The Hangover: Holiday Cures

By Jennifer Hanes D.O.

It is the holiday season when an eggnog here and a glass of wine there can add up to a big headache the following day.  The last thing anyone needs during this busy time of year is to be slowed down by the hangover effects of alcohol.  Here are some ways to help prevent and then treat, that fuzzy headed, dry mouthed, queasy tummy morning after.

You should begin your preparation today.  Yes, today.  Many of the side effects from alcohol are due to dehydration.  Any beverage with alcohol, from liquor to beer, has a diuretic effect.  Many physicians advise drinking eight ounces of water in between your alcoholic beverages.  This is definitely good advice, but you can start your preparation earlier.  The winter months bring a chronic state of dehydration to most thanks to the dry air and forced heat that dries the air even more.  So today, right now, begin drinking more water.  If you are feeling thirsty, you are already behind on your water intake.  Increasing your amount of daily water will help correct this chronic dehydration and mitigate some of a hangover’s effects.  Many holiday celebrations are impromptu, thus being well hydrated at all times gives you an advantage.  Additionally, it will diminish your appetite to help ward off some of those unwanted holiday cookie pounds.

Also consider adding a daily multivitamin, especially a formulation with emphasis on the B vitamins.  There is some data that indicates B vitamins help to process some of the byproducts of alcohol, tending to make the hangover shorter in duration.  Either way, maximizing your levels of vitamins and minerals can only improve your overall health and energy.

If you do decide to drink alcohol, of course, limit your intake.  For those who are sensitive to the effects the next day, follow the above regimen of alternating water with an alcoholic beverage.  Another good choice is a club soda with a squeeze of lime, it counts as a water and nobody knows you are abstaining from alcohol.  The clear liquors, like vodka and tequila, have been shown to produce less hangover effects than their darker counterparts like bourbon and rum.  The same also applies to white wine instead of red.  Eating before drinking alcohol, and continuing to snack while drinking will also help alleviate some of your hangover symptoms.

When you arrive home, drink two glasses of water before going to bed.  This serves two purposes.  Most importantly, it helps prevent further dehydration.  Secondly, if you need to wake up early, a full badder is more successful than alarm clocks at coaxing you out of your warm, cozy bed.  If you’re stomach is not overly sensitive, taking two aspirin before bed can often stave off a headache the following morning (read the label and use as directed.)

The following morning, start with a little juice and some strong coffee to help stimulate your senses.  There is literature to suggest both toast with honey, as well as cooked eggs, may be of benefit.  However, these are not complete cures, so if the thought of eggs or honey makes you queasy, they are best to avoid.

Continue drinking lots of fluids throughout the day, alternating water with juice.  Making a hot cup of noodle soup will give you a quick dose of sodium, helping to retain more of those fluids you are partaking.  If you still feel poorly, continue the increased fluids and make sure to get lots of rest over the following night.  Take your picture to remind yourself how lousy it feels to over indulge on alcoholic beverages, and maybe this will be the last time you cause yourself to feel this way.

While these tips will help alleviate the symptoms of a hangover, they do not alter the amount of alcohol you process.  Thus, it is always better to practice moderation than to pay the consequences the next day.  And always, secure a safe ride home.

Of course the very best way to prevent a hangover is to avoid drinking alcohol altogether.  Even though alcohol makes many people feel sleepy, the sleep is actually less restorative and thus they wake up less refreshed. So with all of the shopping, and wrapping, and baking, and traveling, consider how much time a hangover steals from your life.  Time that can never be found.  So while I can give you medical advice to lessen the symptoms, the wise woman will practice prevention.  Stick to club soda, the calorie-free, alcohol-free, alternative.  Only Santa’s elves will know.

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A board certified emergency physician, Jennifer Hanes, D.O., discovered that patients have greater success when they understand their bodies.  With that unique philosophy, she founded Empowered Medicine, PLLC, where knowledge is powerful medicine.  She empowers patients with her articles, motivational speeches and private consultations.  You can learn more at www.DrHanes.com