From caffeine to greasy food to mid-morning Mimosas, people have tried every trick in the book to dull the dreaded hangover. For centuries, the Japanese have eaten clams to aid the suffering after one too many. But unlike our suggestions of black coffee and Bloody Mary’s, clams actually do provide some symptom relief. Why? Because clams are jam-packed with ornithine, the amino acid that doubles as a hangover remedy.
“L-ornithine’s therapeutic value lies in its involvement in the urea cycle and its ability to enhance liver function, protect the liver, and detoxify harmful substances,” says Elizabeth DeRobertis, MS, RD, CDN, CDE, who practices in Harrison. If your body is unable to produce enough L-ornithine, blood nitrogen levels will rise and potentially toxic metabolic waste can build up.
“High blood nitrogen levels cause many of the same symptoms as a hangover, like fatigue, difficulty sleeping, upset gastrointestinal tract, and mood changes,” explains Leslie Anders, MS, RD, CDN, of Hartsdale.
“In terms of hangovers, L-ornithine will help people sleep later, feel less fatigued, and less restless,” says Anders. “People tend to think of alcohol as a depressant, but it can actually harm sleep cycles, causing people to sleep less and wake up earlier.” A hangover will be much more tolerable at 10 am than 7 am, once the throbbing heart beat in your head has begun to fizzle out.
People can raise their L-ornithine levels by with for certain foods, like clms, tuna, and dairy products. But even foods rich in the amino acid contain less than 50 mg per serving, a fraction of the dose most supplements offer. The Vitamin Shoppe and GNC sell L-ornithine capsules ranging from 250 mg to 2500 mg. Studies have tested 400 mg to 800 mg for hangover relief, with positive results. Plus, supplements go down far easier than shellfish after a long night out.
So next time you stumble home, pop an ornithine capsule before passing out fully clothed from the night before. You may not feel like running a marathon the next morning, but you’ll be cursing that last gin and tonic less and less.