Why Hangover Occurs And How To Reduce It

Updated on & Medically Reviewed by Dr Lalitha

Many persons enjoy drinking alcohol a lot overnight but do not know that they may suffer from a painful, unpleasant morning, the hangover.

It has been found that approximately 75% of those who drink alcohol to intoxication may experience a hangover. Though alcohol is the main substance for hangovers, some non-alcoholic compounds known as congeners in alcoholic beverages can also be responsible for hangovers.

A hangover occurs when you drink too much, drink very fast, or drink with a mix of different kinds of alcohol, which causes a set of symptoms the next morning, that makes you sick physically and emotionally. Hangover starts after the blood alcohol levels begin to decline in the body.

A person with a hangover may suffer from various symptoms such as thirst, headache, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, stomach ache, mood changes, muscle cramps, fatigue, increase in heart rate and blood pressure.

When you suffer from a hangover you will not be able to do your daily activities, may be absent from work, may not be able to concentrate on your job, and may become depressed or irritable.  You can injure yourself and others

Hangover may be dangerous to health as you can injure yourself while at work or while driving due to disturbances in mood, memory, and concentration.

There is no cure as such for hangovers, but you can follow simple natural ways and take supplements to prevent or reduce the symptoms of hangovers.

Hangover Causes – Major Reasons for Hangover

  • When you consume more alcohol, there is an accumulation of a toxic compound known as acetaldehyde in the body, which is a breakdown product of alcohol metabolism that plays a major role in producing hangover.
  • Other than alcohol, some substances or chemicals are formed in the processing of alcohol known as congeners, increasing the frequency and severity of the hangover.
  • Dark-colored drinks like whiskey, rum, tequila have more congeners that are known to increase hangover symptoms. Congeners are toxic chemicals formed in small amounts during alcohol fermentation.
  • Dehydration increases the hangover effect. Alcohol inhibits antidiuretic hormone which is responsible for excessive urination, causing loss of fluids and electrolytes from the body leading to dehydration.
  •  Drinking alcohol on empty stomach leads to gastric irritation, causing nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain due to the effect of alcohol on the lining of the stomach increasing the acid.
  • As alcohol interferes with brain functions like sleep, a person who has more alcohol may have poor quality sleep or sleep deprivation which increases the severity of the hangover effect.
  • An increase in cardiac output and vasodilatation increases the heart rate and blood pressure which can trigger the hangover effects.
  • Alcohol interferes with glucose metabolism and causes low blood sugar levels that enhance the symptoms of a hangover.
  • Metabolic acidosis develops in persons who take an excess of alcohol and may cause symptoms of hangover like nausea, vomiting, fatigue, and dizziness.
  • Disturbed prostaglandin synthesis may cause muscle pain and discomfort.
  • Changes in the immune system can cause an inflammatory response which makes a person feel sick and weak.
  • Family history of alcoholism can affect hangover symptoms in persons indulging in excess alcohol intake.

Does Hangover Affect Your Daily Life?

Hangover affects the quality of life as the symptoms disturb the daily activities, as the symptoms last for few hours to more than 24 hours.  You may not be able to attend to your job or work at home due to certain changes in the body as –

  • Impairs the thinking process
  • Affects memory  and concentration
  • Poor muscle coordination
  • Makes you feel sick  and weak
  • Can injure yourself while at work or while driving
  • Low blood sugar can affect brain functions.
  • Severe symptoms like slow breathing, hypothermia, confusion, severe vomiting, abdominal pain, seizure, and altered behavior may need hospitalization.

10 Natural Ways to Reduce Hangover Symptoms

No cure for a hangover, prevent and reduce symptoms of a hangover by following these healthy habits.

1. Eating a Good Healthy Breakfast

As low blood sugars disturb brain function and cause nausea,  fatigue, and weakness, it is important to maintain normal blood sugars by eating a well-balanced diet with carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. Essential nutrients like vitamins and minerals can also be provided by nutritious breakfast.

2. Proper Hydration

An increase in alcohol intake leads to dehydration due to the diuretic effect that causes fluid and electrolyte imbalance in the body, Hence increasing water intake and taking non-alcoholic beverages in between the alcoholic drinks helps to stay hydrated and reduce the symptoms of hangover like thirst, fatigue, generalized weakness, headache, and dizziness.

3. Good Quality Sleep

Lack of sleep increases hangover symptoms such as fatigue, headache, irritability and can trigger migraine headaches. Hence try for a good sleep which will help you to overcome the symptoms.

4. Avoid Dark Colored Drinks with More Congeners

It has been found that dark-colored drinks like whiskey, brandy, tequila have more congeners that contribute to the taste and smell of alcohol, can increase the severity of hangover symptoms, and decrease alcohol metabolism leading to prolonged symptoms.

So choose light-colored drinks like vodka, gin, white rum which cause hangoverless frequently.

5. Manage Your Drink

You need to drink less, pace your drink every hour, drink slowly, choose the light-colored drink, and add water or juice to the drink.

6. Take Vitamin and Mineral Supplements

Vitamin A, Vitamin B complex (Vitamin 1-6, Vitamin B12 )Vitamin C, Zinc and  Magnesium supplements should be taken to reduce the symptoms of a hangover.

7. Take Antacids

To reduce symptoms of gastric irritation like nausea, vomiting you can take antacids to neutralize the acid.

8. Take NSAID (Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs)

Take NSAIDs like aspirin or ibuprofen to reduce muscle pains and body aches. Avoid paracetamol or acetaminophen as it can increase the damage and toxic effect on the liver.

9. Avoid Intoxicating Substances

Do not smoke or take drugs like marijuana or cocaine along with drinks as they can exacerbate hangover symptoms

10. Add Natural Supplements

Natural herb and plant extracts are known to ease hangover symptoms if taken as supplements.

Some of the natural herbal and plant extracts which help reducing hangover are

  • Red Ginseng
  • Prickly pear
  • Ginger
  • Milk thistle extract
  • Borage oil extract from starflower
  • Eleuthero (Siberian Ginseng)
  • Green tea extract

Final Words

A hangover occurs due to drinking too much alcohol. Avoiding alcohol or drinking alcohol in moderate quantities are the best effective ways to prevent a hangover.

Hangover does not have any cure, so prevent or reduce symptoms.

As a hangover affects your quality of life and causes pain and unpleasantness morning, try to reduce it by following natural ways and taking supplements.

The most important precautions to be remembered to reduce hangover, are choosing the drink, slowly having the drink, keeping hydrated with fluids, eating a nutritious diet, having good quality sleep, and taking the best dietary supplements.

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