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Remedy a New Year's Hangover

Hangover Helper

WebMD Feature

Dec. 31, 2001 -- What hangover cures pop into your throbbing noggin on New Year's Day?

Some say burnt toast and a Mexican sausage called chorizo do the trick. But just in case the quick fixes you tried last year didn't fix anything, and you still plan to do some celebrating when 2002 arrives, we've assembled some home remedies that helped some of us get through college.

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But first, here is the official word on what that booze does to your system. Getting rid of the hangover really comes down to understanding how the body reacts to alcohol in the first place. Alcohol is a diuretic -- that is, it tends to increase urination, and therefore, dries you out, explains alcohol metabolism researcher James Schaefer, PhD, professor at the Union College in Schenectady, N.Y. Drinking plenty of water the morning after helps to compensate for the dehydration.

But that's not all that's going on. Impurities are added to alcoholic beverages during the distillation process, and these contribute to the nasty stomachache you get with your hangover. These impurities are especially high in sweeter drinks and malt liquors. Drinking lots of water, then, does two things: it rehydrates your body and dilutes the impurities left in your belly.

A Date for Carbon

When Brian Wakabayashi was at the University of California, Irvine (UCI), he always made burnt toast a part of his morning-after breakfast.

Schaefer has this explanation for why that helps: Carbon in the charred part of the toast filter the impurities. In fact, people who come into hospital emergency rooms with alcohol poisoning get a potent carbon slurry pumped into their stomachs for the same reason. The burnt toast is a much more moderate version of the same remedy.

Fat Chance

How about that chorizo? It's not a morning-after remedy -- more like a late-afternoon-before preventive tactic. Cole Ramsey, also a former UCI student, swears by its hangover-preventing powers and doesn't leave home without some -- in his stomach, that is.

"It's fatty, and it sits in your stomach for like 12 hours. For some reason, the hangover goes away," says Ramsey.

Schaefer explains: Fatty foods, if eaten before drinking alcohol, "grease" the lining of the intestines. The alcohol then takes longer to be absorbed by the body.

"Personally, I recommend eating pizza, but chorizo would work too," Schaefer says. "In the Mediterranean, one folk remedy involves swallowing a spoonful of olive oil to do the same trick."

Besides filling your stomach before you drink, eating almost any kind of food the morning after can help alleviate a hangover, says Stephanie Brooks, MS, RD, a nutrition consultant in San Francisco. Food provides electrolytes that replenish the body after dehydration. This is especially important for someone who's vomited within the last 24 hours. Brooks particularly recommends a fruit smoothie or a sports drink.

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