- Never mix alcohol and tylenol. Tylenol’s other names are acetaminophen and paracetamol. It’s a common ingredient in over-the-counter cold medications (Nyquil), allergy meds, and RX pain meds like Vicodin and Percocet. People can accidentally take too much because it’s in so many different products. Tylenol is the world’s leading cause of fulminant liver failure, meaning severe, acute, and potentially fatal liver failure. Mixing alcohol with tylenol is the kiss of an ugly death. When you have a hangover and are searching the cabinet for something to treat your headache, use aspirin or ibuprofen or naproxen. They're not quite so dangerous.
- Hydrate. Most hangover symptoms are caused by dehydration. Alcohol is a potent diuretic. You might know this from the way that one beer makes you pee like you drank two. Instead of taking pills for a hangover, guzzle water. And if you know you’re going to imbibe, drink water before you even start.
- Take lots of vitamin C. Especially after a binge, vitamin C helps neutralize the toxic breakdown products of alcohol metabolism, and it helps reverse fatty liver disease. How much is lots? Four to twelve grams a day, split up into lots of doses. At the high end of this dose range it will cause diarrhea, but if you really binged, you will already have diarrhea.
- Be nice to your Gut. Drinking alcohol causes Leaky Gut. This is when food particles leak through your gut lining instead of getting processed through the cells like they should. Leaky gut compromises your immune system and is a common factor in autoimmune diseases. So eat a healthy diet with fruit and vegetables, and eat fermented foods like live yogurt, kefir, kraut or kimchi. And get help if your gut isn’t working right.
- Know when to call 911. If a heavy drinker suddenly spits up blood, it’s time to call. Alcoholics can die when blood vessels in their esophagus burst, but they can live to see another day if you call early enough. If the kids have had red bull drinks (alcohol and caffeine together) and start acting delirious, it’s time to call. Caffeine prevents people from passing out so they’re more likely to reach a blood alcohol level that is really poisonous. Oh yeah, and definitely get help if someone turns yellow. Their eyes turn first.
- Eat FISH. It’s good for your brain. Heavy alcohol consumption can cause dementia, and consuming lots of good omega 3 fats helps prevent the brain from degenerating. So learn to love those fatty fishes—or start taking fish oil.
- Drink coffee. You think I’m joking. Coffee helps reduce liver damage caused by alcohol and by hepatitis. It’s a powerful effect. Coffee also helps prevent dementia for other reasons. So enjoy your cuppa joe! It will help you sustain your Great Satan lifestyle longer.
- Sunbathe. Large expanses of skin in bright sunshine makes hundreds of thousands of IU’s of vitamin D in just 15 minutes, so get a natural dose any time you can. If you can never expose your white expanses, or if you live where the sun don’t shine, take a vitamin D supplement. It helps prevent cirrhosis.
- Take a B Complex. Thiamine is vitamin B-1, and a deficiency of this vitamin causes the severe memory loss that affects alcoholics. You need all the other B’s too, so don’t take just one kind of B. Take a quality B-complex in doses as big and regular as your drinking, and you’ve headed off this deficiency at the pass.
- Don’t be stupid. I know it’s hard not to be stupid when you’re drunk but plan ahead when you’re not drunk so that you have a ride, a coat, and a place to crash. Your body wastes heat after heavy drinking, so you can feel warm while you are descending into hypothermia. Take a little extra care if you’re feeling reckless or have a tendency to behave impulsively. Get help if you’re really headed down the drain: we need you.
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Author: Teresa Gryder
Integrative Physician and Student of Life, Medicine, and the River.