Who doesn’t like a little alcohol for all its sweetness and merriness! Although a little doesn’t hurt, we often fall for the bait and end up with a hangover.
Alcohol is a popular culprit behind hangovers. However, it is not a standalone felon; it’s diuretic or dehydrating effects influence most symptoms.
Before we dive into the key take-homes of this discussion, let’s understand some important terms.
What is a Hangover?
A hangover can be described as a series of unpleasant symptoms triggered after consuming too much alcohol.
Its after-effects can range from low to medium to fever-pitch. Frequent hangovers can lead to drowsiness and poor performance at work or worse.
Generally, there isn’t any magic formula that specifies how much you can safely drink to avoid a hangover. However, the more alcohol you consume, the likelier you are to have a hangover.
What Causes a Hangover?
This brings us to the biology behind a hangover. A lot of scientific research has been conducted regarding the actual cause of hangovers. Several factors contribute to the manifestation of a hangover. Among them include:
- Acetaldehyde accumulation (which causes fluctuations in glucose metabolism and the immune system generally)
- Dehydration (which also leads to metabolic acidosis, increased cardiac output, disturbed prostaglandin synthesis, sleep deprivation and vasodilation). Malnutrition can also intensify the experience.
- The beverage-specific effects of by-products, such as congeners and additives in alcoholic beverages, also play significant roles.
Founder and Director of the Michigan Head-Pain and Neurological Institute, Ann Arbor, Mich—Dr. Joel Saper describes hangovers as a “metabolic storm.” A research carried out by Penn State Hershey Medical Center explains that, in an attempt to get rid of the alcohol, the liver breaks down the substance into Acetaldehyde (a byproduct even more toxic to the body compared to alcohol). As a result, victims will experience post-drinking side effects (hangover symptoms).
How you end up with a hangover:
- Alcohol hinders your body’s ability to retain water by blocking the release of Vasopressin, a hormone that is significant for this purpose. It does this by blocking the neurohypophyseal nerve terminals.
- The reduction of the Vasopressin hormone causes significant water loss from your body. Studies show that for every 250 milliliters of alcohol consumed, the body expels virtually four times as much liquid.
- The following morning, you’re left with less electrolytes and water than your body needs, which causes headaches and other symptoms. The headaches are mainly attributed to dehydration as body organs struggle to make up for their water loss by stealing water from the brain.
- This is followed by frequent urination. Alcohol acts on the liver, breaking down its glycogen store and rapidly changing it into glucose and rapidly expels it from the body as urine. Excess release of glucose causes weakness and leads to low potassium and sodium levels, resulting in fatigue, severe headaches, and nausea. The result is a lack of coordination and a hangover the next morning.
Signs that You are Hungover
Hangover symptoms vary from person to person, and they typically start when the victim’s blood alcohol content hits zero or drops to a near-zero, or cuts-down significantly.
The symptoms usually take full effect the following morning after heavy alcohol consumption the night before. Depending on what and how much was consumed, affected persons may notice any of the following:
- Fatigue and weakness
- Excessive thirst and dry mouth
- Rapid heartbeat
- Increased sensitivity to light and sound
- Headaches and muscle aches
- Nausea, vomiting or stomach pain
- Mood disturbances, such as depression, anxiety and irritability
- Dizziness or a sense of the room spinning
- Decreased ability to concentrate
- Poor or decreased sleep. Etc.
In more severe cases or an emergency, one may experience any of the following signs and symptoms:
- Low body temperature (hypothermia)
- Slow breathing (less than eight breaths a minute)
- Difficulty remaining conscious
- Blue-tinged skin or pale skin
- Irregular breathing (a gap of more than 10 seconds between breaths)
- Passing out (unconsciousness that ofttimes cannot be awakened)
These signs are usually accompanied by heavy alcohol consumption and may indicate alcohol poisoning. An IV therapy is advisable in such a situation, and if the symptoms persist or become too severe, you should seek medical assistance.
What Does a Hangover Do to the Body?
Our bodies suffer multiple damages every time we have a hangover. The human body considers alcohol as very toxic and irritating. Usually, its first reaction is to try to eliminate the substance once it is introduced. However, only 16% of body types do this on time and successfully.
Not all body types can keep up with the pace, and this often leads to various complications. First, the substance rapidly increases the rate at which your body produces stomach acids—which amongst other things, also slows down stomach emptying—allowing various harmful substances to stay in your body much longer than it can manage.
