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Seasonal hangovers: Tricks to help you power through

By Stacey Colino
Health.com
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There's more than one way to overindulge during the holiday season. You can carol until you get a sore throat, or scarf too many cookies at the office party. You can stress over the perfect prime rib, or try to work off 5 pounds in a day so you can fit into that slinky cocktail dress that night.

Sometimes you go too far -- and then comes the morning after. But don't despair: We've come up with easy cures for almost every imaginable holiday hangover. Before you know it, you'll feel ready to deck the halls all over again.

You ate the whole thing

Potato pancakes, penne quattro formaggio, double-fudge macaroons. It was your neighbor's holiday shindig, and you didn't want to insult her by not trying everything -- at least once. Now you feel bloated, nauseated, and disgusting. "It's the ultimate yuck feeling," says Cindy Yoshida, M.D., a gastroenterologist in Charlottesville, Virginia, and author of "No More Digestive Problems." "Higher-fat foods empty a lot more slowly from the stomach," she says, which means part of last night's meal might still be with you the next day.

Our get-better-fast plan: Give your tummy a break. Don't eat until you're hungry. "And then have smaller meals that are relatively low in calories and fat and high in fiber for the rest of the day," Yoshida says. That will stimulate your gastrointestinal tract and get things moving.

Rehydrate early and often. Not only will fluids help re-balance your body's salt-to-water ratio, which fights bloating, but "they also empty from the stomach better than solids do," Yoshida explains.

Mellow out with mint. A peppermint lozenge or pepper-mint tea can increase gastric emptying, which will relieve pain, Yoshida says. (If you have heartburn, skip peppermint, which can aggravate it. Try an antacid such as Pepcid Complete instead.)

You're stressed to the max

Your least-favorite relative insisted on a holiday visit this year. As usual, she showers the kids with love and loot -- and drives you insane with subtle cut-downs. After 24 hours you've turned into a snapping turtle, you're exhausted, and you can almost feel the steam coming out of your ears. Yes, you have a stress hangover. Stress hormones sweeping through your body can make you restless, wound-up, and unable to sleep, says Amy Flowers, Ph.D., a psychologist in private practice in Macon, Georgia.

Our get-better-fast plan: Take a walk. Exercise can help the stress hormones beat a hasty retreat, Flowers says.

Distract yourself. Do something you enjoy. Even 30 minutes of cooking, painting, or reading can lighten your mood and help you cope.

Let it out. Jot down your feelings in a journal or talk to a trusted friend about what you're going through.

You talked too much

Maybe you led the caroling at the office bash, or stayed up all night gabbing with your sisters the one time a year you get together. But today? You are hoarse, and even a whisper is painful. That's your vocal cords -- red, irritated, and swollen -- telling you they're overused, says C. Richard Stasney, M.D., director of the Texas Voice Center and a clinical associate professor of otolaryngology at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.

Our get-better-fast plan: Shh. Ideally, rest your voice for a day or two. But even a few hours will help, Stasney says.

Drink up. If people were smoking at the party and you were downing wine, you're probably dehydrated, and your vocal cords may be irritated. Consume 2 quarts of water during the day to rehydrate your body and lubricate your pipes.

Soothe the soreness. A steaming bowl of chicken soup will pamper your poor cords. Or, gently gargle for 2 minutes with a solution of 6 ounces of warm, distilled water mixed with 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda, and 1/2 teaspoon of light corn syrup; this strange-but-potent combo may help stimulate mucous flow in your dry throat. Or try Entertainer's Secret, a throat spray with aloe vera.

You hoisted a few too many

A glass of your favorite pinot noir seemed like the perfect way to celebrate the season. But that second bottle probably wasn't such a good idea. Now you have a classic hangover: headache, nausea, fatigue and shakiness. Otherwise known as veisalgia, these symptoms are the result of dehydration (because alcohol impairs the kidneys' ability to hold onto fluids), poor sleep (because alcohol alters levels of certain neuro-transmitters, causing brain cells to be hyperexcitable), and inflammation (because the impurities in most alcoholic drinks lead to an inflammatory response that produces flulike symptoms like achy muscles), says hangover researcher Jeffrey Wiese, M.D., an associate professor of medicine at the Tulane University Health Sciences Center in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Our get-better-fast plan: Sleep in or take a nap. "It may help to try to get a couple of extra hours of sleep in the morning," Wiese says. "Every additional hour you can get will help you recover."

