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How Vitamin B Speeds Metabolism of an Alcohol Hangover

By Kathryn Gilhuly

Hangovers prove costly in terms of missed work and poor job performance -- $2,000 per year per working adult, according to a report in the June 2000 issue of the “Annals of Internal Medicine.” Although slight evidence suggests that B vitamins may relieve symptoms of a hangover, don't count on them to speed metabolism of alcohol in your system. Because of the risks of side effects, talk to a health care provider before taking vitamin B for any reason.

Vitamin B and Metabolism

The B vitamins help you metabolize carbohydrate, fat and protein, but no evidence suggests that they speed the metabolism of alcohol and other toxins from your system. A hangover will go away on its own but may last longer than 24 hours. Some people take large doses of vitamin B-3 to remove toxins from their system, but the practice may land you in the emergency room. In 2005, more than 3,100 people contacted poison control centers in the United States after taking large doses of niacin to remove toxins, not necessarily alcohol, from their system. One person who took vitamin B-3 to remove illegal drugs from his system required a liver transplant.

Vitamin B and Hangover Symptoms

An older study found that taking B vitamins helped relieve some symptoms of a hangover. Persons who took a dried yeast supplement containing thiamine, pyridoxine and riboflavin -- vitamins B-1, B-6 and B-2 -- enjoyed less discomfort, impatience and restlessness than persons who took placebos, according to a study led by M.A. Khan and reported in the December 1973 issue of the “Quarterly Journal of Studies on Alcohol.” Other possible home remedies to treat but not quickly metabolize a hangover include prickly pear extract and borage.

Cause and Prevention

A woman who drinks more than three to five alcoholic drinks and a man who drinks more than five or six may suffer a hangover. If you’re especially susceptible to the effects of alcohol, a single drink may produce hangover symptoms. When you drink alcohol, your body produces extra urine, which may lead to dehydration. Alcohol also triggers unhealthy responses in your immune system, sometimes leading to decreased appetite, memory problems and difficulty concentrating. Drinking alcohol may also cause a drop in your blood sugar and irritate the lining of your stomach. To prevent a hangover, drink in moderation, eat food or drink a glass of milk before consuming alcohol, drink a glass of water between alcoholic beverages and choose vodka and gin over whiskey and brandy.


The University of Maryland Medical Center recommends consuming fructose to potentially speed the metabolism of alcohol in your system. Good sources of fructose include fruit, fruit juice and honey. Bouillon helps replace salt and potassium lost during alcohol consumption. If you opt to take B vitamins for a hangover, understand that some of the B vitamins -- particularly B-3 and B-6 -- pose serious side effects if taken in high quantities. Potential risks include stomach ulcers, gout, liver damage, brain and nerve problems and vision loss. Less serious side effects include diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and skin flushes -- a harmless condition that reddens your skin and chest and makes your skin itch, tingle and burn.

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