Hydration is key to preventing that New Year’s Day hangover
December 28, 2009
STUTTGART, Germany — For many, 2010 will begin with an Internet search for a hangover cure.
Of course, the searches will result in countless remedies promising to save the sufferer.
But before you suck down a mixture of hot sauce and raw egg, heed this warning: The only real cure is time.
“Our findings show that no compelling evidence exists to suggest that any complementary or conventional intervention is effective for treating or preventing the alcohol hangover,” wrote a team of researchers with the British Medical Journal in a 2005 study, titled “Interventions for preventing or treating alcohol hangover: systematic review of randomized controlled trials.”
“The most effective way to avoid the symptoms of alcohol induced hangover is thus to practice abstinence or moderation,” the study says.
But experts don’t dismiss the possibility of preventing a hangover, or alleviating its symptoms.
So, if you plan to drink, the first thing to know is what alcohol does to cause a hangover.
Ethanol, the type of alcohol in beverages, is a known diuretic. It causes people to make more trips to the restroom, resulting in dehydration.
This is why coffee or other caffeinated drinks are bad ideas for hangover remedies, said Dr. Loretta Mueller, director of the University Headache Center at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, in a news release. They may help with the lethargic feeling or temporarily reduce headaches, but caffeine is also a diuretic and will only further dehydrate the body.
Water and sports drinks are good sources of rehydration, and you may be able to prevent a hangover headache by drinking extra water before going to bed, Mueller said.
Experts say drinking a glass of water between alcoholic beverages may prevent dehydration while also policing your consumption.
Alcohol also affects the liver’s ability to produce glucose, the sugar used by every cell in the human body for energy, wrote neurologists Dr. Christine Lay and Dr. Christina Sun, in “Headache,” the journal of the American Headache Society.
Fruit juices simultaneously help the body replace the glucose it has lost due to alcohol use and help prevent dehydration.
The journal also suggested eating greasy foods before a night of drinking. The grease will coat the stomach and slow absorption of alcohol. The body also turns the carbohydrates contained in most greasy foods into sugar, which the alcohol causes the body to lose.
None of these suggestions will have any effect once a hangover kicks in. For this, all you can do is minimize the suffering and wait it out.
Experts suggest taking an over-the-counter painkiller containing acetaminophen or ibuprofen the morning after the big night. Contrary to popular myths, taking these drugs before going to bed will not do anything to prevent a hangover. These remedies are only effective for about four hours and their effects will have worn off long before you wake up.
To sum it up: Abstinence is the only guaranteed way to prevent a hangover.
But if you lose count during the night, try to remember to drink plenty of nonalcoholic fluids … and have painkillers ready for the morning.