Dear Dr. Garner,
With Christmas and New Year’s upon us, I will be attending several parties to enjoy some good food and drinks with my colleagues and friends.
When I go out, I like to drink scotch. My friends tell me that if I drink vodka, I have less of a chance of getting a hangover. Is this true?
What are some things that I can do, other than stop drinking, to avoid a hangover?
Preparing for Parties
Dear Preparing for Parties,
Your question is one I am frequently asked this time of year.
For those who don’t know what a hangover is, think of eating a large fatty meal at a fast-food restaurant, going on a loop-the-loop ride at Coney Island for a half hour and then being on a boat in turbulent water for a few hours. Imagine the dizziness, nausea, vomiting and headache that you have. This is what a hangover feels like.
Most drinkers experience hangovers at some point in their lives – sometimes after one glass of alcohol and other times after several glasses. The hangover occurs due to alcohol withdrawal and the presence of chemicals known as congeners, found in alcohol particularly those with color – for example, red wine, dark beer, bourbon, brandy and scotch.
Basically, when you drink, the body gets used to the alcohol. When you stop drinking, the body experiences a period of withdrawal. In addition, one experiences dehydration as alcohol causes increased urination. Finally, chemicals in alcohol can give you a bad headache.
There is no sure-fire method to avoid a hangover other than not drinking. However, I can offer some proven strategies to reduce a hangover if you do find yourself in that predicament.
Here are some suggestions for avoiding and coping with a holiday hangover:
• Don’t drink more than one glass of alcohol per hour. Your body can usually handle this better, and this will cut down on chemicals that might make you sick.
• Drink “light” alcohol drinks more so than “dark” alcohol drinks. This means choosing white wine over red wine and vodka over scotch, as your friend had suggested. The light-colored drinks have fewer chemicals that cause a hangover.
• Alternate a glass of water with each glass of alcohol. This will help maintain your hydration level and avoid some dizziness and lightheadedness.
• Resting is important. Take it easy the day of your hangover. Rest minimizes damage done to the body and can speed recovery.
• Take antacids. Alcohol is extremely irritating to the stomach, and the antacids may help to reduce inflammation or irritation of the stomach lining.
• Try crackers and toast, which can boost your blood sugar and settle your stomach.
• Eat before you drink at a party. This is helpful not only as far as diluting the alcohol but also in limiting binge eating that might occur at a party.
What is amazing about hangovers is that people go back to drinking after having one (or more of these experiences). If you drink in moderation, you can minimize alcohol effects and lessen the bad feelings.
Thank you for your question. Enjoy your parties in moderation.[hr] Dr. Garner is a Fidelis Care provider who is affiliated with New York Methodist Hospital, Park Slope. He also hosts “Ask the Doctor” on The NET, Tuesdays at 8 p.m. on Channel 97 Time Warner and Channel 30 Cablevision.