“I’ll never drink again” and other hangover myths

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We’ve all been there –  the fuzzy night of merriment followed by the even fuzzier day after of a throbbing head, queasy stomach and the groaning vow: “I’ll never ever drink again.”

Yeah, right.

With holiday parties and New Year’s Eve right around the corner it may lead you to forget that half-hearted promise to not drink. If you choose to consume more than you should, you’re likely going to have a hangover. That celebrated day-after reminder of your night’s rampage (other than, of course, those embarrassing photos your friends took of you swinging from the chandelier in your skivvies, that you’ll soon be tagged in on Facebook).

Doctors don’t entirely understand the biological tempest that is a hangover, but dehydration, loss of electrolytes and acetaldehydes “” a byproduct produced by your liver trying to deal with all that alcohol you’ve ingested, which can be even more toxic than the alcohol itself ““ all play a part. Everyone reacts differently to alcohol, which is why the exact hangover formula is hard to nail down.

But if your head is throbbing and your stomach is churning, check out these hangover tips and myths that will help you get through the next 24 hours.

 

MYTH: The “hair of the dog” will set you right.

According to the American College of Physicians, that’s the last thing you need. More alcohol may temporarily curb your symptoms, but the check is going to have to be paid at some point. Alcohol is toxic and your body needs to recover when you’ve had too much to drink. Drinking more will likely only lead to a worse hangover when you finally do stop drinking.

 

FACT: Sports drinks do help.

Part of the “hangover formula” is dehydration and a loss of electrolytes, which are things that sports drinks can help replace. They won’t magically erase the effects of your night out on the town, but any fluids replaced will help you feel less miserable.

 

MYTH: Coffee will help, too.

Not so fast there, Juan Valdez. Caffeine is a vasoconstrictor, meaning it narrows your blood vessels and increases your blood pressure, which are two things that will only make your hangover feel worse. If you’re an avid coffee drinker it may be worth having a cup. If you don’t, you could add a caffeine withdrawal headache to your already pounding cranial predicament.

 

FACT: Old treatments are the best.

Aspirin and products like Alka-Seltzer have been around for ages and they seem to provide the best comfort. Aspirin and related products (like Advil and Aleve) will help with your headache, whether it’s alcohol-induced or not. Meanwhile, Alka-Seltzer contains sodium bicarbonate (also known as baking soda), which will help settle a queasy stomach as well as aspirin to help with your headache. The main formula has been around since the 1930’s, but in 2001, the company also introduced a “morning relief” version with more aspirin claiming even more hangover relief.

 

MYTH: Newer over-the-counter hangover medicines? Not so much.

In recent years, products like Chaser, PreToxx, and RU 21 have appeared, claiming to erase the effects of your night of merriment. A recent British study, though, said they don’t meet their claims. The British Medical Journal cited eight different peer-reviewed, placebo-controlled studies that concluded the products worked no better than common aspirin.

 

FACT: Your best option, if available, is to sleep it off.

Not only will you not be awake to suffer the pains of a hangover, but you’ll give your body the time it needs to heal on its own.

There are a myriad of other myths related to curing a hangover, from eating a greasy breakfast to sweating it out via a workout or in a sauna, but the best cure is common sense, say doctors. If you’re going to drink, do so in moderation.