What Causes Hangovers & How To Prevent Getting One?

How-To Guides

 a hungover woman

Hangovers are a pain when your head is throbbing, and the only thing that sounds good right now is water. But wait! There's more to hangover cures than just drinking tons of water, taking aspirin, or sleeping it off. Read on for some helpful tips about what causes them and how to prevent them in the future.

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What is Considered a Drink?

The amount of liquid in your glass does not always correspond to the alcohol concentration. There are many types and styles of beer, wine, or malt liquor that have widely varying amounts per volume - some contain less than others! That's why it's crucial to know how much alcohol is in your drink.

The average American drinks about 14 grams of pure alcohol every time they have one "normal" drink. This can be found in:

Drink

Average Alcohol Content

25 mL of standard whiskey

40%

218 mL of standard wine

13%

218 mL of standard cider

4.5%

250 mL of standard beer

4%

250 mL of standard cooler

4%

What Exactly is a Hangover?

A hangover is a symptom that develops due to excessive drinking. Fatigue, weakness, thirst, headache, muscle aches, and nausea are common symptoms. However, the severity of a hangover varies from person to person.

Hangovers can be uncomfortable as well as harmful. A person's attentiveness, decision-making, and motor coordination can all be affected by a hangover.

Non-Alcoholic Factors of Hangover

A hangover can be caused by a variety of things other than drinking. Among them are the following:

  • Congeners

Congeners are chemical molecules found in most alcoholic beverages that add to the beverage's flavor, smell, and appearance. The symptoms of a hangover may be more intense because of these chemicals.

Drinks that are essentially pure alcohol like gin or vodka are less likely to create a hangover. Subsequently, drinks with more congeners, such as whiskey, brandy, and red wine, are more likely to trigger one.

  • Use of Additional Drugs

A person who can drink a lot is more likely to consume other substances and smoke cigarettes.

These substances can create their own set of symptoms similar to a hangover. Although marijuana, cocaine, and other drugs can contribute to the conditions that lead to it, the precise effects of these drugs on alcohol hangovers remain unknown.

  • Family History

Compared to drinkers without a family history of alcoholism, people with a family history of alcoholism have a higher risk of experiencing hangover symptoms. Most of them consume more alcohol than those who do not.

What Causes a Hangover?

Party aftermath

Hangovers are common for people who drink heavily. A few causes that may lead to a hangover include:

Dehydration

Alcohol inhibits the release of a brain hormone that causes the kidneys to retain fluid by sending signals to them called vasopressin. Alcohol causes increased urine and fluid loss. Dehydration contributes to hangover symptoms like thirst, lethargy, and headache.

Troubled Sleep

People who drink alcohol fall asleep sooner, but if their sleep is fragmented, they usually wake up earlier, which leads to exhaustion and less productivity. While drinking too much alcohol can make you tired, it inhibits you from getting a good night's sleep and may show you to wake up in the middle of the night.

Digestive Tract Irritation

Alcohol irritates the stomach lining, causes an increase in acid production, and can cause nausea and stomach pains. 

In your digestive system, alcohol promotes inflammation and increases acid production. Alcohol can slow down up or speed up the passage of food through your gastrointestinal tract, depending on how much you drink. These side effects can also be diarrhea or vomiting.

Inflammation

Inflammation in the body is intensified by alcohol. It has a role in the restlessness that people experience when unwell. Thus it could also be a factor in the symptoms of a hangover.

Exposure to Acetaldehyde

The liver produces acetaldehyde, a toxic, short-lived byproduct of alcohol metabolism that contributes to inflammation in the liver, pancreas, brain, gastrointestinal system, and other organs.

Hypoglycemia (Low Blood Sugar Level)

Drinking reduces the body's ability to produce sugar (glucose). Fatigue, dizziness, and irritability are some symptoms of low blood sugar.

Electrolyte Deficiency

The body needs electrolytes to function properly. If you drink alcohol, your ionization (the process by which a substance becomes charged) can be upset, and this will cause many different symptoms such as headaches or irritability, among others!

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Adverse Effects of Hangover on the Immune System

Drinking alcohol may harm your immune system if you drink alcohol. A wide range of hangover symptoms like loss of appetite and inability to concentrate may be linked to alcohol-induced transient abnormalities in immune system function.

Vasodilation (Dilated Blood Vessels)

Experiencing a headache after drinking is a common Do you experience having a headache after drinking? It might be because your blood vessels are swelling. When you drink, these blood vessels widen, which can lead to headaches or even eye strain!

Mini-Withdrawal

People may feel calmer, more relaxed, or even euphoric after drinking, but the brain soon adjusts to those good effects to maintain composure. As the rush wears off, people tend to feel more restless and nervous than they did before drinking.

It is tough to determine how many beers to experience a hangover as everyone is different. When people drink to the point of intoxication, there is a risk that they will wake up with a hangover the next day. Moreover, the intensity of the symptom can range from moderate to severe.

