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Libations are part of the holiday season. With New Year's Eve right around the corner, what do you do if you imbibe too much? Can you avoid the dreaded next day hangover? Science says yes.
What Is a Hangover?
"Heavy drinking rocks the central nervous system," according to MedicineNet's Carol DerSarkissian, MD. Alcohol alters levels of brain chemicals, which leads to headache, nausea, dizziness, and frequent urination. The net result is that you wake up the next morning with a hangover – that uncomfortable feeling that includes fatigue, pounding headache, queasy stomach, and cotton mouth.
How Do You Counteract the Effects?
Once you've knocked back a few too many, Dr. DerSarkissian said there are things you can do to treat a hangover.
- Alcohol lowers blood sugar, so have some fruit, juice, or sugary-drink to get your blood sugar up and make a hangover less intense.
- Take some painkillers the next morning to relieve headache pain, but not acetaminophen (Tylenol). Alcohol and Tylenol together may be toxic to your liver.
- Steer clear of caffeine. It can dehydrate you more and narrow blood vessels, making your hangover worse.
- Sip water or a sports drink to replace lost fluids and electrolytes, especially if you throw up.
- Skip the morning mimosa or hair of the dog. Hangovers happen when blood alcohol levels drop to zero, so drinking more in the AM will only prolong a hangover.
- Regarding the dreaded hangover headache, the only true proven cure is time.
How Do You Avoid a Hangover in the First Place?
The most surefire way to avoid a hangover is to avoid drinking in the first place. Heavy drinkers can suffer from hangovers, but so can those who have just a couple of drinks, according to Dr. DerSarkissian.
If you're going to drink, beer and clear liquors like vodka and gin may be less likely to trigger hangover symptoms than other kinds of alcohol, Dr. DerSarkissian said. Tannins in red wine can be a headache trigger for some. Malt liquors, like whiskey, are associated with more severe hangovers, according to Dr. DerSarkissian.
Remember, gender matters. Alcohol hits women harder than men, because the male body contain more water, which dilutes the alcohol. Drink-for-drink, more alcohol builds up in a woman's bloodstream faster than a man's.
What about hangover pills containing things like yeast and artichoke extract? Dr. DerSarkissian said there's no compelling evidence that they work. If you suffer from nausea and dry mouth though, British researchers discovered that a supplement containing prickly pear cactus may reduce these symptoms.
Dr. DerSarkissian reminds us that alcohol-poisoning is a potentially life-threatening emergency. If you or someone you know passes out or suffers from severe vomiting, confusion, seizures, low body temperature, bluish skin, or slow, irregular breathing, call 9-1-1.