Drinking and celebrating New Year's Eve

There's only one sure way to prevent a hangover—and that's to avoid overdoing it or not drink at all. Moderate drinking means one drink a day for women of any age and men older than 65, and up to two drinks a day for men 65 and younger.

Still, you may find yourself tempted to overindulge on New Year's Eve. That indulgence can lead to a hangover, which can cause nasty symptoms such as a splitting headache, nausea, diarrhea, anxiety, fatigue, and tremors.

"A hangover is not merely dehydration," says Sally Adams, Ph.D., an assistant professor of health psychology at the University of Bath in the U.K. who studies the effects of alcohol.

Hangover symptoms are also caused by the byproducts our bodies create as we metabolize alcohol; inflammation in the stomach and intestines, electrolyte imbalance; and more.

Since there are so many factors involved, we can't totally cure or avoid a hangover after drinking, she says.

Yet research does show you can treat or prevent some of a hangover's worst effects. Here are some strategies that may help.

Prevent a Hangover

Skip the hangover prevention supplements. There's no proof any of these work, says Jonathan Howland, Ph.D., professor of emergency medicine at the Boston University School of Medicine and director of Boston University Medical Center's Public Health and Injury Prevention Research Center.

Track your intake. Set a limit, and then keep tabs on your drinking as you go to make sure you stick to it. Measuring your drinks can help, too.

More on Drinking

Opt for light-colored beverages. There's some evidence that dark liquors such as whiskey and red wine are more apt to leave you with a hangover than colorless or lighter drinks because they have higher levels of congeners, substances produced during fermentation that can have toxic effects. But this isn't certain or foolproof, according to Howland.

Eat something substantial that includes some fat. Good options include pizza or a turkey sandwich with cheese. Foods like this help your body absorb alcohol more slowly, which may mean less of a hangover the next day, according to Adams. Just make sure you don't drink alcohol on an empty stomach.

Drink lots of water or other nonalcoholic liquids. Alternate one alcoholic drink with a glass of club soda or plain water. That helps in two ways: It decreases your overall alcohol load and helps prevent the dehydration that contributes to hangovers.

Try an antacid for stomach issues the next morning. Even if we can't cure a hangover, we can treat the symptoms with over the counter meds, says Howland. An antacid can help settle a queasy stomach.

Consider taking aspirin or ibuprofen (Advil and generic) to ease a next-day headache, if your stomach can handle it. Products that combine an anti-inflammatory like aspirin or ibuprofen with caffeine might be especially helpful. But avoid acetaminophen (Tylenol and generic) if you drink heavily, because the combination can damage the liver.

Be careful driving the next morning. Hangover effects aren't just physical, they're cognitive too, according to Howland. Research indicates that people have slower reactions and more difficulty focusing when hungover, which can make driving dangerous.

What about those hangover cures? As for the hangover cures sold online and in stores that come with the claim that they'll sop up the toxic byproducts of alcohol, don't waste your money. They usually include activated carbon or a mix of vitamins and herbs, and they have creative names like Chaser, Drinkin' Mate, and PartySmart. But there's very little evidence that they will prevent or chase away a hangover.