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Coffee and Hangovers: fiction and facts, for festive recovery!

It’s the season of peace, love, and joy. It’s also the time of year you can majorly overdo it - whether it’s that extra helping of roast potatoes, or three too many G&Ts at your work Christmas do. And when you’re suffering the results of the latter indulgence, everyone’s got their recovery techniques.

For a lot of people, a cup of strong coffee is their go-to. It seems to make some sense - something to shock you out of your alcohol-induced reverie. But how do coffee and alcohol really interact? We investigated…

BELIEF #1: Drinking coffee and alcohol together is dangerous

This is a tricky one. Bans of caffeinated alcoholic drinks might suggest there’s something directly harmful in the mixing of caffeine and alcohol. But really, it’s a bit more complicated than that. When you’re getting boozey, caffeine runs the risk of making you misjudge just how tipsy you’re really getting - and that makes it a lot more likely you’ll overdo it. So maybe stick to just one or two espresso martinis…

BELIEF #2: Drinking coffee can sober you up

Now this one’s just plain wrong. But it’s a commonly held belief, kinda for the same reason you shouldn’t mix coffee and alcohol in the first place. Caffeine makes you feel less tired, so it’s going to tackle the fatigue that comes towards the end of a big sesh. But it doesn’t hit the other symptoms - like drunkenness and reduced cognitive function.

BELIEF #3: Drinking coffee helps cure a hangover

It’s the big one. Let’s get this out of the way: the simple answer is no. Hangovers are a waiting game - you’ve got to let your body clear out all the nasties in its own time. And some science suggests that coffee could even more your suffering worse - due to its diuretic properties dehydrating you further, and it boosting your blood pressure by narrowing your blood vessels. But it’s not 100% bad news…

BELIEF #4: Coffee can help a hangover, even if temporarily…

This is a ‘desperate times, desperate measures’ situation. Went overboard on a school night, or the day before entertaining the in-laws? You’re going to need to get through it one way or another. Firstly, it’ll sort out that fatigue in the short term - so that’s one symptom down. Secondly, a study suggests coffee can ease the effects of acetate in alcohol - easing that pounding headache, which the chemical is thought to induce. So in a pinch, turn to coffee!

BELIEF #5: Coffee and alcohol are both basically unhealthy

Contrary to popular belief, coffee seems to actually be pretty good for you - it’s associated with reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. And in relation to alcohol, studies suggest it can help out heavy drinks too. Research on alcohol, coffee and GGT levels (an enzyme which is a risk factor for a lot of illnesses) showed that heavy drinkers who also drink coffee reduces levels of this enzyme, and therefore their susceptibility to liver disease. Nice!

OUR VERDICT: Go easy on the booze, use coffee to cope if in a pinch

The best way of avoiding a hangover is not drinking too much. Duh. So try and aim for that - and maybe limit the caffeine-spiked drinks so you can more accurately assess whether it’s time for a kebab and bed.

If you are suffering the next day, assess what your plans are. Free to sleep and whinge all day? Then avoid the coffee to prevent any further pain later on. Need to get up and at ‘em? Coffee will pull you through and wake you up just enough to cope in the outside world - it might even help your headache, who knows!

Enjoy the festive season!


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