What does science tell us about this phenomenon?
What factors cause the characteristic symptoms of a hangover?
And the question that may be as old as the hangover itself:
Is there any real remedy?
What is a hangover?
Hangover refers to a set of symptoms that occur as a result of drinking too much alcohol. Typical symptoms include tiredness, weakness, thirst, headache, muscle pain, nausea, stomach pain, dizziness, sensitivity to light and noise, anxiety, irritability, sweating, and high blood pressure. Hangovers can vary depending on the person.
Other substances that contribute to hangover symptoms
Alcohol is the main culprit of hangovers, but other components of alcoholic beverages can contribute to hangover symptoms or make them worse.
- Congeners are compounds, beyond ethyl alcohol, that are generated during fermentation. These substances contribute to the smell and taste of alcoholic beverages. Dark-colored alcoholic beverages, such as bourbon, which tend to have higher levels of congeners than light alcoholic beverages, may worsen hangover symptoms in some people.
- Sulfites are compounds that are added to wine as preservatives. People sensitive to sulfites may experience a headache after drinking wine.
What factors cause hangover symptoms?
Several factors can contribute to a hangover:
- Mild dehydration: Alcohol inhibits the release of vasopressin, a hormone produced by the brain that signals the kidneys to retain fluid. As a consequence, alcohol increases the frequency of urination and excessive fluid loss. The resulting mild dehydration likely contributes to hangover symptoms such as thirst, tiredness, and headache.
- Sleep disruption: People may fall asleep faster after drinking alcohol, but their sleep is fragmented and they tend to wake up earlier. This causes fatigue as well as loss of productivity.
- Gastrointestinal irritation: Alcohol directly irritates the stomach lining and increases acid release, which can cause nausea and upset stomach.
- Inflammation: Alcohol increases inflammation in the body. Inflammation contributes to the general discomfort people feel when they are sick, so it can also contribute to hangover symptoms.
- Acetaldehyde Exposure: Alcohol metabolism, primarily by the liver, generates the compound acetaldehyde, a toxic, short-lived byproduct that contributes to inflammation of the liver, pancreas, brain, gastrointestinal tract, and other organs.
- Mini Withdrawal: When drinking, people may feel calmer, more relaxed and even euphoric, but the brain quickly adapts to these positive effects as it tries to maintain a balance. As a result, when dizziness disappears, people may feel more restless and anxious than before drinking.
When does a hangover peak and how long does it last?
Hangover symptoms peak when the blood alcohol concentration returns to approximately zero. Symptoms may last 24 hours or more.
Are hangovers dangerous or just painful?
Hangovers can be painful and dangerous. During a hangover, people's attention, decision making, and muscle coordination can be impaired. Additionally, the ability to perform important tasks, such as driving, operating machinery, or caring for others, may be negatively affected.
Common Hangover Myths
Myth: Certain actions, such as drinking coffee or taking a shower, can prevent or cure a hangover.
Fact: The only way to avoid a hangover completely is to not drink alcohol or consume a minimal amount. There is no cure for a hangover, only time.
Myth: The order of drinks affects hangovers, as the popular saying goes: “Beer before wine and you'll be fine.”
Fact: In general, the more alcohol a person drinks, the worse the hangover will be.
This occurs regardless of whether the person drinks beer, wine, distilled spirits, or a combination of these.
Myth: Drinking a drink of alcohol in the morning after a night of drinking will help prevent a hangover, a practice known colloquially as “having a little drink to make the hangover go away.”
Fact: Although this may minimize some symptoms temporarily, it can contribute to and prolong malaise and other hangover symptoms.
Is there any remedy for a hangover?
Although many hangover relief remedies are mentioned on the Web and social media, none have been proven scientifically effective. There is no magic potion to combat a hangover, and only time can help. A person must wait for the body to finish eliminating the toxic byproducts of alcohol metabolism, rehydrate, heal irritated tissue, and restore immunities and brain activity to normal levels. There is no way to speed up brain recovery after alcohol consumption; Drinking coffee, taking a shower, or drinking an alcoholic beverage the next morning will not cure a hangover.
Some people take over-the-counter pain relievers (usually acetaminophen) before bed to minimize hangovers. It is important to know that the combination of alcohol and acetaminophen can be toxic to the liver. Like alcohol, certain over-the-counter pain relievers, such as aspirin and ibuprofen, can increase acid release and irritate the stomach lining. Care should be taken when consuming these medications before or after drinking alcohol.
To relieve hangover symptoms, some people turn to electrolyte-rich sports drinks or other products, or even intravenous treatments, in an attempt to replenish electrolytes lost due to increased frequency of urination and loss of urine. of fluids when consuming alcohol. Research has not found any correlation between the extent of electrolyte disturbances and the severity of hangovers, or the impact that added electrolytes have on hangover severity. In most people, the body quickly regains electrolyte balance once the effects of alcohol wear off.