How to Prevent Getting a Hangover

Hangover remedies

Although numerous hangover treatments are mentioned on the internet and social media, none have been scientifically confirmed to be helpful. 

The dreaded hangover does not play favorites, but there are some steps you can take to prevent them, and be prepared at the same time:

Before Partying

  • Eat Fatty Foods

Doctors say that all types of fat delay the body's absorption rate and can help prevent morning-after regret later on when you're already dehydrated from excessive amounts of alcoholic drinks consumed during happy hour. 

Avocado usually falls into this category - one serving provides more than 5 grams per ounce, which is more than rough for lasting impact. 

  • Consume High-Fiber Foods

High-fiber foods like Brussels sprouts and lentils help break down alcohol in your digestive system so it can be absorbed by cells throughout the body. This means you will feel less of an effect from drinks.

  • Take Vitamin C

Vitamin C will give your body what it needs for fighting infection and reducing pain after drinking too much alcohol.

There are ways to sneak more vitamin C before your party:

  • Drinking orange juice with your breakfast
  • Taking supplements
  • Eating sweet fruits like strawberries and kiwi

During Partying

  • Keep Away from Congeners

There are several types of alcohol, but dark flavors and colors tend to have more alcohol than lighter ones, which could lead your body into an inflammatory response that causes headaches or nausea.

  • Stick to One Kind of Drink

You'll be able to keep better track and stay hydrated without any worry about an upset stomach. Sticking to just one kind of drink all night will make it easier for your body and mind to process.

  • Avoid Carbonated Drinks

The bubbles in carbonated drinks can speed up how quickly you absorb alcohol. More than just fizz and bubbles, carbonated beverages is considered as one of the best mixers in cocktails.

Carbon dioxide molecules make it a versatile drink that can be enjoyed on many occasions, from celebrations to desserts.

  • Alternate Drinking Alcohol and Water

The intake of water when you're out drinking is a good idea to avoid hangovers. It will replenish your hydration levels and thereby help prevent them, but alternating with alcohol helps you pace yourself according to how much more challenging or milder the substance may be for each drink.

The Morning After Partying

Man sitting on the sofa after party

  • Hydrate

Our body is a complex machine, and one of its most essential jobs as you go about your day (or night) is to keep yourself hydrated. Alcohol causes the skin cells in our bodies to produce urine/water balance sensors called epithelial linings that help regulate how much liquid goes into each cell.

When these bathrooms break down due to too many drinks or alcohol-related dehydration, we can become more susceptible not only physically but mentally, so make sure always to drink lots before liquor - even if it's just water.

  • Juice Your Fruits

For example, fruits juices of apples and oranges may help with alcohol metabolism and restore blood sugar levels. The sugar in the fruits causes your body to burn alcohol faster than any other type of carbohydrate or fuel source does.

  • Take Pedialyte

This drink is often given to kids who need hydration, but it has also become an effective hangover buster for 21+ adults! The hydrating formula comes in several different flavors and forms:

    • Powder Mixes available at your pharmacy or grocery store; 
    • Sports Drinks which you can find throughout the town at convenience stores; 
    • Ice pops if it hot outside, then we've got just what'll happen: refreshing frozen treat perfection
  • Eat Bland Carbohydrates

Bland carbohydrates are the best choice if you want to sober up quickly. These include dry toast and oyster crackers, which can soothe a stomach upset from too many frontier shots or one glass of wine with dinner - not that we're suggesting eating these things after getting drunk.

  • Have Some Honey

A healthy meal in the morning is key to a successful day. Adding honey onto your toast can help combat hangovers and give you an energy boost.

  • Add Eggs to Your Lunch

Eating eggs can help clear out harmful free radicals from the body and leave us with less nausea or other symptoms of discomfort.

  • Take Some Anti-inflammatory Medicine

A variety of over-the-counter medications provide relief for headaches and stomach issues. For example, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen will help you feel better without worrying about any side effects or interactions with other medication in your home.

  • Do Light Exercise (If You Can)

Listen to your body: If you're incapacitated from a hangover, forcing yourself to work out probably isn't wise. 

However, if you're up for it, many people swear by a good sweat for clearing the hangover fog. Getting mild to moderate exercise increases circulation and metabolism and can rid the body of toxins.

Symptoms of a hangover usually subside within 8 to 24 hours. Your body must detox from alcohol's harmful byproducts, rehydrate, mend tissue, and restore normal functioning and activities.

There's no other way to speed up the brain's and body's recovery and healing processes, and the only thing that can help you cope is time.

Conclusion

So, there you have it. Everything you ever wanted to know about hangovers. While we can’t promise that following our advice will make your hangovers disappear completely, we do think that they will be less severe if you take the necessary precautions.

What are your favorite remedies for dealing with a hangover? Let us know in the comments below – and please share any tips or tricks that have worked well for you!

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