New Year, New Headache? Hangover Cures and Myths
After the Times Square ball drops on New Year's Eve and copious amounts of Champagne get toasted and drunk, many might find themselves forgetting more "auld acquaintances" than they intended and waking up to 2013 with a vicious hangover.
A hangover is essentially a build-up of acetaldehyde, a toxin in the liver. When one overdoes it on the booze, the liver can't produce enough glutathione, a compound that contains the amino acid L-cysteine, to combat it. Cysteine breaks down acetaldehyde into water and carbon dioxide, which is then flushed out of the body as urine.
While nothing has been shown scientifically to "cure" a hangover, Dr. Richard Besser, ABC News' chief medical editor, offered these tips to help nurse the pain:
• Drink plenty of water. Alcohol is quite dehydrating.
• If you have a headache, take aspirin or ibuprofen the next morning, not acetaminophen (Tylenol). Acetaminophen is processed by your liver that has just taken a hit from your overdrinking.
• Go to bed. Most hangovers are over after eight to 24 hours but before you do …
• Pull out your smartphone and record a video message to yourself. Tell yourself how lousy you feel and repeat this phrase: "I won't overdrink again, I won't overdrink again, I won't overdrink again."
Other suggestions from our past contributors include how to avoid a hangover while still slugging back the brewskies, and what to do if the hangover arrives anyway:
While You're Boozing:
1. Sip Slowly
If you drink your alcohol slowly instead of guzzling it down, doctors say it helps give the stomach a fighting chance to absorb the toxins so your body isn't assaulted with booze.
2. Eat Fatty Foods
Food products with a lot of fat in them, such as chips, can help slow down the absorption of alcohol.
3. Avoid Carbonated Drinks
Doctors say carbonation can increase the absorption of alcohol, so put down the rum and Coke.
The Morning After - Happy Hangover:
1. Sleep, Sleep, Sleep
Time will heal all wounds.
2. Flush Your System
When you are dehydrated, your body is depleted of potassium and sodium, which is why you have that achy "hit by a dump truck" feeling the next morning.
Doctors say try to replenish your body with lots of fluids. Drink water or drinks that are heavy in electrolytes, such as sports drinks or coconut water.
3. Be Leery of Caffeine
Caffeine, like alcohol, is a diuretic, which can further dehydrate your body after drinking, making the headache much worse, so doctors recommend extra water if you're going to reach for a cup of coffee, tea or an energy drink.
But people who regularly drink minimal amounts of caffeine might find it helps soothe their headache. While the causes of a hangover aren't completely understood, a leading theory for the pounding headache is that alcohol dilates blood vessels in the brain and caffeine constricts the blood vessels, which might bring relief to some people.
4. Avoid the 'Hair of the Dog'
While that Bloody Mary or extra pint of beer with breakfast the next morning sounds like a rallying move, doctors say more alcohol means more dehydration, meaning more hangover hurting. Even if you don't feel the pain now, you will later.
5. Have a Snack
According to the Mayo Clinic, bland foods, such as toast and crackers, can help boost blood sugar and settle your stomach. Eating chicken noodle or bouillon soups, which are loaded with sodium and potassium, can help make you feel better.
Foods and drinks that contain fructose, such as honey, apples, berries or fruit juice, as well as vitamin C and B can also help burn off alcohol.
Final Thoughts: Not to be a buzz kill, but the bottom line is that the best way to to avoid a hangover is to stay away from the booze. Entirely.