You know how you feel really great after a long, well-deserved sleep? What about that energized feeling you get after working out and hitting a new personal best? With a hangover, you get none of that. What really happens to your brain when you have a hangover?
A hangover is that migraine a person gets when they drink way too much and just decide to fall asleep still drunk. This isn’t even getting tipsy or drunk — this is getting completely trashed to the point that it’s almost your goal to forget everything you did. A hangover isn’t just a headache or a lack of nutrition; a hangover is a concoction of problems facing your body because you consumed too much alcohol.
The Science Behind the Headache
The long and short of it is this: a hangover is a severe bout of dehydration due to copious alcohol consumption. Alcohol eliminates the hormone vasopressin which is meant to repurpose water released by the kidneys back into your body. Without this hormone, the water just leaves your body (hence the countless bathroom breaks!) Alcohol also creates inflammation on your stomach lining as well, which leads to diarrhea. Wow, so much good comes from drinking — please note the sarcasm. Without water going to other parts of your body, many organs that need water will shrink a bit. Alcohol will dehydrate your brain tissue a bit by morning, and that little bit of shrinkage is what causes that blinding headache people feel when they wake up, in addition to intense thirst, dry mouth, dizziness, and so on.
Dehydration is the main cause of feeling so bad in the morning, but it’s not the only one. Since everyone metabolizes alcohol differently, the amount of alcohol that’s still in your system can create hangover symptoms as well. Different ethnicities also may digest alcohol differently — some people are naturally worse at breaking down alcohol than others, so keeping it in your system longer can give you those bad feelings. Also, some of the additives that go into alcohol, such as the ones to give flavor and color, can mess with your body a bit, especially in bulk amounts. For example, vodka is clear and has less color additives, whereas rum has that unique amber color, so although it looks nice to some, it can be extra harmful.
5 Secret Tricks Doctors Won’t Tell You About Never Getting a Hangover!
Just kidding – there is no secret magic trick, no amount of water you can drink, no special food, no weird yoga trick, and no combination of the above that will prevent or fix a hangover. You can drink all of the water you want, and pop as many Advil as you think will work, but they won’t be reversing a hangover instantly. The only way to not get a hangover is to be responsible with how much you drink. If you are going to drink, just be smart and know when to stop – your body will usually tell you when it’s a good time. Have a few drinks, maybe even a few more, but never get ‘blackout drunk’ or ‘wasted’ since nothing good will come from it. I can’t tell you to not drink, but I hope you will at least be smart about it.