What Causes Hangover After Drinking Alcohol & How Can You Get Rid Of It?

Hangover is an unpleasant sensation that comes over after drinking an excess of alcohol.(1, 6) A person with hangover experiences headache, confusion, thirst and a constant sick feeling.(2, 6) A hangover can occur anytime in the day, but most frequently is experienced by almost everyone in the morning after a night of heavy drinking. The severity of the symptoms of hangover depends on the amount of alcohol consumed and whether the sufferer has slept enough or not.

What Causes Hangover After Drinking Alcohol?

What Causes Hangover After Drinking Alcohol?

There are various factors, which cause a hangover. The factors are either direct effects of alcohol in the body as well as other factors associated with drinking.

Direct Effects of Alcohol

The direct effects of alcohol on the body are the ones, which produce the most unpleasantness.

Dehydration and Electrolyte Imbalance Can Cause Hangover

Alcohol leads to increase in urination, which causes dehydration(3) and the following symptoms:

Due to vomiting and diarrhea, there is an additional loss of body fluids and electrolytes.

Gastrointestinal Disturbance from Alcohol leads to Hangover

Excessive alcohol consumption irritates and inflames the lining of the stomach and also delay stomach emptying.(4, 6) Alcohol can lead to fatty liver, gastric acid, intestinal and pancreatic secretions, all of which can cause abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting;, ergo hangover.

Lower Blood Sugar From Overconsumption of Alcohol Causes Hangover

Alcohol inhibits glucose production and also depletes glucose stored in the liver.(5, 6) As glucose is the source of energy, low blood sugar can lead to a feeling of fatigue, weakness and mood disturbance, i.e. hangover.(6)

Disturbed Sleep from Alcohol Causes Hangover

Sleep after drinking alcohol is disturbed, is of poor quality and of shorter duration.(6) Alcohol disrupts the daily body temperature, night-time secretion of hormones and releases cortisol, all of which produce the symptoms of a hangover.

Headache as a Result of Alcohol Causes Hangover 

Intoxication after drinking alcohol leads to vasodilatation (widening of blood vessels) and production of histamine, serotonin, and prostaglandins, which cause a headache.(6)

Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

Drinking alcohol excessively depresses the nervous system. Withdrawal of alcohol can lead to the nervous system going into a hyperactivity state. This can lead to tremors and rapid heartbeat during a hangover.(6)

Other Factors of Excessive Alcohol That Causes Hangover

Some factors other than alcohol, which can play a role in hangover are:

Congeners: Congeners are the chemical compounds present in most of the alcoholic beverages, which contribute to their taste, smell and appearance.(6) Beverages containing pure alcohol, such as gin or vodka contain less of congeners, which are found more in brandy, whiskey and red wine and cause more hangover symptoms.

Other Drugs: Hangover feeling is also affected by the use of other drugs, such as marijuana, cocaine or other drugs along with alcohol. All these drugs contribute to the hangover effects.

Personal Influences: It is observed that people with certain personality traits have greater hangover symptoms. Negative life events and feeling of guilt is also associated with a greater hangover.(6)

Family History: If a person has a family history of alcoholism has more hangover symptoms.(6) They consume more alcohol than those who do not have a family history of alcohol.

How Can You Get Rid Of Hangover?

How Can You Get Rid Of Hangover?

Hangover takes 8- 24 hours to fade away. There is no proven cure for a hangover.

There are few simple natural ways to get over the symptoms of pain, nausea, headache and fatigue which are a part of hangover.

Drink Plenty of Water & Fluids to Get Rid of Hangover(7)

It is important to stay hydrated while consuming alcohol and in between the cocktails. If you miss drinking water then make sure the next morning you rehydrate yourself, as it helps to flush out toxins and impurities from the body and lessens hangover. Also, just water is not enough. You also need electrolyte-rich fluids, such as sports drinks, coconut water and soup, which help restore the lost sodium and potassium in a hangover.(8)

Sleep Well to Get Rid of Hangover

Lack of sleep worsens the hangover and also alcohol leads to disturbed sleep.(8) Taking a long nap helps the body heal faster from a hangover.

A Good Diet Gets Rid of Hangover(7)

Eat light and bland food when suffering from a hangover. Crackers and bread may raise the blood sugar and would be easy on the stomach.(8) Also, fructose-containing food helps metabolize alcohol more easily and help with your hangover. It is important to eat sugar while drinking and not before that, as fructose metabolizes quickly. Make sure you eat your breakfast the next day, as it contains electrolytes, which help replenish a dehydrated system and help get rid of a hangover. Make sure the food is easy to digest such as toast or cereals.(8) Nibbling ginger also helps get rid of nausea and vomiting associated with hangover.(9)

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