Basics of Hangover
|Basics of Hangover|
All those drinks that seemed like such a good idea the night before are a lot less fun the next morning. Anyone who has ever experienced the pounding headache, nausea, fatigue, and general feeling of weakness that accompanies a hangover can be forgiven for grasping desperately at any possible cure.
The symptoms of a hangover can include headache, nausea, vomiting, dry mouth, diarrhea, dehydration, anxiety, irritability, weakness, sensitivity to light and noises, hypersalivation, fatigue, elevated body temperature, difficulty concentrating, erratic motor functions, and trouble sleeping. In short, it’s not fun. The number and severity of symptoms can vary from person to person and also on each occasion depending on the number and types of drinks consumed.
Scientifically, the symptoms of a hangover are caused by how the body processes alcohol. The compound in alcoholic drinks which causes drunkenness is called ethanol. Ethanol itself is a diuretic, causing dehydration. The side effects of this are headaches, dry mouth, and lethargy.
Metabolism of ethanol occurs in the liver and produces acetaldehyde, which is toxic. Acetaldehyde is then broken down into acetic acid. Because the liver has to work so hard to break down alcohol, it has fewer resources available to supply energy in the form of glucose to other tissues, including the brain. Lack of glucose in the brain contributes to hangover symptoms such as weakness, fatigue, and lowered ability to concentrate.
Congeners are also guilty of causing some hangover symptoms. Congeners are impurities produced during fermentation, and also things like zinc that are added to give flavor. The more congeners in a drink, the harder the body has to work to clear them all out of the system. There are more congeners in red wine and dark liquor than there are in white wine and clear spirits. Combining different types of drinks will also expose you to more congeners.
This is all very well, but when you are suffering from a hangover you don’t really care about the chemical reactions that are causing your symptoms. All you want to know is what will make you feel better, preferably five minutes ago. The good news is that just about everyone has a surefire hangover cure. The bad news is that most of them are just old wives' tales.
The only real cure for a hangover is giving your body time to metabolize all the alcohol and get it out of your system. Since this occurs at roughly the rate of one standard drink per hour, the more you drink the longer you will suffer. There are however some things you can do to alleviate some of the side effects.
One of the major symptoms of excess alcohol consumption is dehydration. Replacing the lost water will help you feel better. Other things that are lost during drinking include magnesium, zinc, vitamins A, B, and C, and electrolytes. Replacing these as quickly as possible will also help you feel better.
Many people swear by certain folk remedies. Scientific evidence has yet to prove the validity of these, but if they work for you then go ahead. Of course, the one guaranteed way to make sure you don’t get a hangover is not to drink too much in the first place.