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Hangover Cures and Prevention

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Last night, you drank some bubbly. This morning, you're deflated. Here's how to cure the after-effects of alcohol, plus tips to avoid them next time.

Before You Drink
Eat fatty foods.
All foods, especially fatty ones, delay the body's absorption of alcohol, say doctors.
Eat high-fiber foods. Chris Meletis, a dean at the National College of Naturopathic Medicine, in Portland, Ore., says high-fiber foods break down alcohol and absorb it, keeping it from reaching the bloodstream as quickly.

Take Vitamin C. Often touted for its cold-fighting powers, vitamin C may also guard against hangover symptoms.

Try Hangover Prevention Formula. Two hours before you plan to start drinking, and on an empty stomach, down one capsule of this mixture of B vitamins and prickly-pear extract, which you can find over-the-counter at drugstores. Jeffrey Wiese, an assistant professor of medicine at Tulane University, says Hangover Prevention Formula (HPF) speeds up production of heat-shock proteins, which help the body fight stress and inflammation. Real Simple testers said the supplement prevented the headache they usually get from one glass of red wine. One tester drank much more heavily and gave HPF high marks the next morning.

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While You Drink
Avoid congeners.
What are these, exactly? Congeners are the compounds that give liquor its flavor and color, and many turn into poisonous aldehydes as they are digested the next day. "Opt for lighter-color, highly filtered alcohol," says Wiese. Typically, the more expensive the alcohol, the more filtered it is and the fewer congeners there are to cause a hangover. Skyy vodka, for instance, makes a point of its "four-column distillation," "three-step filtration," and "exceptional purity."

Stick to one kind of drink. You can keep better track of how much you're drinking, and you're less likely to upset your stomach.

Avoid carbonation. Dr. Richard Deitrich, an alcohol researcher at the University of Colorado, says carbonation can cause the surface area of the stomach to expand, which means increased alcohol absorption. The bubbles in champagne and tonic water, in particular, speed up the rate of absorption.

Alternate with water. Guzzling water keeps you from guzzling the hard stuff, and it keeps you hydrated, which is key, because alcohol is dehydrating.

Order onion soup gratinee. Onions are high in sugar, which speeds the body's metabolism and burns alcohol, and the cheese is dairy, which slows alcohol's entry into the bloodstream.

After You Drink
Drink lots of water.
Think of it as a cleansing rinse cycle.

Drink fruit juices. There is some evidence that fructose, the sugar in fruit, burns alcohol. According to doctors, fructose will also restore a person's blood sugar level. (Watch out, though, for a sugar rush and the ensuing crash.)

Drink Pedialyte. Like bland Gatorade for vomiting babies, it replenishes sugars and fluid-balancing electrolytes.

Forget the bloody Mary. The tomato juice's vitamin C builds up resistance, and the Tabasco's capsicum acts as a pain reliever, but the additional alcohol intake only postpones the hangover a little longer.

Eat bland carbohydrates. They absorb any alcohol left in the stomach, provide sugar, and combat nausea.

Eat eggs. Eggs contain the chemical N-acetyl-cysteine, which can help clear the liver of harmful free radicals.

Eat honey. The National Headache Foundation recommends a piece of toast slathered with fructose-loaded honey.

Try activated charcoal. Doctors says this fine powder helps absorb impurities (that's why emergency rooms use it when pumping stomachs). But it also tastes like biting into a briquette.

Try milk thistle. Its active ingredient helps detoxify the liver, but it doesn't do anything for a headache.

Take a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory, like Tylenol. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories provide headache relief without upsetting the stomach--just don't make them a habit, since some doctors believe they react with alcohol to damage the liver.

Drink Pepto-Bismol. The familiar pink stuff eases stomach discomfort, replenishes electrolytes, and dampens heartburn. But it won't do anything to shake that headache.