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Ask Dr. J: Damage Control – The Ultimate Hangover Cure

Being a doctor this time of year, in a town that the Princeton Review ranks as the #4 Party School of 2012 (up from #9 in 2011—GO HAWKS!), is a lot like having a pickup truck—everyone is calling to borrow a hangover cure.

So for those of you that find yourself desperately needing deliverance after being inundated with imbibitions, here is the ultimate hangover guide:

First of all, as cliché as it is, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Before you lift that first libation to your lips, fill up on fiber. Fibrous foods will effectively slow the alcohol absorption, allowing you to have a few more meads before any maladies manifest.

Take a multivitamin, as alcohol requires many essential nutrients for it to be detoxified from the body—especially B-Vitamins, Vitamin A and Glutathione. More good nutrients means less toxic build-up and less ensuing hangover.

Keep yourself hydrated, as dehydration from alcohol consumption is related to many ill-effects. The solution: Start your night with a huge glass of water and match your alcohol and water consumption glass-for-glass—you’ll thank me in the morning.

Avoid carbonated beverages (yes, including beer). Carbonation speeds up alcohol absorption (and overall toxic load), which will leave you praying to the porcelain god and paying the piper the next morning. Hence the old adage, “Beer before liquor, never sicker…”

Limit your consumption to clear liquors like rum, vodka, or gin. Dark liquors—red wine, bourbon, brandy, whiskey, tequila—have a higher amount of toxic chemicals called congeners, which are responsible for many of the symptoms experienced during a hangover, especially those horrible headaches.

Before bed, drink another large water and take another multivitamin. But whatever you do, DO NOT take acetaminophen (Tylenol). Both alcohol and acetaminophen rely on the same liver enzymes for detoxification. When the body can’t rid itself of these toxins, the result can be liver or kidney damage and in some cases death (Hepatology, 22: 767–773).

If despite your best efforts you are still suffering when you wake, drink tomato juice and black breakfast tea (full of headache-curing caffeine and B-Vitamins). In the worst-case scenarios, take some good old-fashioned aspirin—it is metabolized by different enzymes and usually safer than most medications, as well as quick to act.

Until next time, may your binges be hangover-free and, as always, be well!

When Dr. Jason Bradley isn’t practicing Integrative Nutritional and Metabolic Medicine at Washington Street Wellness Center in Iowa City, he is often working on hangover cures at his Home Laboratory of Experiential Experimentation. Any and all health questions can be emailed to drjbradley@gmail.com.

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