TRENTON, N.J. &
OK, we all know the best way to prevent a New Year's Day hangover is to not drink lots of alcohol the night before.
Still, plenty of people will choose to ring in the holiday with bubbly and other booze. They're courting a hangover, but experts say a little planning can help prevent misery the next day or at least ease the symptoms, from headache and nausea to fatigue and the shakes.
Even before the party starts, being smart about what you drink and eat will improve your chances of a hangover-free New Year's Day.
"The major thing is prevention, rather than treating it when you have it," said Dr. Loretta Mueller, director of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey's headache center in Stratford.
At the top of the list: Avoid dehydration and drink on a full stomach, per conventional wisdom. Also, some folklore hangover remedies actually can help some people.
Besides drinking in moderation, Mueller urges avoiding straight alcohol in favor of mixed drinks, which are diluted and help with hydration.
Experts also advise alternating booze with water or other nonalcoholic, caffeine-free drinks, a strategy favored by Rose Matson, a clerk at Martin's Liquors in Mount Laurel who works as a bartender at night. But she said that can be tough to do.
"Once I start drinking, I don't want to drink water," she said.
Drinking tomato juice or eating some honey on crackers, because of the high sugar content, can help the body eliminate alcohol quicker, Mueller said. And fatty foods slow alcohol's absorption into the bloodstream, preventing quick intoxication.
Geri Brewster, a registered dietitian and nutritionist with Northern Westchester Hospital in Mount Kisco, N.Y., also said people should eat before they start drinking, but disagreed on what's best.
She said many foods served at parties are high in the sugar, salt and fats that can exacerbate a hangover. Before heading out, she advised eating a healthy meal &
lean protein and complex carbohydrates such as vegetables, brown rice and whole wheat pasta &
to prevent big fluctuations in your blood sugar level while still slowing absorption of alcohol.
"The faster and the quicker the buzz, the more likely you're going to feel it the next day," Brewster warned.
So, just what causes a hangover?
It's not fully understood because there's been limited research, according to Dr. Robert Swift, associate director of the Brown University Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies.
One theory holds that a hangover is a mild form of the withdrawal alcoholics endure when they stop drinking. During a binge, the brain becomes more excited to counteract alcohol's sedative effect, so later on, the person doesn't sleep well and feels tired, anxious and shaky the next day.
"That's why noise and bright lights bother people who have a hangover. Their brain is overstimulated," Swift said.
Another theory is that a hangover starts after the body breaks down the main type of alcohol in booze, ethyl alcohol. It then starts breaking down the other smaller amounts of alcohol, particularly methanol, which is converted to formaldehyde, the toxin in embalming fluid. That process kicks in about the time the drinker wakes up, causing nausea and headache.
"It could explain why 'the hair of the dog' helps," Swift said. The expression refers to consuming more alcohol as a remedy for a hangover, because the new dose temporarily stops the formaldehyde production and allows time for the body to excrete some more methanol.
Some drinkers believe a Bloody Mary helps the next morning.
Swift sees the alcohol infusion helping, and Brewster noted the celery and tomato juice replenish sodium, potassium and B vitamins depleted by alcohol.
Experts recommend against the once-popular raw egg "cure," because of the danger of salmonella.
They agree hydrating before bed and in the morning &
whether with water, sports drinks or vegetable or fruit juice &
is crucial. A little caffeine and aspirin or anti-inflammatory pills in the morning can cut a headache and should be followed by a light meal.
"Protein and complex carbohydrates, like egg and (whole-wheat) toast, will help bring your blood pressure up and sustain you during the day," Brewster said.
Anti-inflammatory drugs also can help if taken before going to sleep.
"Before I go to bed, I take a couple of Advil so I don't wake up with a headache," said Adrienne Bilotta, 57, of Burlington Township, near Philadelphia. But she joked that strategy only works "if you're awake enough and not passed out."
And if none of that works?
"Just rest," said Swift. "Don't tax yourself &
and (swear) 'Never again!'"
Drink (and eat) wisely to avoid or ease hangover
TRENTON, N.J. &