Simply put, a hangover refers to a set of signs and symptoms one experiences after a night of drinking. The symptoms vary from mild to severe, depending on an individual, type of alcohol consumed. In instances where a hangover derails daily activities, one should seek professional help from specialized institutions such as the NAD Treatment San Diego.
Several factors contribute to the aftermath of alcohol consumption. These include;-
- Direct effects of alcohol on body systems
- Alcohol withdrawal from the body
- Effects of alcohol metabolites
- Chemicals present in alcoholic beverages
- Personal characteristics of the drinker
- Behaviors associated with drinking
In this article, we will detail how each of these factors functions to cause a hangover;
Direct Effects of Alcohol
Alcohol consumption directly contributes to the development of a hangover in the following ways;-
Research shows that alcohol is a diuretic, i.e., it causes increased urine production. That causes excessive water loss from the body, leading to the development of common hangover symptoms such as thirst, dizziness, weakness, and dry mouth. At Livv Natural, hangover patients receive IV hydration treatment to restore water and electrolytes lost.
Excessive vomiting, diarrhea, and sweating associated with a hangover cause loss of crucial electrolytes from the body. That exacerbates the symptoms of a hangover, leading to headaches, weakness, and irritability.
Alcohol irritates the digestive system and causes increased acid production. Consequently, one complains of a severe heartburn the morning after.
Plus, alcohol can slow down or speed up food movement along your digestive tract, depending on how much you consume. These effects result in abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, and in some instances, diarrhea.
Binge drinking irritates the pancreas, causing acute pancreatitis; a fatal medical emergency is not caught on time. Also, excessive alcohol consumption disrupts normal liver functioning, ultimately producing fatty liver.
Low Blood Sugar
Studies show alcohol inhibits glucose production while quickly depleting the glucose reserves in the body. Besides, most people indulge in alcohol on an empty stomach, further contributing to the low blood sugar levels.
Glucose is the primary source of energy in the body. When at low levels, one experiences symptoms of hypoglycemia such as fatigue, excessive sweating, mood disturbances, and weakness. These are some of the significant symptoms associated with a hangover.
Disruption of Various Biological Functions
Alcohol disrupts the normal functioning of the body. Though most people barely take note, alcohol-induced sleep is shorter and of poor quality. Lack of adequate sleep causes fatigue and drowsiness experienced when hangover.
Besides, alcohol interferes with normal body temperature and the secretion of crucial hormones such as cortisol and the growth hormone. Consequently, one experiences jet lag symptoms associated with a hangover.
A majority of drinkers underestimate the effects of alcohol on the body. Alcohol causes dilatation of blood vessels all through the body. This effect, popularly known as vasodilation, triggers the development of headaches.
Plus, experts suspect alcohol affects crucial hormones and neurotransmitters in the brain, such as serotonin and histamine, leading to headaches.
Effects on the Immune System
Drinking alcohol may interfere with one’s immune system. Some hangover symptoms such as reduced appetite, nausea, and decreased concentration may be as a result of temporary changes in the immune system influenced by alcohol.
Alcohol has to be broken down before elimination from the body. Alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) and aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH) are the enzymes responsible.
ADH metabolizes alcohol to acetaldehyde, further broken down into acetate for effective elimination. However, in some individuals with genetic mutations of ALDH, acetaldehyde accumulates in the body.
Acetaldehyde is a toxic metabolite whose effects persist into the hangover period exacerbating the symptoms further.
Most people are overly excited and active when drunk, a contrast to the depressing effect alcohol has on the central nervous system. Once alcohol is eliminated, the central nervous system becomes hyperactive, causing tremors, rapid heartbeat, and in some severe cases, convulsions.
In some cases, the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal overlap with those of someone experiencing a hangover.
Effects of Other Factors
Besides the direct effects of alcohol, several other factors contribute to the development of a hangover. These include;-
The smell, taste, and appearance of alcoholic beverages are partly due to chemical compounds known as congeners. These are by-products of fermentation, with the most common examples being tannins and methanol.
Congers are present at higher levels in darker alcoholic beverages and are associated with more severe hangovers. Drinks such as gin and vodka that are purely alcohol result in a milder hangover. In contrast, alcoholic beverages rich in congeners, such as brandy and whisky, tend to cause severe hangovers.
Surprisingly, the traits of an individual influence the severity of their hangover symptoms. Research shows that shy people tend to be anxious when hangover, exacerbating their symptoms.
Persons undergoing life pressures and stress or those who tend to feel guilty after a night out also experience severe hangovers.
Furthermore, younger persons and female gender are prone to experiencing more severe hangover symptoms. Individuals with a family history of alcoholism tend to experience increased hangover symptoms. At the same time, these individuals tend to drink more than persons with no family history of alcoholism.
Behaviors Associated with Drinking
It is not unusual to find a person drinking alcohol and, at the same time, smoking cigarettes or using other drugs such as cocaine and marijuana. Research shows these substances cause their hangover symptoms, further worsening one’s condition. Unfortunately, the exact mechanism is yet to be explained.
Staying up for longer than the norm is also suspected of worsening the hangover symptoms. Eating on an empty stomach also helps exacerbate the severity of a hangover. That is because, when hungry, the alcohol is quickly absorbed into the bloodstream; thus, one will feel drunk faster and even worse the morning after.
Anyone who has suffered from a hangover can tell you it is not a pleasant experience. From the above discussion, so many factors cause a hangover. However, dehydration and the toxic effects of alcohol are the primary culprits.
Though dehydration can be quickly reversed and its effects relieved, only time can heal one from the toxic effects of alcohol on the various body systems.