HEALTH: 10 ways to prevent a hangover if you plan to get ‘borracho’ this Carnaval!

So, you’re coming to Barranquilla for Carnaval? Chances are you’re going to experience a four-day, heavy drinking binge, so at some point, you’ll probably also experience drinking’s long-time buddy, the hangover! In fact, during Carnaval, the whole city goes on pause for four days, and only dancing, drinking and partying are allowed. As a naturopathic doctor, I should tell you not to drink at all, but that would be unrealistic and perhaps it might even be a sin to say it. Assuming you’re NOT pregnant, and nor a former- alcoholic nor a person with liver disease or any other disease that will prevent you from drinking, enjoy the celebration of Barranquilla Carnaval and enjoy your drinks. Here’s what you need to do to ensure hangovers won’t ruin the party for you.

#1. Know your limit

It´s easy to get carried away when drinking, especially if you’re with Barranquilleros. You’ll see the locals drinking at 6am and it’s almost impossible to know if it’s the first drink of the day or the last drink of the night before. The truth is that drinking for many locals won’t stop for four days in a row. You may be tempted to join but remember that the party will go on for four days and it won’t be any fun if you have to stop because of intoxication. Pace yourself so the party can go on!

#2. Avoid street alcohol

There are two main issues with street alcohol. First, you don’t know who made it and you don’t know what’s in it. Unregulated alcohol anywhere in the world comes with the major risk of methanol. Methanol is a toxic, tasteless form of alcohol that is produced if the processing is not done properly. In high doses, methanol can cause blindness or even death.1 In lower doses, methanol causes many prolonged hangover symptoms as the liver will have a hard time eliminating it.1,2,3 The second issue with street alcohol is the risk of being “drugged.” To play safe and avoid methanol-induced hangover, or other not particularly enjoyable situations, stick with the regulated, sealed bottles and cans.

#3: Avoid mixing alcohols

While all legal alcoholic drinks contain the same type of alcohol, called ethanol, different drinks contain other active ingredients referred to as congeners. In high doses, congeners cause body intoxication and contribute to the hangover feeling.1 When you drink different types of alcoholic beverages, different types of congeners enter your body and all must be processed and broken down through your liver. The combination of these molecules with each other and ethanol may slow down your liver’s function and causes accumulation of hangover inducing molecules which lead to a real nasty day.

#4. Keep yourself hydrated

Have you noticed that you need to visit the bathroom more often when you’re drinking? That’s because Ethanol (the type of alcohol used in drinks) is first metabolized by your liver and then is sent to your kidneys to be eliminated through urine. As urine production increases, you lose water and electrolytes. This can lead to dehydration and an electrolyte imbalance which then leads to many different hangover symptoms.1 To avoid this from happening, keep yourself hydrated from the get go; drink lots of non-alcoholic beverages.

  • Drink plenty of water. For every glass of beer, wine, rum, etc., you need a glass of water.
  • Coco frio(fresh coconut water) is your best hydrating buddy! Keep an eye open for the street venders selling coco frio direct from coconuts. It’s refreshing, hydrating and is filled with many electrolytes to replenish your body.

#5. Defeat hangovers with fruits

Many hangover symptoms are partially due to the oxidative effect of alcohol in the body. Fruits are a great source of antioxidants and can help to alleviate hangover symptoms.1,4 Don’t wait till a hangover catches up with you. Begin fruit hunting along with your drinking. Barranquilla is blessed with many street fruit venders; just look around and I bet you’ll see someone selling fruits or natural fruit juices.

#6. Mango will be your ally

So, all fruits are great, but mango needs its own category. Mango is rich in antioxidants and vitamin C which both help to reduce hangover symptoms. More importantly, mango contains molecules that can help your liver to speed up the process of alcohol metabolism.4,5 Watch out for the street vendors and grab a mango or a mango juice every chance you get!

#7. Take a good vitamin B complex

If you’re going to use ONE supplement to prevent hangovers, it should be a good vitamin B complex. Many B vitamins are used up by the liver during alcohol metabolism. This can lead to a deficiency which will interfere with liver function and contribute to hangover symptoms. If this is your first time taking vitamin B complex, be aware that it will turn your urine a really bright yellow color. If this happens, don’t worry. You haven’t been drugged. It’s just vitamin B!

#8. Eat Sancocho:

Have you ever wondered why you always crave fatty meals, and not broccoli, after drinking? Ethanol causes an imbalance in blood sugar and causes the body to experience hypoglycemia. A high protein and fat diet, on the other hand, helps to restore blood sugar balance. Barranquilla´s hangover treatment meal is SANCOCHO soup because its hydrating, high in protein, complex carbohydrates and fat. Other good options are nuts, eggs, and grilled meat, chicken and fish. Avoid deep-fried street food as much as possible.

#9. Drink ginger tea

Now, you can’t buy prepared ginger tea in Barranquilla but you can easily purchase fresh ginger from grocery stores for a very reasonable price. Ginger root is an amazing antioxidant and a powerful anti-nausea agent. It also protects the liver. Clinical studies have shown ginger to be effective in reducing nausea, vomiting and diarrhea caused by alcohol intoxication.6 You can prepare your ginger tea ahead of time and drink it cold with some honey later on.

#10. Drugs and alcohol, a deadly combination

It is never a smart idea to add alcohol and drugs to your body at the same time. Alcohol and most drugs are metabolized through your liver and the combination may lead to unpredictable, serious results.

If you find yourself feeling ill and needing medical attention, the Secretary of Salud offers a hotline to help you find medical assistance: 3793333

Be safe and enjoy Barranquilla’s Carnaval!

Dr. Rasa Nikanjam


  1. Swift, R., Davidson, D. “Alcohol Hangover:Mechanisms and Mediators”. Alcohol Health & Research World. Vol. 22, No. 1, 1998, 54-60.
  2. Calder, Ian (1997).“Hangovers: Not the ethanol—perhaps the methanol”. BMJ 314 (7073): 2–3. doi:1136/bmj.314.7073.2PMC 2125562PMID 9001463.
  3. Bendtsen, Preben; Jones, A. Wayne; Helander, Anders (1998).“Urinary excretion of methanol and 5-hydroxytryptophol as biochemical markers of recent drinking in the hangover state.
  4. Wang, F., Li, Y., Zhang, Z.J., Zhou, Y., Li, S., Li, H.B.“Natural Products for the Prevention and Treatment of Hangover and Alcohol Use Disorder”.  2016, 21, 64.
  5. Kim, S.H., Cho, S.K., Min, T.S., Kim, Y., Yang, S.O., Kim, H.S., Hyun, S.H., Kim, H., Kim, Y.S., Choi, H.K. Ameliorating effects of Mango (Mangifera indica) fruit on plasma alcohol level in a mouse model assessed with H-1-NMR based metabolic profiling. J. Clin. Biochem. Nutr. 2011, 48, 214–221.
  6. Shati, A.A.; Elsaid, F.G. “Effects of water extracts of thyme (Thymus vulgaris) and ginger (Zingiber officinaleRoscoe) on alcohol abuse”. Food Chem. Toxicol. 2009, 47, 1945–1949.


  1. […] Did you join in with Barranquilla´s Carnaval celebration? If so, chances are your liver is still screaming! Barranquilla’s Carnaval is one of the biggest carnivals on the planet and heavy drinking and heavy partying are almost mandatory for four days and nights as well as during the pre-carnaval celebrations. We hosted many visitors for the weekend, and I was a firsthand witness of some of the terrible hangovers experienced throughout Carnaval. If you would like to learn how to prevent future hangovers, click here. […]