the liver by a substance called alcohol dehydrogenase, but when the liver’s limit is reached, chloral hydrate and acetaldehyde are produced. Combined, these substances are acidic and toxic, which can lead to passing out and a hangover,” explains Holford.

Fortunately, Holford has a simple plan to avoid the unpleasant effects of drinking. He shares his step-by-step hangover prevention plan and cure.

“I always use this if I have more than one drink so as to be fully firing the next day. It hinges on key nutrients to take before drinking, during the evening, before bed and the next morning,” shares Holford.

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Hangover prevention plan

If you are able to plan for a night of celebrations, Holford recommends implementing two prevention measures:

  • Drink plenty of water, herbal teas and diluted juices to stay hydrated throughout the day.
  • Don’t drink on an empty stomach. Food slows down the rate at which you absorb alcohol and protects your gut lining from irritation.

When you begin drinking, there are a few more precautions to ensure that you have an enjoyable evening:

  • Pace yourself by diluting wine and spirits with water, or alternatively, have a glass of water in between every alcoholic drink.
  • Make the right drink choices. Research has found that quality wines (preferably organic) contain fewer additives (contributors to a hangover), and clear spirits are better tolerated by the body than darker liquors.
  • The worst thing to do is mix your drinks, so choose your tipple and maintain it throughout the night.

Do this before bed

Your last line of defence against a hangover is at bedtime and is a chance to stock up on some (now-depleted) vitamins and minerals for detoxification.

  • Take vitamin C.
  • Have a teaspoon full of glutamine powder in a large glass of water.
  • Take 60 g of curcumin
  • Take a further two grams of vitamin C including zinc

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How to handle a hangover

If you weren’t able to prevent a hangover, you will likely be desperate for a solution to your symptoms. Here’s what you can do:

  • Have a hearty breakfast containing low-GL carbohydrates and lean protein.
  • Take your daily multivitamin and some extra B vitamins.
  • Drink lots of water.
  • Painkillers will only put more strain on your liver and gut. If you absolutely must take something for the pain, stick to paracetamol or aspirin.

For further information on alcohol, hangovers and nutrition visit

While All4Women endeavours to ensure health articles are based on scientific research, health articles should not be considered as a replacement for professional medical advice. Should you have concerns related to this content, it is advised that you discuss them with your personal healthcare provider.