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The Post-Election Hangover Helper

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With the climactic close of Tuesday's election, and the many, many, many election festivities that took place, some might be waking up this morning feeling a little less fabulous than they did last night.

Hangovers happens to the best of us and everyone seems to have their own theory on how to deal with it. What really works? We've attempted to separate fact from fiction below:

First, what happens after a night of heavy drinking that results in having a hangover?

Alcohol dehydrates so that every part of the body is shrunken other than the brain, and needs refreshing. The brain swells because of the damage, usually only temporary, that has been done to the nerve cells by the alcohol.

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Another site adds:

They don't call it intoxication for nothing. Happy juice is poisonous. Put enough of it into your body and you die. What concerns us here, however, is not so much alcohol itself (which we'll take as a given) but the by-products of alcohol, and especially one particularly nasty chemical critter by the name of acetaldehyde. It's got a lot more of the bad kind of kapow, and the latest research suggests that it may be responsible for the worst of your hangover.

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So, dehydration is an obvious problem. What are the best ways to combat dehydration and, hopefully, make yourself feel better?

1) Bananas

Eating bananas the morning after a night of heavy drinking provides lost electrolytes like any food would, but it also specifically replenishes the potassium lost to alcohol's diuretic effect. Other potassium-rich foods such as kiwi fruit or sports drinks work just as well.

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You can even try this Banana Milkshake Hangover Cure Recipe:

Ingredients:

1 Large, ripe banana
1 1/2 Cups milk
2 Tbsp honey

Blend all ingredients together. Make sure you drink this slowly, so that your body is able to absorb everything. Room temperature milkshakes will probably feel better if you have an upset stomach, but you can make this a frozen milkshake by adding some ice, or storing unpeeled bananas (wrapped in plastic wrap) in your freezer.

Keep reading at Treating Hangovers

2) Water

Replenishing the body's water supply after a night of drinking combats dehydration, and it also helps dilute the leftover byproducts in the stomach. Adding salt and sugar to water helps replace the sodium and glycogen lost the night before. Non-caffeinated, non-carbonated sports drinks can achieve the same effect.

As a prevention method, drinking a glass of water for every alcoholic beverage slows down drinking, providing more time for the body to deal with the alcohol (the body can only process about three-quarters of an ounce of alcohol in an hour). Drinking a few glasses of water before going to bed helps fight dehydration after the body finishes breaking down the alcohol.

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3) What to avoid: Coffee

Normally it might be the first thing you reach for, but avoid caffeinated drinks! They will further dehydrate you and make your hangover worse in the end.

Coffee contains a high amount of caffeine, which is a stimulant and therefore helps fight fatigue. But when the caffeine wears off, a drinker may be even more tired than before. It can help alleviate a pounding head because caffeine is a vasoconstrictor, meaning it reduces the size of blood vessels. This counteracts the effect of the alcohol, which makes them swell, making the head hurt in the first place. Unfortunately, caffeine is also a diuretic like alcohol and can make a drinker even more dehydrated than before, thereby increasing the severity of the hangover. Overall, coffee is not a good hangover cure.

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Often hangovers might make you want to shy away from food but it is important to replenish the body. So, what else can you eat when you don't want to eat anything at all?

1) Eggs

Eating eggs the morning after provides energy like any other food, which is the primary benefit. But eggs do also contain large amounts of cysteine, the substance that breaks down the hangover-causing toxin acetaldehyde in the liver's easily depleted glutathione. Therefore, eggs can potentially help mop up the left-over toxins.

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2) Fruit Juice

The fructose -- fruit sugar -- in fruit juice helps to naturally increase the body's energy. Studies have proven that it also increases the rate at which the body gets rid of toxins such as those left over from alcohol metabolism. Fruit juice is also a good idea the morning after because it is high in vitamins and nutrients that were depleted the night before because of alcohol's diuretic effect. Vitamin supplements high in vitamins C and B are also effective.

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3) Bloody Mary

Drink a Bloody Mary. While the popular phrase "hair of the dog that bit you" may sound logical with a shot of whiskey left in the bottle next to your bed, it's only temporary. Try a Bloody Mary instead, while your blood is dealing with the new alcohol it is ignoring the old and in the mean time tomato juice and celery are full of vitamins. If you drank the last of the vodka make a Virgin Mary. Another spicy morning after drink option is Hair of the Dog, in which gin and hot sauce are sure to bite your hangover back.

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After re-fueling, what else is there to do?

1) Sleep

Sleep. Rest is your best friend at this point to give your body a recover.

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2) Exercise

Exercise will help get rid of your hangover by helping the body rid itself of toxins. The increased circulation gets blood and oxygen to your oxygen-starved brain. A good, brisk walk will also increase circulation with the results mentioned above.

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3) Shower

Take a shower, switching between cold and hot water.

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4) Medication

Certain painkillers are more effective at combating a hangover than others. For instance, Excedrin can be helpful for a headache because it combines acetaminophen for the pain and caffeine to reduce the size of the pounding blood vessels; however, prolonged combination of alcohol and acetaminophen has been shown to cause liver damage, and caffeine is a diuretic.

Aspirin is a non-caffeinated pain reliever and is also in a class of anti-inflammatory drugs known as prostaglandin inhibitors. High levels of prostaglandin have been associated with increased hangover severity. In one study, participants who took a prostaglandin inhibitor before bed reported less of a headache and less nausea and thirst than those who had drank the same amount of alcohol but did not take the prostaglandin inhibitor before bed. If you have a sensitive stomach, though, beware -- taking aspirin after drinking can make your stomach hurt even worse.

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5) Alka Seltzer

Alcohol also irritates the gastrointestinal system. Alka-Seltzer, Rennie, or any other popular remedies ease the inflammation and Alka-Seltzer has the advantage of helping the headaches, too.

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So, then the real question is will any of this actually work?

Well, none of these remedies will be a cure all but they may ease symptoms. The real cure all will be time.

The only complete cure for a hangover is time. No matter what a drinker does, the body still has to clean up all the toxic byproducts left over from the evening before. But the above factual remedies can help speed up the process.

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Further Information:

Folk Remedies and Prevention Techniques
Hangover Advice
Ultimate Hangover Cure Recipe (scroll to bottom)