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Happy New Year or Not - Preventing Hangovers

Posted by Jane Akre
Monday, December 31, 2007 1:23 PM EST
Category: On The Road, Major Medical, Protecting Your Family, In The Workplace
Tags: Auto Accidents, Motor Vehicle Accidents

How to avoid a hangover headache this New Years Eve


Whether your 2007 was a good year or a bad one - many don’t need much of an excuse to throw back a few glasses of bubbly, Scotch, wine, or whatever your preference to wave goodbye to the old and ring in the new.

Nothing like starting 2008 with a headache from a hangover which can last a few hours up to a few days.

Time to think about prevention strategies.

Dr. Jerry Goldstein, is a University of California, San Francisco neurologist directs the San Francisco Headache Clinic.  He tells the San Jose Mercury News that when you drink, sugars kick-in releasing a heightened sense of camaraderie and lowering inhibitions. Then comes the loss of judgment, impaired comprehension, perception and emotions.  

All of this in the hour or two it takes your body to metabolize one drink.  It takes a little less time for wine and a little longer for hard liquor.

According to Goldstein alcohol is converted to acetaldehyde, a chemical 30 times more toxic than alcohol. As the body breaks down acetaldehyde and tries to eliminate it from the body, the body warms up, explaining the warm feeling that comes from drinking. 

Now comes the fun part. 

When you drink to excess and acetaldehyde accumulates you begin to feel nauseous as the chemical irritates the stomach and small intestine. Small acids result and you might feel like vomiting. You might begin to sweat and have a rapid pulse as your body tries to rid itself of the booze. Blood sugars are depleted and you become irritable and your thinking blurry.  

Alcohol is a diuretic so electrolytes such as sodium, potassium and calcium are depleted as well as water. B-vitamins that might help in the fight against depression are also depleted. Dr Goldstein says four drinks, eight ounces each, can cause up to 32 ounces of water to be eliminated.

Now for the prevention strategies.

Obviously limit what your drink.  Alternate drinking alcohol with a glass of water, juice or seltzer water with fruit juice, will replenish your sugar levels and help your body get rid of the alcohol and its resulting components.

Before you go out, eat a high-fat, filling meal. Fat slows the absorption of alcohol into the blood stream as does food. Also complex carbohydrates such as sweet potatoes, brown rice and vegetables that slowly release into the blood stream will slow the absorption of alcohol.

Never mix the grape and the grain is a long-standing tradition with European roots.

Mr. Food, a long-time television character, talks to folks who tell him in this video what works for them to fight a hangover.  One says she has some fresh fruit.  Another says he has honey in tea. Mr. Food recommends peppermint tea and suggests the tomato juice might ease symptoms of a hangover. He recommends against coffee as it can dehydrate you.

A sports drink can restore electrolytes as will a cup of bouillon, fruit juice, honey. Drink plenty of water.  Some swear on supplements including NAC (N-acetyl-cysteine) that helps eliminate acetaldehyde. Bio Synergy Health Alternatives sells a formulation it swears also cuts down on the crave to binge drink. This study finds vitamin B-6 prevents a hangover.

Do not take Tylenol (acetaminophen) as your liver is already working overtime trying to get rid of the alcohol.  Aspirin is a better choice.  Some people choose “hair of the dog” in the morning- more alcohol with tomato juice and celery. While you are replenishing electrolytes you are also defeating the point of clearing your body of alcohol.

Like the monkeys seen in this video shot in the Caribbean island of St. Kitts, we seem to have a different tolerance for alcohol which may be genetic.  These monkeys are seen stealing drinks from tourists. About 12 percent drink regularly and five percent to excess- just like humans, although we are not as cute or harmless as these island monkeys.

Visitors to the Dr. Mercola website also discuss the positives of alcohol consumption in moderation such as organic, raw, unfiltered beer that contains B vitamins, folic acid and silica, useful for bones.

Resveratrol found in the skin of red grapes and in red wine is a plant compound with antibacterial properties.   

Drunk driving includes being “buzzed” and is defined as a blood alcohol level above 0.08. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) says that fatalities on the nation’s roads rise from an average of 36 per day to 54 a day during the New Year’s holiday. And 41 percent of those involve alcohol. 

Extra patrols will be out on the roads looking for people just like you. 





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