Solutions for everyday overindulging

Sundaes, sunshine, sangria? Sometimes you can have too much of a good thing.

Your Overindulgence: Food

What you did: You can’t believe you ate that whole thing. Now you’re paying for it with a burning sensation in your chest and a bitter taste in the back of your throat.

Now what? You’ll have to wait for your stomach to empty to get complete relief, says Patricia Raymond, a gastroenterologist in Chesapeake, Virginia. Meanwhile…

- Don’t lie down. Eating more than your stomach can comfortably hold means there’s nowhere for gastric acids to go but up, into the esophagus. Reclining will only exacerbate this problem. You should stay upright for three to four hours after overeating.

- Take a brisk 30-minute walk to help speed digestion along. Don’t do anything more energetic, however. Bouncing around could cause gastric acids to slosh up into the throat.

- Avoid most antacids. By neutralizing existing stomach acids, they prompt the stomach to produce more of them. The exception is Gaviscon, available in drugstores as chewable tablets or in liquid form. It contains an ingredient that forms a barrier between the acids and the esophagus

- Loosen your belt. “The pressure can worsen heartburn,” says Raymond.

Your Overindulgence: Alcohol

What you did: Went out for drinks with friends. Three martinis later (but who’s counting?), you're queasy and uneasy.

Now what? Hand your car keys to a sober friend, call a cab, or stay put for the night. It will be hours till your judgment and reflexes are no longer impaired. Gastroenterologist Patricia Raymond says there’s no way to speed up detox. Nor are there medically proven cures for veisalgia, better known as a hangover. Folk remedies abound, but none have proven more effective than these symptom relievers:

- Drink plenty of fluids to counter the dehydrating effects of the ethanol in alcoholic beverages. Do this before going to sleep and you could avoid a hangover entirely. (Water or a sports drink will work.) Avoid temperature extremes (hot tea, ice-cold juice), which can shock an upset stomach.

- Eat bland carbohydrates, like toast, to soothe an upset stomach.

- Take a pain reliever, such as aspirin or ibuprofen, for headache pain. Avoid acetaminophen; in conjunction with alcohol, it can cause liver damage.

- Try Pepto-Bismol if your stomach is upset.

Your Overindulgence: An All-Nighter

What you did: Stayed up till the birds started singing to finish Anna Karenina and meet your book-club deadline. Today you’re groggy, your head’s pounding, and you can barely focus

Now what? Try to sneak in some rest, and turn to energy-boosting foods and drinks.

- Take a 20-minute nap, or two 10-minute ones. “You can’t make up for lost sleep, but you can grab some new sleep,” says Georgia Witkin, Ph.D., director of the stress program at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, in New York City. “When you’re exhausted, you’ll drift off for milliseconds throughout the day,” she adds. Short naps can reduce the number of those micro-naps.

- Eat to stay alert. Try protein: eggs in the morning, lean meat or cheese at lunch and dinner. Avoid simple carbs, such as white bread, pastries, and candy, which will cause blood-sugar spikes.

- Sip, don’t gulp, your coffee or tea. There’s plenty of proof that caffeine can improve concentration, but its eye-opening effects work best in small doses―two ounces of coffee or four of tea every hour. Quit about six hours before bedtime so you don’t interfere with another night’s sleep.
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Your Overindulgence: Sun

What you did: You had so much fun frolicking in the waves that you forgot to reapply sunscreen, so your back and shoulders are untouchable.

Now what? Sunburn calls for a multistep treatment. “You have to deal with both the acute issue of discomfort and the potential long-term damage,” says Susan Weinkle, an assistant professor of dermatology at the University of South Florida, in Tampa.

- Apply damp compresses made from clean cloths soaked in a mixture of two teaspoons of baking soda and two cups of cool water. Or place chilled, used tea bags on the affected skin for about five minutes. “The tannins in the tea will relieve the sting,” says Weinkle.

- Prevent or lessen peeling with an emollient such as Aquaphor, which contains 41 percent petroleum jelly and holds in moisture. Or use aloe vera gel, which helps prevent peeling and takes away the sting. Apply it to damp skin.

- If blisters form, try not to pop them. They serve as little tents that hold fluid against the skin and keep bacteria out. If a blister ruptures, cover the area with an antibiotic ointment like Polysporin.

Your Overindulgence: Exercise

What you did: After several months of inactivity, you renewed your commitment to exercise by taking an advanced Spinning class. Twenty-four hours later, you can barely walk down the stairs.

Now what? Microscopic tears in your muscles need to be pampered, says Cedric Bryant, Ph.D., chief exercise physiologist for the American Council on Exercise. To help your muscles recover…

- Drink plenty of fluids, to increase blood flow to your muscles.

- Take a long walk. "This will indirectly help muscle tears heal by increasing blood flow," says New York City exercise physiologist Liz Neporent, author of The Ultimate Body.

- Gently stretch the specific areas that hurt. Avoid "bouncing" stretches. Instead, slowly lengthen the sore muscle and hold the position for at least ten seconds.

- Get a massage. Instruct the therapist to ease into the sore muscles, rather than assaulting them right off with a deep-tissue treatment.

- Take an anti-inflammatory medication, such as Aleve, several times a day until you feel better.

Your Overindulgence: Caffeine

What you did: Overshot your caffeine tolerance with several shots of espresso, ending up as twitchy as a jitterbug.

Now what? Wait it out. "The stimulant effects of caffeine tend to last four to six hours," says Roland R. Griffiths, Ph.D., a professor in the departments of psychiatry and neuroscience at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, in Baltimore, who has been studying the effects of caffeine for the last 20 years. Unfortunately, there’s nothing you can do to speed up the process. But you can manage the symptoms.

- Take a walk or listen to soothing music―anything that relaxes you should help counter nervousness and anxiety.

Your Overindulgence: Computer Time

What you did: Spent hours glued to your screen trying to finish a report. Your eyes are bleary and dry.

Now what? Your weary eyes need some serious R & R. If possible, stay away from your computer for an hour or so and try the following:

- Look out the window. "Converting from up-close to at-a-distance viewing will diminish eyestrain by helping tight eye muscles relax," says Marguerite McDonald, a clinical professor of ophthalmology at the Tulane University School of Medicine, in New Orleans. It’s sort of like stretching the eye muscles after overusing them, as you would your hamstrings after a hard run.

- Relieve dryness with lubricating eyedrops. A good type to try is Refresh, a brand of artificial tears that won’t gum up your eyes.

- Switching to glasses may be more comfortable for contact-lens wearers.

- Close your aching eyes and treat them to a cool compress (a wet washcloth will do).