Strategies for a Hangover-Free New Year's

Are you wondering if you can make it through this New Year's morning without suffering from the dreaded party hangover? Whether you have a couple of glasses of wine or go for a hard boozing night of holiday revelry, a hangover can get you.

According to experts, signs and symptoms of a hangover typically begin several hours after your last drink. About 75 percent of people who drink until intoxication will have a hangover the next day, says staff at the Mayo Clinic. Depending on what you drank and how much you drank, the signs and symptoms can vary but usually include the following: headaches, thirst, fatigue, nausea, stomach pain or vomiting, dizziness, shakiness, sensitivity to light and sound, bloodshot eyes, rapid heartbeat, difficulty concentrating, and mood disturbances such as irritation, anxiety and depression.

Causes of Holiday Hangover Symptoms

Headaches. The substance in alcohol that gets you drunk is called ethanol. If consumed in excess, it can dehydrate your body. It is this dehydration that causes that raging hangover headache. Additionally, alcohol produces a dilation of the blood vessels that surround the brain, which also contributes to the hangover headache.

Dehydration. Drinking alcohol stimulates your body to release more urine. In turn, urinating more can cause dehydration. Add to this the dehydration that comes from sweating, vomiting, and diarrhea that sometimes accompany indulgent holiday drinking.

Dizziness/Lightheadedness/Shakiness. This is a result of dehydration in addition to a drop in blood sugar level. Consuming alcohol can cause your blood sugar level to fall.

Fatigue. The day after a night of holiday drinking, most of us feel pretty wiped out. That's because alcohol disrupts sleep. Although alcohol might make you feel sleepy, after a night of alcohol consumption, you don't spend as much time in 'slow wave' (REM) sleep--resulting in a reduction of your sleep quality.

Nausea, Vomiting and Stomach Problems. The ethanol in alcohol can irritate your stomach lining, increase the release of stomach acid, and delay stomach emptying. Any of these factors can cause abdominal pain, nausea or vomiting. Taking painkillers, such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen on an empty stomach can actually exacerbate stomach issues.

Strategies to Prevent a Hangover this Holiday Season

Eat before you drink. Alcohol is absorbed more slowly when you have food in your stomach. If want to avoid a hangover, eat a full meal before you hit the holiday party. If eating a full meal is not an option, make a meal out of the holiday hors d'oeuvres.

Choose your beverages wisely. Some studies show that alcoholic beverages that are mainly just alcohol and water, like vodka and gin, produce less severe hangovers, while other beverages that contain congeners (which give many alcoholic beverages their flavor) such as brandy, whisky and red wine tend to produce more severe hangovers. As for beer, it has a relatively low congener level--although the heavier the beer, the more congener it contains.

Pace yourself. Some experts suggest having a nonalcoholic drink (preferably water, but fruit juice is okay) between each alcoholic beverage to help maintain a low blood-alcohol level. Drinking water (or juice) will also help limit the number of alcoholic beverages you consume and keep you hydrated.

Drink Water. After the party and before you go to bed, drink at least two 8 oz. glasses of water. You might have to get up to use the bathroom in the night, but this sure beats the potential of suffering the next day. Drinking plenty of water helps prevent dehydration - which (as noted above) is a big culprit of the hangover symptoms. 

Take your vitamins. Drinking alcohol depletes your body's essential vitamins and minerals. In particular, levels of vitamins B6, B12 and C drop to low levels. This can contribute to the fatigue common with hangovers. Before you go to bed, take a couple of B-complex vitamins along with vitamin C. Also try eating a banana (this will help your vitamin B6 levels). If you forget to do this at night, morning time is okay too. Orange juice in the morning a good option to replenish your vitamin C levels.

If you've got a holiday party hangover, there's still hope. It doesn't have to ruin your day.

Try some of these proven strategies to reduce the effects of your hangover:

Drink Water. The faster you restore a proper fluid balance, the sooner you'll feel better. 

Avoid Caffeine. Caffeine acts as a diuretic and can make you more dehydrated.

Exercise. Get yourself out of bed and go for a walk or a run. Exercise increases your circulation -- which will speed up the elimination of toxins from your system. However, if you've had a big night of partying, don't push yourself too hard. You don't want to become more dehydrated, making you feel even worse. A brisk walk can do the trick.

Eat some carbohydrates. When your body is weak and recovering from the activities you put it through the night before, it craves carbohydrates. Carbohydrates can help your blood sugar levels return to normal. Try toast or crackers (something easy on the stomach).

Hair of the Dog. Experts say that there is a certain amount of truth to the adage that the best hangover cure is "the hair of the dog that bit you." The key lies in drinking a very small quantity of alcohol mixed into a large quantity of a healthy juice beverage (tomato juice is a good choice). Better yet, skip the alcohol and have a Virgin Mary.

Take a pain reliever. Ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin) is okay, but avoid acetaminophen, found in over-the-counter medications such as Tylenol, because it can be tough on the liver.

Sleep. If you sleep long enough, your hangover might be gone by the time you wake up.  

Although you may regret some of your holiday revelry if you are suffering from a hangover, the good news is that most hangovers go away on their own within 24 hours. Otherwise, the next time you head out to a party, remember to use these tools so you can have a hangover-free holiday season.


Beaumas, J. 5 Natural Hangover Cures.

Hangovers. Information Page.

Hangover Cure -- Fact or Fiction? SkyNews.

Heubeck, E. Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD. Strategies for a Hangover-Free Holiday Season.