- Hangovers are caused when the levels of alcohol in the bloodstream begins to decrease.
- It usually sets in ten hours post alcohol consumption and reaches its peak when the blood level of alcohol reaches zero.
- Consuming certain alcohols increase the severity of hangover due to the presence of congeners, which gives the alcohol its distinct dark color and taste.
Hangovers caused by certain alcoholic drinks are worse than others.
Hangover, also known scientifically as veisalgia, is the body's way of notifying about overindulgence.
"Addiction specialists have often noted that a hangover is technically a form of alcohol withdrawal at its most benign," Laura Veach, a counselor and professor of surgery at Wake Forest University. How the body metabolizes alcohol could be one explanation to hangovers.
Hangovers start ten hours after the consumption of alcohol when the alcohol in the bloodstream begins to decrease. It reaches its peak when the alcohol level in the bloodstream reaches zero.
The body breaks down the ethanol in the alcohol to formaldehyde and formic acid which are toxins. Another byproduct of alcohol break down is acetaldehyde which is responsible for excess sweating, nausea, and vomiting.
Water is also essential to break down alcohol. Alcohol also increases urine output, which flushes out usual electrolytes and leads to dehydration. Because the body is already parched, there is less water available. This leads to headache, dry mouth and eventually dehydration.
But hangovers may get less severe with age.
A study in the journal Alcoholism of 51,645 Danish men and women found that the older someone gets, the less likely they are to experience a severe hangover after a binge drinking session — even after controlling for food consumption and quantity and frequency of regular drinking.
Why do Some Drinks Cause the Worse Hangovers?
The kind of alcohol one drinks affects the severity of the hangover.
Alcohol is fermented, which creates alcohol and other byproducts, like carbon dioxide that is responsible for harmless bubbles.
Fermentation also produces chemicals called congeners, or fusel oil impurities, which are a make us feel sick. These congeners are also responsible for some of the distinct tastes in darker drinks, like whiskey, red wine, or brandy.
A 2006 Dutch study on college students found that darker alcohol with more congeners tend to cause worse hangovers.
Liquors were more likely to cause hangovers than beer or wine, likely because liquor has higher alcohol concentrations.
On a positive note, a study has identified that some of those congeners in whiskey helped protect the stomach lining from damage.
The process of distillation helps filter out the congeners. But cheaper alcoholic drinks are not distilled more than a couple of times and are therefore more likely have more congeners.
Adding Carbonated Mixers
Carbonation increases feeling of hangover.
A 2007 study, that involved 21 participants found that when participants drank vodka mixed with soda, their blood alcohol levels were higher than those who drank straight vodka or vodka mixed with water.
The researchers hypothesized that this was because the added drink volume from the bubbles caused the stomach to release its contents to the small intestine, where alcohol is absorbed into the blood stream, sooner.
Another study that involved 12 participants found that people who drank flat Champagne had lower blood alcohol levels than those who drank it with its bubbles.
And sugar may also play a role in the rate of absorption, by increasing it.
"Commonly used mixers, such as lemonade, contain high levels of glucose, which have been shown to affect gastric emptying and therefore alcohol absorption rates," the authors of the 2007 study write.
The Side-Effects of Hangover
- It increases Stress Levels- Drinking increase the stress hormone cortisol in the body. The excess levels of the hormone can lead to improper stress responses, altering mental status, metabolism, and more. This decreases ability to deal with daily stresses of life.
- It decreases ability to fight off infections- Binge drinking can seriously disrupt people's immune systems both two and five hours after the drinks. This can again be attributed to the spike in cortisol that suppresses the immune systems, diminishing the ability to fight off infections.
- It wrecks driving skills- Hungover drivers performed as poorly in a driving simulator as drivers with a blood alcohol content exceeding 0.05%, the standard international measure for drunk driving. In most of the US, the measure is 0.08%. A study showed that hungover drivers performed poorly on cognitive tests and tests of motor skill, attention, and reaction time.
- Affects memory- Along with dizziness, nausea, and anxiety, being hungover affects the working memory, which is required for holding information in the brain, performing mental tasks, and focusing. Findings from some studies by the Alcohol Hangover Research Group show that hungover people experience about a 5-10% working memory loss.
- Affects sleep patterns- Most people experience disruptions to the second half of their sleep cycle due to drinking. This further contributes to daytime sleepiness, which has its own negative effects on cognitive and motor skill performance. Hangovers also frequently lead to low blood sugar, which can make people moody and sluggish.
- High cost on economy- Hangovers cost the economy billions every year. According to the CDC, excessive drinking cost the US something like $224 billion in 2006, and 72% of that — or $161 billion — was due to the loss of workplace productivity.
There is no real cure to hangover. To take adequate rest and replenish the body with sufficient water and salt is the best idea to alleviate the annoyance caused by hangover.
Certain helpful Tips
- Hair of the Dog- This theory suggests to have another drink to get rid of hangover. Hangover is actually the symptom of very small amounts of methanol. So having another drink will help ethanol displace the methanol making and makes the person feel better.
- Certain foods may help- Certain foods like bananas help restore the body's potassium levels and eggs provide protein that quickly helps to replenish the body with vitamin B. It is the easiest way to tackle a hangover by providing carbohydrates.
- Plenty of water, juice and other liquids- To avoid dehydration it is advisable to have as much water as possible to flush out all toxins and hydrate the body.
- Painkiller- Helps get rid of the headache. It is believed that the anti-inflammatory properties of painkillers reacts against the compounds of alcohol to offer relief. Popping the painkiller 4 hours after drinking will be helpful.