Hangover Helpers

If you Google “Hangover Helpers,” you’ll get some 267,000 hits, with websites touting everything from bananas, Gatorade and milkshakes, to aspirin and asparagus.

Find out which hangover helpers work versus those that are all hype.

Since it’s the time of year when you may just have one too many, we thought we’d discuss why hangovers happen and what you can really do—short of dialysis—to help prevent a hangover and if you get one, how to ease your symptoms.

Research shows that the vast majority of us will experience a hangover at some point in our lives. And three of four drinkers have at least one hangover every year.

A so-called “hangover headache,” is the most common symptom associated with drinking too much and they are triggered by blood alcohol levels returning back to normal levels.

Other nasty hangover side-effects include impaired memory, reduced ability to perform visual spatial tasks, dry mouth, lightheadedness, nausea, poor sleep quality and inability to concentrate.

A review of all the hangover studies published in the British Medical Journal, had a sobering conclusion: “No compelling evidence exists to suggest that any intervention is effective for preventing or treating alcohol hangover. The most effective way to avoid the symptoms of alcohol induced hangover is to practice abstinence or moderation,” the researchers wrote.

Since it’s almost New Year’s, when eight in 10 of us will be at risk for drinking one too many, here are some of the best options that may alleviate some of your symptoms.

  • Have mixed drinks with fruit or vegetables juices rather than straight alcohol, which has been shown to help reduce the negative effects of alcohol. An added bonus: A recent study found that when strawberries were mixed with alcohol, the antioxidant capacity of the berries skyrocketed. women drinking
  • Avoid red wine (especially cheap ones) and dark liquors (whiskey, bourbon, brandy) are rich in chemicals called congeners (CON-juh-nurz), which trigger hangovers in many. White wines, gin and vodka may be better tolerated.
  • Enjoy some eggs with asparagus. The protein in eggs will help temper blood sugar levels and asparagus has been shown to help speed up the metabolism and breakdown of ethanol in the body.
  • Extracts of prickly pear may lessen symptoms in some individuals, so they may be worth trying if you know you’re going to overdo it.
  • Try honey. Honey contains fructose, which may help metabolize alcohol, and its B-vitamins may be helpful.
  • Drinking a lot of water or fluids that have minerals and electrolytes like Gatorade and 100% fruit juices and soups will also help to alleviate the dehydration associated with alcohol.
  • Try a cup of coffee, tea or other caffeine-containing beverage. Caffeine may help alleviate headache.
  • Take and aspirin and sleep it off.

Of course, the only way to really ensure that you’ll feel good the day after is to abstain!

–Julie Upton, MS, RD co-founder of Appetite for Health

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