Hangover Science 101

Good morning class, and happy new year! I’m sure many of you were out celebrating like it was 1999 (or just 2012), and as a result, you may have been feeling a bit under the weather this morning. Of course, I’m talking about the kind of “sickness” that was totally self-inflicted when you consumed tee many martoonies while ringing in 2013. So what are these awful things we all know as hangovers, and how do we get rid of them once and for all? Unfortunately, neither question can be definitively answered, but don’t fret – we here at *AT* care about your health as well as your sinful habits so we will do our best to answer them.

Lesson One: What Causes a Hangover?

There is anecdotal evidence that no two hangovers were created equally, and the reason before this is that there are probably a variety of conditions that come together to form a perfect storm of hatred within your own body. Headaches, nausea, sensitivity to light, fatigue, increased heart rate and respiration, and of course, vomiting, are all symptoms that may or may not appear in differing degrees of severity.

The first and most obvious cause is dehydration. Whenever alcohol enters your blood stream, it blocks the production of a hormone called vasopressin, something that your body naturally produces which suppresses your need and desire to go to the bathroom. A full night of drinking will all but empty your body of water, causing headaches, dry mouth, and general fatigue in the morning. This will also lessen the amount of fluids in your brain, causing that lovely pounding sensation when you try to stand up for the first time in the morning.

Second, a few reactions occur directly related to the chemistry of alcohol itself. When metabolized, ethanol is converted into acetaldehyde, a compound that is as much as 30 times more toxic as alcohol itself, contributing to all of the above symptoms, Alcohol also has a negative  reaction with the lining in your stomach, causing general nausea – especially if you decided to drink on an empty stomach!

During the reactions above, some other awful things happen: buildup of the chemical pyruvate decreases the liver’s ability to compensate  for declining glucose levels in the blood, which is a significant source of energy to the brain. This compounds existing systems of fatigue and that general feeling of impending death.

Next Lesson: How to Cure that Hangover

Let’s face it: I’m on the west coast, and it is nearly 6PM. If you are still hungover from last night, you did something terribly wrong. If you need immediate advice on how to cure that hangover, here is some: suck it up and stop drinking, amateur! For the rest of you, we are happy to hear that you survived your New Year’s Eve celebrations, and hope you come back soon for our full second lesson on how to cure your hangover.


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