Fatty foods, vitamins can help avoid a hangover this New Year's Eve
Bring out the champagne - it will soon be the end of another year.
As we say goodbye to 2011 and welcome in 2012, it's fair to say many of us will be indulging in some sort of adult beverage this weekend.
If (or when) the hangover hits the next morning, though, you could be regretting that extra glass of wine or bottle of beer.
Hangovers and the associated headaches or malaise are a dreaded consequence after a night of heavy drinking and most everyone, it seems, has some sort of tried-and-true remedy to cope.
Reader responses to a recent posting on Inforum.com included various hangover cures ranged from McDonald's food, vitamins, Pepto-Bismol pills and a hearty breakfast.
Some of these remedies, it turns out, actually work. Hangovers are, after all, physiological and a scientific and medicinal strategy to a night of drinking could help you feel a little better the first morning of 2012.
Get some food in you
It's been said that you shouldn't drink alcohol on an empty stomach, and for good reason, says Dan Dahl, a family doctor at Sanford Health in Fargo.
Alcohol irritates the stomach and intestines, which accounts for two of a hangover's many symptoms - nausea and vomiting.
What can be done to avoid this? Simple, Dahl says, just eat some food before you drink. A full stomach helps decrease the body's rate of alcohol absorption.
In other words, the longer it takes your body to absorb the alcohol, the less your body will feel the effects of the alcohol, and the less likely you are to have a particularly bad hangover.
Fatty foods, Dahl says, are especially effective because it takes the body longer to digest them, meaning that it then also takes the body longer to absorb and process the alcohol.
"Fatty foods, and things like cheeses and pizzas, greasy food like that can help line the stomach and decrease the absorption rate," Dahl says.
The McDonald's Egg McMuffin sandwich, which was recommended by several InForum readers, contains 12 grams of fat, which is 20 percent of the recommended daily value.
Dahl says it's important to eat fatty foods before you start drinking, rather than after, so that your stomach has that extra lining. Eating fatty foods after the night is done won't give you quite the same benefits. In fact, it may just irritate your stomach more.
Eating vitamin-rich foods the morning after drinking a lot of alcohol can also help to cut down on the severity of the hangover, says Sherri Stastny, an assistant professor in the college of human development and education at North Dakota State University.
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), your body's process of breaking down alcohol interferes with the normal metabolism of other nutrients and vitamins.
This means that a side effect of alcohol - especially after a night of heavy drinking, when you're more likely to be hung over in the morning - is that you're missing important vitamins, especially several B vitamins.
Stastny, who is also a registered dietician and a member of the President's Council on Alcohol and Drug Awareness at NDSU, pointed to foods like meat and fish as being particularly effective at giving the body what it needs to counter a hangover.
Vitamin B6 and vitamin B12 in particular seem to be most effective. Tuna, chicken and turkey are all high in vitamin B6, and salmon, venison, beef and lamb are all high in vitamin B12.
Other foods, like dairy products and eggs, provide those B vitamins as well.
The key here, though, is that it seems to be most effective to eat foods with B vitamins after drinking, when the body has become malnourished, rather then before.
Or, alternatively, as some readers suggested, you could just take multivitamins when you get home. But, that certainly doesn't provide the same sense of satisfaction as a big, hearty breakfast containing vitamin-rich food the next morning.
Just as important as eating before drinking is staying hydrated throughout the night, Dahl says.
Alcohol is a diuretic, which means that it makes you urinate. This, not surprisingly, leads to your body losing water and electrolytes and becoming dehydrated. This can partly be blamed for the headaches that are symptomatic of a hangover, Dahl says.
To counter dehydration, Dahl suggests drinking water throughout the evening - not just before and not just after you stop drinking - to help you stay hydrated.
And, because water itself doesn't have any electrolytes, Dahl says sports drinks can be a helpful remedy as well.
Being aware of the alcohol that you're drinking could make a difference in the hangover you experience as well, says Dahl.
The NIAAA says that darker liquor - like whiskey, brandy or red wine - will lead to more severe hangovers because they contain compounds called congeners, which are a product of the fermentation process that provides part of the flavoring in distilled liquors.
Clearer liquors, like vodka, gin or white wine, have fewer congeners, and induce fewer hangover effects, according to the NIAAA.
Know your limits
In the end, though, hangovers have many wide-ranging effects on the body, and not all of them are fully understood.
"It's mostly theories out there about how they work," Stastny says. "There's not a lot of scientific literature."
While some of the ideas in this story may help decrease the severity of a hangover, it's unlikely they'll help you avoid one altogether after a night of heavy drinking.
If you want to avoid a hangover, Stastny says, then you need to be aware of how much alcohol you've had to drink and what your limit is.
But, we all know that's not always the easiest thing to do, especially when we're celebrating with friends or family.
So, if you do happen upon a night of heavy drinking to celebrate the New Year, be smart and be safe. And, please, whatever you do, don't drive drunk.
And remember: Eat a pizza or a McDonald's sandwich before drinking, drink water during the evening, then have a hearty plate of bacon and eggs in the morning. If all goes well, you might be spared the worst of a hangover.
InForum readers offered several suggestions on how to combat the nasty effects of a hangover. Here are a few of their tips:
Two Egg McMuffins
5 Hour Energy
Two Pepto-Bismol pills
Toast and tomato juice
Fried eggs, bacon and sausage
McDonalds double cheeseburger, six-piece McNuggets and a Coke
Readers can reach Forum reporter Sam Benshoof at (701) 241-5535