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With New Year’s Eve behind us and most hangovers forgotten, resolutions to not drink so much are fading away now. Bowl games, family gatherings, and cold winters may create opportunities for excessive alcohol intake. The best way to avoid a hangover is to limit or avoid alcohol intake. For many, this will not happen. For those, there are medical strategies to minimize the effects of alcohol. A little lesson on this disorder may be helpful to prevent the full ramifications of a night of doubtful judgment.

What Causes a Hangover?

1. Dehydration

The diuretic effect of alcohol may lead to headaches.

2. Acetaldehyde Buildup

The liver breaks down alcohol into acetaldehyde, which is much more toxic. Antioxidants and liver enzyme pathways try to break this down into 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 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

Since drinking alcohol can deplete vitamins C, thiamine (vitamin B1), E, and selenium, boosting their levels in the days leading up to the celebration may be beneficial.

2. Garlic

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

3. N-acetylcysteine (NAC)

This amino acid helps 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 silymarin, which is used for liver health and to aid the excretion of toxins. Silymarin 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 with nausea and dizziness.

2. Red Ginseng

In a study published last year, subjects who drank alcohol and 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. Pliny the Elder recommended fried canary and raw owl eggs for hangovers two thousand years ago. An understanding of alcohol’s metabolism has led to some progress since Pliny’s day, but many will undoubtedly continue to cross the line. Frank Sinatra said, “Alcohol may be man’s worst enemy, but the Bible says love your enemy.” At a minimum, prepare for battle.

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