Hangover 101: What Really Happens When You Overindulge

We've all been there. Waking up in a daze with your head pounding, your stomach flipping somersaults, and a thirst that could dry up a rainforest. Sound familiar? These are just some of the telltale signs that you had a "few too many" last night...

If you’re reading this, chances are you’ve become acquainted with the horrors of the heinous hangover. But do you truly know the science behind it all, and why its effects are so dreadful?

Here's what really happens to your body when you hit the bottle, and ways you can take the edge off if you overindulge:


What exactly is a hangover?

Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant, and the more of it you consume, the more effects it can have on your body everywhere.

In the hours after you drink excessively, your body goes into repair mode to rid itself of the toxins your liver produces processing the booze. These unpleasant effects are known as the dreaded hangover. Typical symptoms include fatigue, weakness, thirst, headache, muscle aches, nausea, stomach pain, vertigo, sensitivity to light and sound, anxiety, irritability, sweating, and increased blood pressure. Yikes...

But how can something so prevalent and widely-consumed be so bad for us? There are a few different factors that come into play when cooking up a gnarly hangover:

  Dehydration

Alcohol acts as a diuretic, making you urinate more and become dehydrated, all while you’re too busy boozin’ to notice your body crying for some good old H2O. 

PRO TIP: Take your sleek & stylish Greens Steel Water Bottle out on the town so you can alternate your rounds with water. Also, stick to bevs with lower ABVs such light beer & long drinks to help out your hydration levels.

  INFLAMMATION & IRRITATION

A nasty and unpredictable symptom, an inflammatory response can wreak havoc in all sorts of ways. The most common manifestation is in your GI tract system, leading to effects like nausea, heartburn, and even stomach ulcers in the long term.

PRO TIP: Over-the-counter antacids like Alka-Seltzer, Tums, or Pepto-Bismol can help balance out your acid levels and line the stomach.

  BLOOD SUGAR LEVEL DROP

If you find yourself weak, dizzy, and sometimes even faint the next day, it’s likely that alcohol has been messing with your blood sugar levels.

PRO TIP: Maintain your blood sugar in a stable range with a hearty meal of complex carbohydrates before you drink, and even keep some snacks with you to nibble on throughout the night.

Who can get a hangover?

If you’re particularly prone to feeling the after-effects of alcohol, you’re certainly not alone - and some people are more susceptible to unpleasant symptoms than others.

The severity and duration of a hangover depend on a variety of factors, some of which may come as a surprise. Hangovers are not just influenced by the amount of alcohol consumed, but they're also affected by your diet, liver health, any medications you might be taking, plus even your ethnicity and gender can play a role!

In short, it all boils down to a toxin called acetaldehyde, which is produced when your liver breaks down the alcohol to remove it from your system. Check out this explanation from Ginger Hultin, dietician and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics:

Due to genetic variations, each person has more or less of the enzyme needed to break this toxin down. The greater the presence of this toxin, the worse the hangover."

so, can you cure a hangover?

While the internet is full of alleged miracle cures for hangovers, the vast majority of them are half-baked home remedies or dodgy companies backed by pseudoscience to sell their product. The harsh but inevitable truth is this:

The only absolute and surefire remedy for a hangover is TIME. Hangovers typically clear up within 24 hours, but can last up to 72 hours depending on the person and how much was consumed.

Don’t panic, though! If you’re in the midst of one now, there are still things you can do to cope with your symptoms while you ride it out:

  drink water

  • Crucial to your body’s recovery from alcohol-induced dehydration, be sure to get some H2O in your system any way you can.
  • Keep your Greens Steel Water Bottle close at hand for easy sipping as you recover.
  • Adding lemon and flavoring can make it easier to get it down if you’re feeling queasy, and electrolyte drinks like Pedialyte can help the rehydration process along.

time to rehydrate!

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  eat something

  • If you can stomach it, that breakfast sandwich will do wonders to get your blood sugar levels back up and replenish lost electrolytes.
  • Bland and carb-heavy foods like soup and toast are tried-and-true hangover snacks.

  pop a pain reliever

  • Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory pain relievers can certainly help ease your headache.
  • Don’t overdo it - always stick with the standard dose.
  •  Steer clear of acetaminophen (Tylenol) - opt for ibuprofen or aspirin instead.

  catch some zzz's!

  • If you’re lucky enough to have some down time on your hands, you’re best off hitting the pillow.
  • Sleep allows you to get some much-needed rest while being blissfully unaware of symptoms - it truly is the best thing you can do while you ride things out.

Now that you know what really happens to your body when you have a few too many celebratory drinks, you may just sip with some newfound restraint on your next night out!

Always drink in moderation, be safe, and if you happen to go a little overboard, be sure to nurture your body and rehydrate afterwards so you can feel better soon! 

Maggie Johnson | Greens Steel Lifestyle Contributor

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