As a result, the body begins to suffer symptoms like abdominal pain, vomiting, nausea, etc. In 78% of cases, victims suffer significant blood sugar loss. This usually leads to shakiness, weakness, fatigue, and even seizures. You will also experience gastrointestinal effects such as rapid inflammation and digestive disorders. In severe cases, victims can suffer spinal fluid complications or even more trivial complications.
Alcohol generally has a severe impact on the intestine. The microbiomes and good bacteria in the gut suffer rapid depletion, which impacts the intestine adversely.
Too much alcohol consumption also depletes the stomach lining rapidly, leaving it defenseless and exposed. This can cause your stomach to continue to release more acids than usual, which is self-destructive.
You can even develop ulcers in very severe cases because of the constant build-up of acids inside your intestine. Apart from a hangover, the activity of too much alcohol in your system can cause diarrhea or other more severe complications.
5 Best Rescues to a Hangover
Abstinence from alcohol is the only guaranteed way to prevent having a hangover. However, if you’re already having the symptoms, here are some effective rescues to help you manage the situation.
Water is the closest respite you can utilize in the event of a hangover. It would help if you drank a lot of water once you start to feel hangover symptoms. You can fill a large clean bottle with water and take a sip every few minutes. Drink enough and continue to drink at a steady pace throughout the day and into the next. For a mix, you can also take some juice, herbal tea, and sports drink.
- Eat Something
Target foods that are rich in carb content. They help to settle the stomach upset and stabilize your blood sugar levels. Don’t be in such a hurry. Eat at your own pace—start slowly. If you’re feeling too nauseous, you can begin with something plain, like a toast, banana, or crackers, etc. Eating will help to boost your energy levels and get you back on your feet.
- Take an Antacid
Antacids can provide relief for stomach upsets triggered by a hangover. Go for over-the-counter antacids like Tums, Alka-Seltzer, or Pepto-Bismol. If you want a more natural remedy, you can get a glass of hot water and add a tablespoon of fresh-grated ginger. The results may not be as instant as an antacid, but it delivers a natural and very effective relief.
- Replenish Electrolytes, Take Vitamins and Supplements
You can try to boost your electrolyte levels with sodium-rich liquids. This will also help to provide relief to such symptoms as dizziness, headaches, etc. Natural products and vitamins will also help to provide relief to one or more hangover symptoms. Ginger is usually effective for this purpose.
- IV Therapy
There are well over five quality rescues to hangover symptoms. However, the advantage a hangover IV therapy has is that it packs a mix of all the vitamins and electrolytes your body needs to re-stabilize, unlike most other methods. Remember, during a hangover, you experience dehydration, which also upsets your body’s crucial vitamin and electrolyte balance.
IV therapy rapidly delivers various intravenous fluids into your body without you having to consume anything orally. This is a huge plus when you consider how difficult oral intake can be during a hangover due to the nausea effect that accompanies it.
As an added advantage, hangover IV therapies usually include pain medication, anti-nausea, migraine medication and other useful benefits to help you get over the nasty effects of a hangover.
How to Prevent Future Hangovers
Alcohol abstinence is doubtless the most effective measure against a hangover. However, if you cannot wholly abstain, consider trying the following the next time you plan to drink.
- Eat a carb-rich meal
Eating some pasta, brown rice, and other carb-rich meals can help to slow down the rate at which your bloodstream absorbs the alcohol. This can also prevent hangover symptoms the following day.
- Choose light-colored drinks
Clear-colored drinks tend to have lower congeners. They are also less likely to lead to severe hangovers.
- Stay away from carbonated drinks
Carbonated drinks speed-up the rate at which your bloodstream absorbs alcohol. They can contribute to severe hangover symptoms.
- Avoid cigarettes
Your immune system, hydration, etc., are impacted when you smoke, and the alcohol intake amplifies the effect by a treble. The result is usually a severe hangover the following morning.
- Know your limit and ensure to drink enough water
If you’ve landed in a hangover before, by now, you probably know how much you can safely consume. Try to stay within that limit or even cut it down by half. Also, as a rule of thumb, whenever you’re out drinking, ensure to take twice as much water as the number of drinks you consume. This will help to reduce the symptoms associated with hangovers.
Healthy dietary guidelines recommend no more than two alcoholic beverages for men and no more than one for women daily. However, it is ideal to abstain totally. In the event of a breakdown such as a hangover, a hangover IV therapy is a more effective solution.
One significant advantage is how it incorporates a complete mix of all the vitamins your body needs to re-stabilize and delivers them through intravenous fluids to get you back on your feet quickly. Where abstinence is difficult, you must ensure to incorporate adequate safety measures to prevent hangovers and recover from them quickly.