HANGOVER SCIENCE

September 20, 2020

The hangover, medically known as veisalgia, derived from the Norwegian kveis (uneasiness following debauchery) and Greek algia (pain) is a bit of a mystery. There is not a solid answer on why hangovers occur, however, below are the most common findings.

CAUSES (A to Z)

Hangovers occur due to overconsumption of alcohol, the amount that quantifies overconsumption, varies person to person. Inebriation can be calculated however by one's blood alcohol content. Hangovers typically occur once your blood alcohol content (BAC) is at or near zero.

0.01 - 0.03 BAC = Slight mood elevation

0.04 - 0.06 BAC = Sense of warmth and relaxation with minor impairment

0.07 - 0.09 BAC = Some impairment of balance, control, speech, and vision

0.10 - 0.12 BAC = Impairment of motor functions

0.13 - 0.15 BAC = significant impairment of motor functions

0.16 - 0.20 BAC = Dysphoria and nausea

0.21 - 0.30 BAC = Severe intoxication, mental confusion, vomiting

0.30 - 0.40 BAC = Loss of consciousness

0.41+ BAC = Coma, respiratory failure, death

Acetaldehyde:

Acetaldehyde is a toxic (10-30 times more toxic than alcohol itself) byproduct created during the body's process of breaking down alcohol. If alcohol consumption is at a higher pace than the liver's ability to break down alcohol (one drink per hour), acetaldehyde will not successfully be removed by the body, causing acetaldehyde toxicity. High levels of acetaldehyde in the body results in headaches, very heavy vomiting, and more.

Alcohol Dehydrogenase:

A group of enzymes that convert alcohol to acetaldehyde and then to acetic acid. Some genes are mutated, which slows down this process, resulting in flushing of the skin. 

Carbonation:

Carbonated beverages, such as sparkling wine, beer, and liquor mixed with soda, increase the body's absorption of alcohol. These beverages stimulate blood circulation as well as create extra pressure in the stomach, which increases the speed at which alcohol moves from the stomach to the small intestine, thus increasing the rate at which the body absorbs alcohol.

 

Congeners:

Congeners are toxic chemical byproducts of fermentation that contribute to aromas and flavors, but are a cause of hangovers. Typically congener levels are higher in darker colored alcoholic beverages or alcoholic beverages that are made without quality being the main focus. All types of alcohol have different congeners, when combining different beverages, the effects can be intensified.

Cytokines:

Alcohol consumption induces an inflammatory response in the body, triggering the release of a protein known as cytokines. The release of these proteins are associated with body aches, fever, migraines, nausea, and more.

Decreased Blood Sugar:

Alcohol consumption reduces blood sugar levels. The more alcohol the larger the drop, if proper food is not consumed. Decreased blood sugar results in fatigue, mood fluctuations, the shakes, weakness, and more.

Dehydration:

During consumption of alcohol the liver requires higher amounts of water in order to break down alcohol. If adequate levels of water are not consumed (8 ounces for every serving of alcohol) the liver will pull water from sources within the body, which speeds up dehydration. Alcohol consumption also affects the kidneys, increasing the need to urinate, creating an electrolyte imbalance, and resulting in dehydration. Dehydration results in confusion, dizziness, dry mouth, fatigue, lightheadedness, thirst, and more.

Expansion and Constriction of Blood Vessels:

Alcohol is a vasodilator, which causes the expansion of blood vessels, which results in the lowering of blood pressure. To compensate for the drop in blood pressure, the heart rate will speed up in order to provide the body with adequate amounts of blood. Heavy consumption of alcohol will then cause the reverse, the constriction of blood vessels, which can result in headaches or migraines.

Glutamine:

Alcohol consumption blocks the body's natural production of a stimulant known as glutamine. When one stops consuming alcohol, the body will try to overcompensate, creating high amounts of glutamine in the body. When someone goes to sleep after alcohol consumption, adequate rest is rarely achieved due to the stimulant obstructing the body's ability to reach stages of deep sleep or even awakening one in the middle of the night.

Glutathione Production:

As the body ages, our production of glutathione, an antioxidant that assists in the breakdown of acetaldehydes, decreases. Often resulting in the worsening of hangovers as we get older.

Hydrochloric Acid:

Alcohol consumption induces the release of hydrochloric acid into the stomach. When the levels get high enough, the body is signaled to vomit in order to remove the acid from the stomach. The acid build up results in irritation in the lining of the stomach, resulting in diarrhea, lack of appetite, nausea, stomach pains, and more.

Stress:

Stress causes the stomach to rapidly move substances, such as alcohol, to the small intestine, increasing the body's absorption of alcohol.

SYMPTOMS:

Hangover symptoms vary person to person. Some people have one drink and wake up with a hangover, others can have multiple drinks and rarely exhibit symptoms. Factors that affect this are environmental influences, gender, genetics, metabolic rate, tolerance, and more.

Anxiety

Depression

Digestive issues

Dizziness

Dry mouth

Excessive thirst

Fatigue

Flushed skin

Headache

Increased heart rate

Irritability

Lack of focus

Light sensitivity

Loss of balance

Memory loss

Migraines

Muscle aches

Nausea

Poor sleep

Shakes

Sound sensitivity

Spins

Stomach pain

Sweating

Vomiting

Weakness

PREVENTIONS AND CURES

The only guaranteed prevention and cure for a hangover is to abstain from consuming alcohol. There are some things that have been sourced to help speed up hangover recovery:

Bananas:

Potassium levels are high in bananas, which can help replenish what is lost during alcohol consumption. 

 

Eggs:

Eggs contain cysteines, a substance naturally created by the body to break down acetaldehyde. 

Fruit Juice:

Fruit juice helps to increase sugar levels in the body.

Large Meals:

Food consumption prior to drinking slows down the body's absorption of alcohol, allowing the liver time to break down the alcohol. Foods high in fat and carbohydrates are recommended.

Vitamins:

The body is depleted of vitamins and nutrients during alcohol consumption, most effective are supplements high in Vitamin B and C. 

Water:

Water consumption helps to dilute alcohol in the body and prevent dehydration. It is recommended to drink at least one 8oz glass of water for every serving of alcohol.

 

Every person has tricks that work well for them. We asked many beverage industry professionals their favorite cures and compiled them below:

Alka Seltzer

Apple cider vinegar

Berroca

Electrolytes

Emergen-C

Hair of the dog

Headache medication

Migas

Multi-vitamins

Pedialyte

Pho

Pickles

Pizza

Potassium supplements

Spicy food

Tomato juice

Underberg

Vitamin B12 complex