8 Facts About Hangovers

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It may be an allergic reaction, not a hangover

Some people may confuse a hangover with an allergic reaction to products in the alcohol. Ingredients such as sulfur dioxide, yeast and additives can trigger allergic reactions. Some symptoms include hives, rash, flushing, warmth of the skin, runny nose and shortness of breath. Often allergic symptoms can be seen after consuming red wine, as opposed to white wine.

Smoking can make hangovers worse

Smoking cigarettes can worsen your hangover the next morning. According to a 2005 study that looked at the drinking and smoking habits of college students, those who smoked on the nights that they drank heavily had much more severe hangovers. Researchers say it might be because smoking causes people to drink more, or smoking heightens the effects of alcohol.

Dark liquors can make symptoms worse

Darker alcohol, such as bourbon, red wine and rum, has higher concentrations of cogeners, which are byproducts of fermentation. Cogeners can be metabolized by the body into formaldehyde, which is a highly toxic substance that can worsen a hangover. One study compared the effects of drinking vodka and bourbon, and found that those who drank bourbon reported feeling worse the next day.

Genetics play a role

Some people are more susceptible to hangovers than others, and new research suggests that about half of that is determined by genes. The other half likely comes from outside influences, such as how quickly a person drinks, whether they eat and their tolerance for alcohol. A large percentage of Asians don’t have enough enzymes to break down alcohol byproducts, which heightens hangover symptoms.

Eating protein can help

Eating protein while drinking can keep the stomach busy, and delay the opening of the pyloric valve, which allows the contents of the stomach to pass to the small intestine. The small intestine is where most alcohol is absorbed into the blood. By keeping your stomach busy, it will allow the food to absorb and dilute the alcohol before it passes to the intestine.

Carbonated beverages are a bad mixer

Carbonated beverages can contribute to the severity of a hangover. The gas in the drinks causes the pyloric valve to open and pass the contents of the stomach to the small intestine more quickly. From there, the alcohol is quickly taken up into the blood stream, and higher blood alcohol content is more likely to lead to intense hangovers.

Hangovers dehydrate the brain

The headache that comes along with a hangover is due to dehydration of the brain. The ethanol dries out your brain by suppressing the hormone argenine vasopressin, which conserves the water level in the body. More water will then get lost in urine, and the amount of fluid lost may be more than you consume. This brain loses so much water that it actually shrinks, causing pain.

Women are more susceptible

Women have less water content in the body than men do, which causes women to have more potent hangovers. Women have more body fat that men, which holds less water, and men have more muscle, which is made up mostly of water. There is less water to dilute the alcohol in women’s bodies, which is why the hangover is worse.