Why drinking liquor can cause a hangover?

Love to drink but dread the morning after and the hangover that comes with it? A hangover is generally caused by the direct effect of alcohol on your body and often relates to your drinking behavior as well. Today, we take a look at why drinking liquor can cause a hangover.

There are a number of factors that cause the unpleasant feeling when you wake up after a night of celebration with friends and family. Some of these symptoms are caused by excessive consumption of alcohol while others are associated with the withdrawal of alcohol from your system. Metabolites and chemicals are often responsible for hangovers.

Effects of Alcohol

A person may experience one or more than one of the following effects after consuming alcohol:

  1. Dehydration: Drinking often causes dehydration due to increase in urine production, hence causing common symptoms associated with hangovers (and dehydration) like thirst, weakness, dry mucous membranes, and dizziness. Sometimes, excessive drinking can also cause sweating, vomiting and stomach imbalances, in turn, causing the body to lose additional fluids and electrolytes.
  2. Gastrointestinal Problems: Alcohol also irritates the stomach and intestines if the drinking is not regulated. This can lead to inflammation and the production of liver and gastric acids, and pancreatic secretions, causing symptoms such as abdominal pain and nausea.
  3. Low Blood Sugar: Alcohol also blocks glucose production in our bodies, depleting the reserves of glucose present in the liver. Since glucose serves as the main source of energy for the brain, low blood sugar levels can result in fatigue and weakness or even mood swings often associated with hangovers.
  4. Sleep Disruptions: Alcohol-induced sleep is usually deep, yet short in duration. That’s because the biological rhythms of your body have been disrupted and release of growth hormones and cortisol. Hence, causing ‘jet lag’ type symptoms when you wake up.
  5. Headache: One of the most common effects of alcohol-induced hangover, the headache you experience is caused by the widening of blood vessels in your head and body. It results in the secretion of histamine, serotonin and prostaglandins hormones thought to be the cause of headaches.
  6. Withdrawal of Alcohol: Drinking too many glasses of your favorite whisky can depress the central nervous system. So, once the alcohol starts leaving your system, the nervous system can go into a hyperactive mode which causes rapid heartbeats and other symptoms associated with hangovers.
  7. Metabolism: The body uses Alcohol Dehydrogenase (ADH) and Aldehyde Dehydrogenase (ALDH) for breaking down the molecules of alcohol. ADH breaks down alcohol into acetaldehyde, further converting it into acetate. But some people may have a genetic variant oof ALDH that allows acetaldehyde to accumulate in the body and cause toxic effects resulting in hangover symptoms.

Other Causes of Hangovers

Apart from direct effects of alcohol on the body, there are several other reasons which may lead to a hangover, such as Congeners, or chemical compounds that are mixed in alcoholic beverages. Researchers have concluded that pure alcohols are less likely to cause a hangover in comparison to the ones with added congeners. Also, some studies suggest a relation between the personality of the drinker and hangovers. Traits like shyness or sadness can create a sense of ‘hangxiety’ in some people.

The Bottom Line

While several factors can cause a hangover, the two main ones are dehydration and toxic effects of alcohol on our system. However, the symptoms of a hangover can be quickly reversed by drinking water or sports drinks. It’s all just a matter of getting the imbalance fixed by restoring the lost electrolytes and relieving the central nervous system and the gastrointestinal systems.

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