By now your New Year’s Eve party destination has been chosen, the evening’s attire selected, and perhaps a few seemingly clever resolutions have been formed (just in case you are asked – and you will be). If you are reading this online magazine it is fair to assume that tipping a few glasses of adult beverages is also part of the plan. As the streamers fall, the horns blow, and the party’s most peculiar character captures you in mortal lip-lock, you will become keenly aware that you have exceeded your safe drink limit.
Don’t despair. When you find yourself in this spot be sure to follow these simple rules: be aware that there is no prize given for the last to leave, don’t get the behind the wheel of a car (or in a car piloted by another reveler), and be sure to take actions before your head hits the pillow that will best ensure that the year’s first day won’t be filled with moans, excessive lavatory visits, and abbreviated movements associated with a hearty hangover.
In the spirit of this holiday by-product, the hangover, I have assembled a simple survival guide. First of all, I must state loudly that I am not a doctor, nor do I play one on TV. On the other hand, I do drink for a living and have had the fortune/misfortune of being influenced by virtually every type of alcohol imaginable and have done my share of self-imposed suffering. This is by no means a guaranteed cure-all but these simple strategies will help you get the most out of 1, January or any other day that follows a night of unbridled merriment.
Before we start I encourage you to get to know your hangover. A hangover has three important elements – all of which are aggravated by excessive alcohol intake. Ethanol in the drinks you consume causes dehydration. Dehydration causes the restriction of blood cells particularly in what is left of your brain causing that lovely and all too familiar throbbing and pain. Alcohol is also a mild toxin and it’s your liver’s job to breakdown the alcohol in order to protect your other organs and your blood. This is a serious task and puts the liver on overtime, which means that it can’t do its normal, primary functions. One of the liver’s daily tasks is to provide glucose to the brain via your blood. Glucose is what gives you pep and energy. This is why whilst hungover you find yourself slumped in a pile too tired to reach for the remote. The third factor is your digestive system that may or may not be rumbling and churning the morning after. This is the biggest wildcard of the three as many suffer horribly from this while others are typically fine unless they have eaten something wholly regrettable prior to their collapse. (Did I mention that alcohol could impair your decision making?)
Now that we have briefly given a play-by-play of what your body is going through, how do we help prevent it or at least lessen its effects? After all, the best way to survive a hangover is to avoid getting a hangover. We could forgo drinking… Okay, that’s not going to happen so let’s be smarter drinkers instead. First and foremost combat dehydration by drinking plenty of water before, during and after the party. If you keep a regimen of one glass of water with each drink, you are an all-star and will likely be the sharpest person on your block tomorrow. This is a very simple answer and requires no special equipment or medicine and is by far the best thing that you can do for yourself.
Feed The Hangover
EAT! We all know that booze on an empty stomach is a recipe for disaster so eat something before drinking and if your are out for a long session eat a little something each 90 minutes or so. Eating before and while drinking also has the great side benefit of leaving you satiated at the end of the evening helping to ward off the siren call of the super burrito or the chili-soaked omelet that has accompanied you on so many drink sessions. For many, the hangover is worsened by horrible food choices late at night.
In the better living through pharmaceuticals department I would suggest taking some pain reliever before dragging off to bed (You do remember that part about me not being doctor, right?) Stay with ibuprofen or aspirin and avoid acetaminophen, as your liver does not like this medicine with alcohol. I typically take 600 mg of ibuprofen along with a big glass of cold water followed by another big glass of cold water. You can go further by taking advantage of one of the many effervescent vitamin mixes sold at the counter of your local drug and convenience store. This can help replenish vitamins and minerals that have been depleted. If you suffer from a sour belly after drinking take your favorite OTC antacid at this time. Now get a good night’s sleep.
The morning after can be tricky. Start slowly and determine how you feel. If you are a little groggy repeat the routine that you performed before bedtime. Avoid coffee or soft drinks as they contain a lot of acids that can be very upsetting to the digestive system. Stick with water and or tea until you get your legs back. At this time a sports drink such as Gatorade is a good idea as you have lost a lot of electrolytes through the night and replenishing them will help to get you on the mend. It’s important to be courteous to your organs, as you have just given them a workout.
Wash That Hangover Away
Vitally, unless you are unable to stand, get in the shower! Your pores are filled with toxins that your body has been trying to expel while you were snoring at supersonic levels. If you had the misfortune of being in a smoky room last night you picked up a bunch of other toxins that are clinging to your hair, skin and in your sinus cavities as well, so get in the shower. (Besides, you are probably a bit ripe.) I know that may seem like the last thing that you want to do but remember that is because you have over-taxed your liver and it can’t feed enough pep to your brain. Taking a shower will help your body detoxify and this will make your liver happy.
Now that you are clean and semi-mobile, the question of food will inevitably arise. Depending on the condition of your gut you may or may not be hungry. If you are hungry you are probably craving something hot and greasy. Resist this urge with all of your might. Remember that you have just asked a lot of your innards so give them a break for just a little bit. I know that a big pile of bacon and eggs or a big, fat cheeseburger sounds great but do yourself a favor and have a bowl of oatmeal first. This will help further absorb the toxins and lay a strong foundation for the new day. If you have followed the above suggestions diligently you should be feeling better (or at least you can take comfort in the fact that you are better off than if you did nothing at all).
It is important to remember that you will get better; so stop crying! Take comfort in the immortal words of Frank Sinatra, “I feel sorry for people who don’t drink. When they wake up in the morning, that’s as good as they’re going to feel all day.”
Of course there is no better medicine than keeping your head. Don’t be ridiculous while you are drinking. Avoid shooters and shots that simply send far too much alcohol into your likely already alcohol saturated system. We all have a friend that believes it’s a great idea to get everyone shots all night. Lose this guy or simply trick him into believing that you are drinking the shots. If this doesn’t work tie him in duct-tape, pin a note containing his address to his jacket, and slip him into a cab. Harsh? Maybe, but you have an evening to enjoy and a day after to tackle.