By Dr. Dave Hnida

DENVER (CBS4) – New Year’s Eve is the #1 drinking night in America, making New Year’s Day the #1 hangover day. The new decade will ring in with a bell so loud your head will feel like it’s being attacked by jackhammers.

So how can you avoid the pounding journey down the hangover highway, besides obeying the old, unheeded adage of “If you don’t want a hangover, don’t drink”?

For starters, remember alcohol is actually a poison, so your body, especially your liver, responds by kicking into high gear to break down the alcohol. As it does so, it turns booze into chemicals called acetaldehyde and acetone, which are low dose “human rat poisons.” It’s these chemicals that cause the main symptoms of hangover.

So a few tips to improve your body’s painful self-cleansing:

Lots of water. Alcohol causes dehydration and makes a hangover worse. So think about alternating one glass of water with every alcoholic drink.

Skip the Medical Preventatives. In other words, don’t gobble down a few acetaminophen tabs or ibuprofen to head off a headache. Taking acetaminophen before, during and immediately after drinking can seriously damage your liver. As for ibuprofen, it’s a big league stomach irritant and when combined with alcohol, can cause pain and bleeding.

Just Say No To Congeners— meaning choose clearer liquors if you can.  Darker ones such as whiskey, scotch, bourbon, etc. contain a lot of congeners, chemicals which cause inflammation of the blood vessels in the brain, and usually increase the severity of a hangover. On the other hand, clearer products such as vodka or gin contain much lower levels of congeners. (But can still give you a hangover if you guzzle down an excess.)

Don’t Drink On An Empty Stomach. Having some food on board will slow the absorption of booze and give your liver a chance to keep up with your bent elbow a little better.

Caution With The Bubbly Stuff. Carbonation speeds the absorption of alcohol. In other words, a faster buzz, and a worse hangover. Why? The carbon dioxide that gives you those cool bubbles also replace oxygen molecules in the brain… a comforting thought. Here’s looking at you, champagne.

Women—Beware. All metabolisms are not created equally, especially when it comes to gender. Meaning even if you are the same size as a man and drink the same amount of alcohol, you have fewer of the chemicals that help break down alcohol.  The result: a quicker and more severe buzz.

Don’t mix booze with medication. Big red flag here. Form antibiotics to antidepressants, many medicines just don’t mix well with ETOH. Ask your doctor or pharmacist before any booze hits your lips. Bad idea.

How about the next day, when you need a crane to get you out of bed?

Forget The “Hair of the Dog”— just don’t bark up that tree. A morning drink will just draw out the misery, postponing and prolonging the inevitable. You’re going to have to pay that mean piper at some point.

Push Those Fluids! Sports drinks can be a good choice especially when you wake up thinking you must have cleaned Interstate 25 with your tongue last night.

As for food, lots of people say “go greasy.” Not a lot of science to back that up. However, there is some research suggesting the chemicals in eggs and bananas may help ease the chemical changes that are caused by alcohol.

It’s been a heck of a year, and a toast or two may be just what your doctor ordered. Nonetheless, keep it light, and keep it safe. Happy New Year!

Dr. Dave Hnida

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