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Another New Year Past, Same Old Hangover?

By January 6, 2016Huffington Post

With New Year’s Eve behind us, and most hangovers forgotten, resolutions to not drink so much are fading away by now. Bowl games, family gatherings, and cold winters may create opportunities for excessive alcoholic intake. It is obvious that the best way to avoid a hangover is to limit or avoid alcohol intake. For many this simply will not happen. For those, there are medical strategies to minimize the effects of alcohol. A short primer on this malady may be of use to avoid the full consequences of an evening of suspect judgement.

What Causes a Hangover?

1. Dehydration

The diuretic effect of alcohol may lead to headaches.

2. Acetaldehyde buildup

The liver breaks down alcohol into acetaldeyde, which is many fold more toxic. Antioxidants and liver enzyme pathways try to break this down to harmless products. There is genetic variation in this pathway and about 25 percent of people are resistant to hangovers.

3. Congeners

These ingredients found in liquors, such as tannins, aggravate hangovers and are found mainly in darker liquors like whiskey and brandy. Vodka is nearly free of them.

4. Immune system activation

Multiple immune products are released by alcohol, which may cause achiness.

Strategies To Prepare for the New Year

1. Vitamins

Vitamins vitamin C, thiamine (vitamin B1), vitamin E and selenium are often depleted by alcohol consumption and raising levels of these factors before the celebration may be helpful.

2. Garlic

A chemical that neutralizes acetaldehyde, s-allyl-cysteine, is found in garlic.

3. N-acetylcysteine (NAC)

This amino acid helps to increase the master antioxidant glutathione, which is involved in alcohol metabolism.

4. Magnesium

Magnesium-rich foods and supplements may help avoid headaches.

5. Milk Thistle

Milk thistle contains sylmarin which is used for liver health and to aid excretion of toxins. Sylmarin is a powerful antioxidant.

6. Hydration

A good rule is to drink as much water as the amount of alcohol you plan to drink.

7. Eat figs

In a peer-reviewed scientific study, eating barbary figs ahead of alcohol ingestion reduced some of the symptoms of alcohol excess.

Strategies To Deal With a Hangover

Here are some things to try the morning after.

1. Ginger

Soak a piece of ginger in hot water and drink it to help nausea and dizziness.

2. Red ginseng

In a study published last year, subjects who drank alcohol along with red ginseng had lower blood levels and fewer symptoms of alcohol toxicity.

3. Prickly pear extract

Long felt to help with inflammation, studies in volunteers showed fewer symptoms and lower inflammatory markers.

4. IV therapy

Although there are no scientific studies, clinics offering IV infusions of saline with vitamin supplements report a resolution of symptoms.

5. If you can move, sweat out your alcohol in a sauna.

The challenge of managing alcohol intake is not new. Two thousand years ago Pliny the Elder recommended fried canary and raw owl eggs for hangovers. An understanding of alcohol’s metabolism has led to some progress since Pliny’s day but no doubt many will continue to cross the line. Frank Sinatra was quoted as saying, “Alcohol may be man’s worst enemy, but the Bible says love your enemy.” At a minimum, prepare for battle.

Originally posted on HuffingtonPost.com