Sip right. Replenishing fluids is important. Sports drinks, which contain essential nutrients, are best, followed by juices, and then water, Wiese says. "The more you can drink, the better, since it will help the hangover go away faster." Start before you go to sleep.

Take vitamins. Popping 50 to 100 milligrams of thiamine, or B1, and 10 milligrams of B6 per day may make up for deficits and ease hangover symptoms, says Bankole Johnson, M.D., Ph.D., chairman of the department of psychiatric medicine at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. Keep taking them for a couple of days to restore the losses caused by overindulging.

Relieve pain. It's fine to take ibuprofen to reduce aches and underlying inflammation, Wiese says. You can even take it at bedtime. But "stay away from acetaminophen," he adds, "because it won't help with inflammation and can damage the liver if used with alcohol."

You OD'd on caffeine

The boss won't fault you for gulping down extra-strength venti lattes so you can finish all your projects before the holidays. But your body probably will. You might feel restless and nervous, and your thoughts may race at breakneck speed. "Caffeine in high doses can feel like a panic or anxiety attack," says Jim Lane, Ph.D., a professor of medical psychology at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina. So when the boss has a few questions about those projects, you may overreact. "Caffeine also triggers the release of adrenaline, which seems to magnify the stress response," Lane explains.

Our get-better-fast plan: Know the signs. The kick typically starts within 20 to 30 minutes, and it takes about 4 hours for half of the caffeine in your blood to be eliminated, Lane says. You can't hasten its exit, but it might help to acknowledge why you feel jumpy and realize the feeling will go away.

De-stress. Soothing music may help while you're waiting for the buzz to wear off. "Silver Bells," anyone?

You're running on empty

A wee-hours Web-shopping blitz is sure to cheat you out of major shut-eye. That means you'll wake up feeling foggy, groggy, and totally unpre-pared to tackle a to-do list. "If you sleep only 4 hours a night, you'll perform as well as if you were legally drunk," says Joyce Walsleben, R.N., Ph.D., a sleep expert at the New York University School of Medicine and co-author of "A Woman's Guide to Sleep." A lack of sleep can also curb your ability to fight off infections.

Our get-better-fast plan: Lighten up. The morning after, sit near a sun-drenched window or take a walk in the sun for 20 minutes; the light promotes alertness by turning off your body's production of melatonin, which makes you sleepy.

Take a nap. "A 10- to 20-minute nap helps you collect sleep and revive your per-formance level, especially before you drive," Walsleben says.

Caffeinate. Have a cup about 20 minutes before you want your performance to kick into high gear.

Eat lightly. Stick with small meals of complex carbohydrates (vegetables, fruits, whole grains) and lean protein. Avoid turkey, dairy, fish, and peanuts; they have an amino acid (tryptophan) that makes you sleepy.

You hit the gym ... and it hit you back

A kickboxing class plus your usual routine seemed like a perfect way to work off holiday bloat. But supersizing your workout can lead to delayed-onset muscle soreness, or DOMS -- when it hurts to get out of bed. "You may actually have caused some microscopic tears to the muscle tissues and the tendon attachments," explains Cedric Bryant, Ph.D., chief science officer for the American Council on Exercise. "While your body tries to repair itself, inflammation impinges on the nerves surrounding the muscles, producing pain." DOMS usually goes away in 48 to 72 hours.

Our get-better-fast plan: Hop back on the horse. Whole-body exercise (swimming, for instance, or riding a stationary bike with movable handlebars) at a gentle intensity will restore range of motion to your muscles, Bryant says. Stretch carefully. Target the sore areas and do some gentle stretching.

Treat yourself. Get a massage. The kneading of sore muscles can boost blood flow to the tissues, which can speed the healing process. Ask your doctor or a friend to recommend a good massage therapist.


Copyright 2006 HEALTH Magazine. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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For the classic hangover -- the result of too much alcohol -- try replenishing fluids and taking Vitamins B1 and B6.

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