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Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Got a Hangover?

There are a lot of myths and truths out there about what works to "cure" a hangover.  Some of them are pretty bizarre, some are unappealing, and some are just ridiculous!  There are things, though, that can help relieve that morning after feeling... you know the one like you've been drinking gasoline and could spit dust.  

There are obvious things to do while you are drinking to help prevent a hanger or ease symptoms of overindulgence.  These include to drink water or other nonalcoholic fluids while you are drinking alcohol.  Some experts recommend drinking one glass of water per beer or mixed drink.  Another way is to make sure that you eat before or during the time that you are consuming alcohol.  Food helps slow the absorption of alcohol and can make you feel full, thus taming the effects of alcohol. 

Emergency rooms give people who come in with alcohol intoxication a combination of IV hydration and hang what is known as a "banana bag."  One of the reasons they do this is because alcohol is known to have some diuretic effects and can leave you dehydrated (usually the cause of a raging headache and cottony mouth). It can also deplete electrolytes, vitamins, and minerals that your body needs to function.  If you don't want to end up in the ER, there are things you can do at home to make your hangover much easier to bear. 

One thing, if anyone you know or you are vomiting severely, have passed out, or are having a hard time staying awake, get to the ER because you may be close to having alcohol poisoning.  Symptoms of alcohol poisoning are listed HERE.   

Things that can help ease a hangover: 
1.  Hydration.  Water, juice, Gatorade, or other sports drinks, especially those containing electrolytes can go a long way in relieving the symptoms of a hangover.  
2.  Vitamins.  This is what is in a "banana bag" that gives it the yellow color.  You can duplicate this by taking B-complex, magnesium, and a multivitamin. 
3.  Tylenol (acetaminophen), Aleve, ibuprofen, or aspirin.  Tylenol is the least likely pain reliever to cause an upset tummy and can help relieve a hangover headache. If you think your stomach can tolerate it, try Aleve, ibuprofen, or aspirin with food to help buffer against stomach upset. **Limit Tylenol consumption to just enough to relieve a headache, as too much Tylenol or acetaminophen can damage the liver, especially when coupled with alcohol, so go easy.
4.  A light meal or even a BRAT diet, if you're queasy.  BRAT = bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast.  If you've had a night of drinking, you may be a bit behind on your nutrition.  A light, nongreasy meal, with some whole grains for carbohydrates can go a long way in making you feel better. 
5.  Rest and time.  The body has an amazing ability to heal itself, and oftentimes the best cure for a hangover is rest and time.  Once your body finishes metabolizing the alcohol in your system, it can tackle the task of getting itself back to working order.

Here is a list of things that DON'T WORK: 
1.  "Hair of the dog" (i.e., another alcoholic drink).  No, no ,and no.  The last thing your body needs on top of alcohol is more alcohol.  It just does not work and can make things worse and extend your recovery time. 
2.  Bacon/eggs/greasy food.  Again, no.  All you'll do is get heartburn, increase your cholesterol, and possibly have fuel for a good session of throwing up.  
3.  Alka Seltzer.  This is a maybe.  It does contain sodium bicarbonate (baking soda), which can make your stomach settle.  However, it also contains aspirin and citric acid, which can irritate an already sensitive tummy. 
4.  Hangover pills.  Maybe, but probably no. Some contain prickly pear extract or milk thistle or aloe.  While aloe can be soothing to a queasy stomach, there's no proof that the other ingredients do what they claim. 
5.  Caffeine in tea or coffee.   Caffeine is a diuretic, which can worsen dehydration.  It also causes blood vessels to narrow, and if you have a headache, this can compound matters.  Caffeine is great for migraines, but not so great for hangover headaches.
6.  Sex.  Seriously?  No. It didn't work in college, and it won't work now.  And let's be honest... it might cause more problems than it solves. While it might be fun, it won't cure a hangover.  

In all, the best way to handle a hangover is with TLC.  Be kind to your body, give yourself time to recover, eat well, drink lots of fluids, and rest.  You'll be feeling better in no time! 

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