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How to prevent a hangover

If you’ve ever over-imbibed on alcohol, you likely know the feeling of a hangover the next morning – you are dehydrated, have a headache and feel like you’ve been hit by a truck.

But what exactly happens to your body when you experience a hangover? There’s still a lot of debate in the medical community, but we do know some facts.

When you drink alcohol, the substance actually inhibits the hormone from your brain that tells your kidneys to conserve fluid. When this happens, you will go to the bathroom less frequently, lose more fluid and become dehydrated, regardless of how much water you drink while consuming alcoholic beverages. Not only are you losing the fluids that keep your body hydrated, alcohol also decreases sodium, potassium and minerals in your system.

To top it all off, the by-product that causes alcohol to ferment actually increases the severity of hangovers. This substance is most commonly found in dark liquors, such as tequila, whiskey and bourbon.

To reduce your intake, stick with clear liquors, such as vodka, gin and white wine. Now that you understand the physiological effects alcohol has on your body, how do you avoid a hangover in the first place?

  1. Don’t drink too much! This seems obvious, but it’s crucial to preventing a hangover. Your body can only metabolize about an ounce of alcohol every hour, so if you are drinking throughout the night, limit your consumption to one beverage an hour.
  2. If you know you’re going out for drinks tonight, eat a big, fatty meal beforehand. Fat can help slow down the absorption of alcohol and protect your stomach.
  3. Watch your intake of acetaminophen (such as Tylenol). This common pain reliever may be the first thing you reach for to prevent a post-partying headache, but when taken in large doses and mixed with alcohol, it can cause acute liver failure. A good rule of thumb: if you are drinking two drinks per day, you shouldn’t take more than two grams of acetaminophen (that’s just four extra-strength Tylenol) in a 24-hour period.

If you’re going out tonight and plan to have a few drinks, follow the above tips to prevent alcohol’s harmful effects on the body. Finally, never drink and drive.

Designate a driver at the beginning of the night or save the number of a local taxi service in your phone. To learn more about drinking responsibly, visit www.madd.org

Need to make an appointment with a Piedmont physician? Save time, book online.

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