A hangover is a group of unpleasant signs and symptoms that can develop after drinking too much alcohol. frequent hangovers are also associated with poor performance and conflict at work. A general rule is, the more alcohol you drink, the more likely you are to have a hangover the next day. So, if you choose to drink alcohol, doing so responsibly can help you avoid future hangovers.
As we age, our relationship with alcohol should change as well. When we’re young, our organs are capable of withstanding some of the effects. But, as our bodies slowly start losing their elasticity to take abuse, alcohol can play a different role.
Every year, an estimated 88,000 people die of alcohol-related causes, making it the third most preventable form of death, behind poor diet, lack of exercise, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
The World Health Organization also reports that the average American drinker consumes more than nine liters — or about two and a half gallons — of pure alcohol a year, while Nigeria is estimated to have highest annual alcohol consumption in Africa. An average Nigerian consumes about 12.28 litres of alcohol per annum and about a quarter of all drinkers report heavy drinking in December.
Hangovers seem to be the body’s way of reminding us about the hazards of overindulgence. Causes of Hangover varies. Alcohol is metabolized into acetaldehyde, a substance that’s toxic at high levels. However, concentrations rarely get that high, so that’s not the complete explanation. Hangovers begin after blood alcohol levels start to fall. In fact, according to some experts, the worst symptoms occur when levels reach zero. Drinking interferes with brain activity during sleep, so a hangover may be a form of sleep deprivation. Alcohol scrambles the hormones that regulate our Circadian Rhythm. (biological clocks), which may be why a hangover can feel like jet lag, and vice versa. Alcohol can also trigger migraines, so some people may think they’re hung over when it’s really an alcohol-induced migraine they’re suffering.
Classic Symptoms include: Fatigue and weakness, Excessive thirst and dry mouth, 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 (Vetigo), Shakiness, Decreased ability to concentrate, Mood disturbances; such as depression, anxiety (“fight or flight” response is revved up) and irritability (Oversensitivity to light or sound), Rapid heartbeat; Increased systolic pressure. Alcohol can make you sleepy, but it prevents deeper stages of sleep and often causes awakening in the middle of the night. This may leave you groggy and tired.
Different Ways Hangovers are Managed
- Drinking to ease the symptoms: There is a notion that hangovers are a form of alcohol withdrawal, so a drink or two will ease the withdrawal. But Dr. Swift on Harvard Health advises against using alcohol as a hangover remedy, as it is like “The hair of a dog”. “The hair of the dog just perpetuates a cycle,” he says. “It doesn’t allow you to recover.”
- Drink fluids: Alcohol promotes urination because it inhibits the release of vasopressin, a hormone that decreases the volume of urine made by the kidneys. If your hangover includes diarrhea, sweating, or vomiting, you may be even more dehydrated. Although nausea can make it difficult to get anything down, even just a few sips of water might help your hangover.
- Get some carbohydrates into your system: the fatigue and headaches of a hangover may be from a brain working without enough of its main fuel. Moreover, many people forget to eat when they drink, further lowering their blood sugar. Toast and juice are ways to gently nudge levels back to normal.
- Take a pain reliever, but not Tylenol: ibuprofen and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may help with the headache and the overall achy feelings. NSAIDs, though, may irritate a stomach already irritated by alcohol. Don’t take acetaminophen (Tylenol/Paracetamol). If alcohol is lingering in your system, it may accentuate acetaminophen’s toxic effects on the liver.
- Drink coffee or tea: Caffeine may not have any special anti-hangover powers, but as a stimulant, it could help with the grogginess. Coffee is a diuretic, though, so it may exacerbate dehydration.
- Vitamin B6: A study published over 30 years ago found that people had fewer hangover symptoms if they took a total of 1,200 milligrams of vitamin B6 before, during, and just after drinking to get drunk. But it was a small study and doesn’t seem to have been replicated.
But what about a glass a day?
It seems study after study comes out on a regular basis showing the protective effects of drinking alcohol, typically a glass of wine a day.
In a quoted interview on Healthline; Joel Garrison, DO, family medicine physician at Piedmont Physicians Monroe Family Practice in Monroe, Georgia, says that while there is some evidence that small amounts of alcohol can be beneficial in preventing heart attacks, there’s also evidence that small amounts of alcohol can increase your risk for stroke. “It is certainly a double-edged sword,” Garrison told Healthline. “The benefit may be outweighed by the risk, or at least the benefit negated by the risk.”
Note: To avoid recurrence of hangovers, keep track of what you’re drinking and stay within the low risk unit guidelines.