The holidays are here, and over-indulgence is part of the season for many. Although prevention is better than cure, if you overdo it there are a few things that can help. And a few things to avoid doing.
Hangovers are characterized by headache, nausea, diarrhea, dizziness, difficulty concentrating, and a number of other symptoms. As a diuretic, alcohol causes the drinker to urinate more frequently, thus resulting in dehydration. Dehydration causes much of the headache, dizziness, and fatigue. The alcohol itself also irritates the stomach, resulting in stomach and intestinal problems.
Primarily, it's important to re-hydrate. Many of the problems associated with consuming too much alcohol are related to your water content being out of balance. By drinking a glass of water every hour, you can re-establish that balance and help flush out and residual toxins.
To alleviate the immediate problem of a hangover-related headache, you can take an over-the-counter dose of and NSAID. Ibuprofen tends to be the most available, and the NSAID of choice for this use. It's best to avoid aspirin, however, because aspirin has a more serious effect on the stomach and may aggravate any nausea you might be feeling.
Also a little light to moderate exercise can help overcome the symptoms of hangover by improving blood flow through the body. Sweating and breathing heavily also help remove some of the leftover alcohol and its by-products from your system more quickly. So a brisk walk or a stint on the treadmill may help feel better sooner.
NSAIDs like ibuprofen and similar drugs are the medication of choice for dealing with the headache and other pains of having had too much to drink. Some people mistakenly take acetaminophen (paracetamol) to relieve headaches. While this medication may treat the pain, both acetaminophen and alcohol are processed by the liver. This could put unnecessary strain on the organ and result in liver damage, even at low doses of acetaminophen.
So-called hangover pills are also not a good idea. They may work, but it's easy enough to get the same effect at home. An NSAID with a cup of coffee or tea is likely to have a similar effect, especially if combined with a multivitamin. There's no need to spend money on a specialized “hangover pill.”
As with many conditions, it's far better to avoid getting a hangover in the first place. Avoid drinking excess amounts of alcohol to avoid the worst after-effects. Drinking moderately is far healthier. Likewise, avoid drinking beverages with a lot of artificial colorings, artificial flavorings, or preservatives. Even after a single beverage, some of these additives can cause hangover-like effects. Instead, take a good look at the ingredients to see what kinds of additives it may have in it. Finally, drink water along with alcoholic beverages to prevent serious dehydration. Drinking a serving of water in a one-to-one ratio with alcoholic drinks will go a long way to preventing an unpleasant start to the next day.