Libations & Wellness: The Hangover – Causes, Prevention & Cures

Scene from The Hangover. Image distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures.

Scene from The Hangover. Image distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures.

It’s Friday night. You hit the town to put the week behind you. Happy Hour. Shots. Then you wake up Saturday morning. Your head hurts. Your stomach is uneasy. You just want to curl up in a little ball, in a dark space and have a breakfast sandwich delivered to your door. You’re hungover.

What is a hangover?

According to Medical News Today, a hangover is a collection of signs and symptoms linked to recent bouts of heavy drinking. Symptoms can include headache, nausea, dizziness, tiredness, confusion, thirst, anxiety, regret, shame, embarrassment, depression, and the desire to eat everything greasy in sight.

There is no magic number on how much alcohol needs to be consumed in order to cause a hangover. There are so many factors that can influence the severity of a hangover like when you start drinking, what you’ve eaten and how much sleep you get.

What causes a hangover? 

Lots and lots of alcohol. A hangover is the result of dehydration due to drinking an excess amount of alcohol. Alcohol is a diuretic, which causes you to make more trips to the restroom.

Boozing also raises the production of stomach acids and slows down the rate your stomach empties itself, which when combined can lead to nausea and vomiting. While you are drinking, your blood sugar also drops causing shakiness, tiredness, and moodiness.

While you might pass out after several drinks, you are not really getting a great quality sleep, which is why you often wake up tired.

Prevention

Obviously it is better to prevent a hangover than cure it. The easiest way to prevent a hangover is to not drink alcohol, but considering you’re on Denver off the Wagon, we’ll assume that’s not an option.

Before you drink:

  • Eat foods that are high in fat and fiber.
  • Take Vitamin C.
  • Try one of the many hangover prevention products like NoHo.

While you drink:

  • Have a glass of water for every alcoholic beverage you consume.
  • Try to avoid overly sugary drinks.
  • Don’t mix your boozes.
  • Mix with one of the electrolyte infused cocktail mixers on the market like iX Mixer and Mercy. (Note: Just to disclose, I used to represent iX Mixer).

The Huffington Post has also compiled a list of the seven foods to eat before and after drinking to help prevent a hangover. Check it out for some tips before heading out for GABF.

Cures

When it comes to curing a hangover, everyone has a secret recipe. Hair of the dog. Bacon. A greasy cheeseburger. Raw eggs in a cup with a bunch of other shit thrown in. Water. Advil. Hiding under the covers.

While hiding under the covers is the most comfortable of options, if you’re able to eat, do it. Eating leads to digestion, which boosts all the processes that break down all the poisons. Specifically, eating bacon while hiding under your covers is guaranteed to help.

Why do my hangovers get worse as I age?

One thing I have noticed as I’ve gotten older, my hangovers are getting worse, and they last longer. I often find myself wondering how I partied all-night long at age 21 through 25 and was able to bounce out of bed the next morning go to class, go for a six-mile run and be a very cheery person. At age 26, it seems like it went all downhill.

Jim Schaefer, an alcohol metabolism expert and an anthropology professor at Union College, was quoted in an NBC article on just this subject. According to Schaefer, a critical enzyme that breaks down booze diminishes as we get older. Your body depends on alcohol dehydrogenase (ALDH) and aldehyde dehydrogenase (ADH) to break down alcohol. ALDH breaks down ethanol into acetaldehyde, and then ADH breaks down the acetaldehyde into acetic acid.

Many have stated that acetaldehyde is one of the key toxic chemicals that influences how bad your hangover will be. As ADH levels decrease, your hangovers will get worse. Blame acetaldehyde all you want, but that round of shots you bought at last call is the real culprit.

How do you prevent a hangover? What hangover remedies have you found work best? Do you think your hangovers have gotten worse as you age?

 

About Alexandra Weissner


Alex loves craft beer, whiskey and brunch. She has a weakness for Champagne and Prosecco. She also likes to run a lot.

  • Scott

    I’m going to give DrinkWel a try next week, which are basically multi-vitamins geared towards hangovers. It might prove to be a waste of money, but worth a try.

    • Alexandra Weissner

      You will have to let us know if it works!