Whenever there is a party, a hangover the following morning is bound to follow. Most people will get a headache and feel disoriented throughout the day. Those who dislike partying will ask how people can even drink such strong drinks, but for partygoers it’s the social aspect of their drinking circle rather than the drinks themselves that attract them to the lifestyle. The taste is just another piece of the happiness puzzle. Alcohol affects the central nervous system and loosens muscles, so when consumed in small amounts, it can make us feel more relaxed than usual.
The highest rate of alcohol absorption into the bloodstream occurs at the beginning of the small intestine. The absorption process is speeded up if the stomach is empty, or if the alcohol is mixed with carbonated drinks or soda water. When the stomach is empty, the alcohol is absorbed into the bloodstream directly through the stomach lining. This is what causes people to quickly feel drunk and drowsy.
Numerous types of hormones and enzymes become inhibited by the presence of alcohol in the bloodstream. Antidiuretic (ADH) is an important hormone which controls the kidneys’ ability to absorb liquids back into the body. When the ADH hormone is inhibited, the kidneys are unable to absorb liquids back into the body, so this is why we urinate more frequently when drinking alcohol. Frequent toilet breaks cause our body to lose more liquids and minerals than usual. This can be the reason why we may feel exhausted after a night out. It has also been found that the vitamins which are most lacking in a hungover person are the vitamins A, B1, B3 and B6, E, folate and the mineral selenium.
Given the reasons as outlined under point 2, drinking water frequently is necessary to replace the liquids lost through urination, as well as to reduce the concentration of alcohol in your system, so that it is not too high.
Alcohol affects the area of our brain function related to decision making. This area enables us to decide what is right and what is wrong, so when it is inhibited, you may see some people displaying unusual behaviors, daring to do things they wouldn’t normally do or do things that they have been suppressing. Hence, make sure you drink in moderation.
Medical advice states that for people with no history of liver disease, men should drink no more than three units per day, and women no more than two units per day. One unit of alcohol is equivalent to drinking 12–15 grams, or 120cc of wine, 360cc of beer or 30cc of spirits.
The liver is the organ which suffers most from alcohol consumption. Liver cells produce an enzyme which transforms alcohol into acetaldehyde, acetic acid and acetylcholine, respectively. These enable the body’s metabolism to produce energy and liquid. As long as we are drinking alcohol, the liver is working hard to process that alcohol, which means the liver is not carrying out its main duty of breaking down fats or managing other potentially toxic substances. A negative effect of this could be a fatty liver, as well as the body taking in other harmful substances that could lead to an inflamed liver, liver disease and eventually liver cirrhosis.
Alcohol causes pyruvic acid which is transformed into more than usual lactic acid. This lactic acid becomes trapped in the bloodstream. As a result the blood has high acidity levels. As the body tries to force the lactic acid out, competition occurs between the forcing out of each type of acid, and this leads to less uric acid being excreted. As a consequence, the uric acid is trapped in the bloodstream and the risks of developing gout are increased.
After a night of heavy drinking, most people will have a hangover as their body struggles to break down acetaldehyde – a chemical harmful to the body – into acetic acid quickly enough. This causes a number of symptoms which occur as we recover from our drunken state, such as headaches, nausea, loss of equilibrium, thirst, dry mouth, an aching body and exhaustion. Therefore, we’d like to provide the following advice on how to care for your hangover:
Master of Science in Clinical and Public Health Nutrition (Distinction). UCL Division of Medicine, London. , 2016