Just in case you are suffering from the effects of a wild weekend…
When you drink a large amount of alcohol, you can expect that the next morning will be accompanied by headache, nausea, sensitivity to light and sound, etc, all of which objectively suck.
Via the Mayo Clinic:
Hangover symptoms typically begin when your blood alcohol drops significantly and is at or near zero. They’re usually in full effect the morning after a night of heavy drinking. Depending on what you drank and how much you drank, you may notice:
- Headaches and muscle aches
- Nausea, vomiting or stomach pain
- Poor or decreased sleep
- Increased sensitivity to light and sound
- Dizziness or a sense of the room spinning
- Rapid heartbeat
- Red, bloodshot eyes
- Decreased ability to concentrate
- Mood disturbances, such as depression, anxiety and irritability
None of this is very fun, but I’m sure those of you with a hangover don’t need me to tell you that.
Another thing you can count on when drinking too much is “breaking the seal” or frequent and heavy urination. When alcohol enters your bloodstream, it tells your pituitary gland not to produce vasopressin, which is the hormone that typically keeps your body hydrated by regulating water uptake. Without vasopressin, liquids get siphoned straight to your bladder, which is why you really open the floodgates after the first time you pee during a boozy evening. When you’re drinking, you lose about four times more liquid than you gain, which also causes the dehydration that leads to that wonderful cotton mouth and headache that come with a hangover.
For elaboration, those terrible headaches that you get in the morning are caused by this dehydration. Your organs are so desperate for hydration that they steal water from your brain, which causes your brain to shrink. A shrunken brain pulls on the membranes that connect the brain to the skull, and that, naturally, hurts like a spike to the brain.
You will also feel weak and generally depleted because all that peeing rids your body of salt, potassium, and magnesium which are important for normal nerve, muscle, and cell function. Alcohol also breaks down and makes you pee out glycogen, which in a non-drunk is a natural source of energy in your liver.
If all of that wasn’t bad enough, when we metabolize alcohol, our livers create an extremely toxic substance called acetaldehyde. Humans have handy enzymes that break down acetaldehyde called acetaldehyde dehydrogenase and glutathione. But when we drink too much, the enzymes can’t keep up, and the toxin builds up, increasing the severity of headaches and nausea. To give you an idea of how toxic acetaldehyde is: Antabuse, a drug used in severe cases of alcoholism, completely blocks the acetaldehyde-eating enzymes. The result is that even a drop of alcohol causes a flushed face, headache, nausea, vomiting, chest pain, weakness, blurred vision, mental confusion, sweating, choking, breathing difficulty, and anxiety.
Glutamine, on the other hand, is suppressed while we’re knocking back the brews. Glutamine is a natural stimulant, so when we stop drinking, our body gets busy trying to replenish glutamine levels, which is why we usually sleep restlessly after a night of debauchery. It’s called glutamine rebound, and in severe cases it causes a special hangover featuring tremors, anxiety, and high blood pressure.
What Can You Do?
There are no cures for a hangover, as we discovered here, but there are still things you can do. Some good science-based suggestions would be:
- Protecting your stomach lining and replace your lost nutrients. Food in the stomach does not in fact “soak up” alcohol, it merely reduces the time it takes to transfer the alcohol from the stomach to the small intestine where it is absorbed into your bloodstream.
- Replace lost nutrients and can dilute alcohol while consuming. Taking a drink of water with every drink of alcohol will better walk the line between too much and too little (because you’re trying to get buzzed, I assume).
- Let your body detoxify itself, remove any harmful substances, and get better. Simple.