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Avoiding, or dealing with - hangovers

If your plans for New Year's Eve include alcohol - your New Year's Day could well begin with a hangover.

But it doesn't have to.

On "The Early Show" Friday, medical contributor Dr. Holly Phillips offered advice to help you steer clear of hangovers - or treat them when you get one.

Celebrating the Holidays 2011

WHAT CAUSES HANGOVERS?

Simply put - drinking too much!

The main cause of hangovers is dehydration -- alcohol increases urine production, leading to dehydration. Dehydration causes headaches, dizziness and makes your mouth feel dry. Alcohol also irritates the stomach lining, which can lead to nausea. And if that's not enough, alcohol can cause your blood sugar to fall, which can lead to those other hangover symptoms: fatigue, shakiness and that out-of-it feeling.

IS THERE A "HOLY GRAIL" OF HANGOVER CURES?

"If there were a Holy Grail," Phillips said, "I think we would have found it by now. People have been drinking a long time."

All kinds of potions and elixirs have been tried, from raw oysters, to drinking vinegar -- you name it.

"New products just hit the market, in time for New Year's Eve, that claim to work," Phillips pointed out, but, "The jury's still very much out on that."

One is called Bytox, and is made mostly from vitamins. It comes in the form of a patch that's applied 45 minutes before drinking. The Bytox package says the patch replenishes the vitamins and acids lost when consuming alcohol, though that statement has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.

The other new product is called Blowfish. It's a mix of aspirin, caffeine and an antacid buffering agent. The tablets are meant to be dissolved in water; they force you to rehydrate. There is no FDA warning on the packaging, because the active ingredients used (caffeine and aspirin) don't require it.

SO, WITH NO "CURES," ARE THERE WAYS TO AT LEAST ALLEVIATE SOME OF THE WORST OF THE SYMPTOMS?"

Some tried-and-true things to try:

Drink lots of water before, during, and after consuming alcoholic beverages. Water may be the single best way to combat the worst of the hangover.

Snacking, on bland foods, such as toast and crackers, may boost that lowered blood sugar and settle your stomach. Bouillon soup can help replace lost salt and potassium. Eggs might help, as well.

Take a pain reliever - a small dose of an over-the-counter headache pill might help. But be careful: Aspirin can irritate an already-irritated stomach.

And -- if you sleep long enough, your hangover may be gone when you wake up!

ARE ALL FORMS OF ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES CREATED EQUAL WHEN IT COMES TO HANGOVERS?

Alcoholic beverages contain ingredients called congeners, which give many types of alcoholic beverages their flavor and which can contribute to hangovers. Congeners are found in larger amounts in dark liquors, such as brandy and whiskey, than in clear liquors, such as vodka and gin. So, you might want to keep that in mind -- but the bottom line when it comes to hangovers is -- prevention is a far better approach than attempting a cure. And drive safely.

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