People have been trying to alleviate the nausea, dry mouth and headaches associated with hangovers for as long as alcohol has existed.
Eating greasy food, drinking sports drinks and even indulging in a little “hair of the dog that bit you” are all commonly practised methods with highly disputed results.
But now those who overindulge can add medical care to their hangover remedy regime.
Dr. Katie Coombs, a naturopathic doctor, has been offering “the liver detox,” among other intravenous [IV] treatments since she began practising in Calgary in 2013.
“It’s similar to what hospitals use for dehydrated patients,” Coombs said.
“They’re doing the bag, which is the rehydration part, whereas we’re dealing with the dehydration and the vitamin and mineral depletion, as well as giving your liver extra fuel to deal with it.”
A typical hospital IV bag contains a lactated Ringer’s solution, which is a combination of sodium chloride, sodium lactate, potassium chloride and calcium chloride.
Coombs’ liver detox treatment uses a lactated Ringer’s solution, along with vitamin B, magnesium and glutathione.
“The liver requires certain nutrients to do what it needs to do,” Coombs said.
Alcohol causes toxic stress in the human body, which overloads the liver, she said.
“Glutathione is the number one antioxidant in the body,” Coombs said.
“If it’s not there to take care of oxidative stress, then your body has that all floating around, causing damage and wreaking havoc everywhere in your body.”
Michael Devane, a personal trainer and a Coombs’ patient, recommends the liver detox treatment to his friends and family whenever he gets the chance.
“Sometimes we can all have a little too much fun and drink a bit too much,” said Devane, “so it’s good to have a little reboot at the end of the day to reset yourself.”
Devane predominantly uses the IV treatment for sleeping problems and has it done every three to four months.
“I was having trouble sleeping, so I did the IV therapy,” Devane said.
“After the first [treatment], I had a good sleep that night and for several nights after, and I had a lot more energy.”
Coombs recommends taking a preventative approach to the liver detox, rather than coming in when you are already hungover.
“Then you’re not letting that oxidative stress float around in your system for 12 hours before you get treatment,” Coombs said.
“If you like to go out on the weekend or go to festivals, or maybe you have a trip to [Las] Vegas coming up, those are the best times to do the detox pre-emptively, before those events.”
Coombs emphasizes that her liver detox therapy isn’t intended to treat alcoholism, and she won’t treat anyone who comes in to see her while intoxicated.
“I would never advocate binge drinking or the use of alcohol in that manner,” said Coombs, “but as you get older, you have just a few drinks in a night and feel like garbage for days after.
“That is who I am trying to help.”
Dr. Jill Bishop, a family doctor in Okotoks, said she hasn’t seen any evidence supporting the effectiveness of intravenous vitamins in preventing hangovers or other ailments.
“I think if you get an effect from anything, it’s just from getting IV fluids,” Bishop said.
“If you’re hungover, usually you’re dehydrated, and that is a big component of why you have a headache.”
Bishop recommends a more traditional approach to the hangover issue.
“If you’ve got a hangover, get lots of fluids,” she said, “and take a Tylenol, or an Advil, for the headache.”