Alcohol hangover
Young people version

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2. The causes of hangover

I’m so thirsty …

The tremendous thirst, aching muscles and throbbing head associated with hangover are all related to the dehydration that occurs when the body is overloaded with alcohol. Basically, the kidneys can’t reabsorb enough water from the urine and the body ends up eliminating more water than it takes in.

My head hurts…

A dehydrated body will look for water wherever it can and rob other organs, including the brain, if necessary. When the brain loses water, it shrinks slightly, as do the meninges (the protective covering around the brain). It’s the shrinking that causes the headaches.

All my muscles ache…

Dehydration also creates a serious shortage of electrolytes in the body, which is what explains the cramps and muscle pains associated with hangover.

I feel sooooo sick!

That’s because your liver is not functioning properly. The liver is an amazing organ that processes most of the alcohol you drink. It also produces glucose, the main source of energy for metabolism and the substance most likely to affect the brain. But if the liver is too busy processing alcohol it can’t make any glucose, and a lack of glucose – known as hypoglycemia – can cause the brain to malfunction in various ways.

Who is most susceptible to hypoglycemia?
  • The very young
    • who are thin
    • or who have not eaten in more than 24 hours.
  • Regular drinkers who eat little or nothing.
And I’m so tired…

Another reason people feel so terrible the day after drinking a lot is that they have not slept very well. Alcohol may help you fall asleep, but it disturbs the normal sleep cycle.

3. Risk factors

Other products and impurities in alcohol

In addition to alcohol, some alcoholic beverages also contain methanol, histamine and polyphenols, which definitely affect the severity of hangover symptoms.

Psychological vulnerability

It would appear that there is an important connection between a person’s psychosocial state and the severity of hangover symptoms reported. If people feel guilty about drinking, if they are angry, depressed or neurotic, or if they are going through difficult life events, they are more likely to experience more severe hangover symptoms.

Smoking

There is a strong association between episodic drinking and occasional tobacco use. Many social or weekend smokers develop a sudden and strong urge to smoke cigarettes when they drink excessively. But smoking while drinking can make hangover symptoms worse. That’s because nicotine delays gastric emptying, which means more alcohol is metabolized and less is absorbed by the small intestine. As a result, smokers seeking the intoxicating effects of alcohol have to drink more.

4. Consequences and remedies

Headache

It may not always be wise to take acetaminophen (Tylenol) for headache pain. Acetaminophen is fine for occasional drinkers who drink too much on a particular occasion, but it is strictly contraindicated for people with an alcohol dependency (alcoholics) who already have liver problems. Depending on individual sensitivity, combining alcohol with acetylsalicylic acid (ASA, Aspirin) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) may also be a bad idea.

Healthy living is the best remedy

The only truly safe way to treat the pain and discomfort of a hangover is to practice healthy living. After that, only time will help. This is what experts recommend:

  1. exercise to increase oxygen supply
  2. rehydrate by drinking plenty of water
  3. eat lightly.
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