It’s your fault. Yes, you are the cause of your hangover. No one forced you to take that last shot, and no one forced you into a drinking contest against the entire football team…at least you don”t remember anyone forcing you.
Hangover Biology 101
While drinking isn”t necessarily bad, remember that alcohol is a drug. Your body attempts to protect itself by producing enzymes to metabolize and remove the toxins from your body. But when the toxin level exceeds your body”s ability to metabolize them in an efficient manner, you experience the unpleasant and classic symptoms of a hangover. The excess toxins may irritate your stomach, cause you to vomit, and in general, make you feel ill.
So, is it possible to avoid them? It would be a great strategy, but the fact is, the exact origin of the toxins is unknown. They may be present in the alcoholic beverage itself, or they may be created by the body as a metabolic by-product.
Alcohol also acts as a diuretic, which means that it increases the release of urine from the body. This is because your kidneys and liver require water to dilute and process the toxins. When you drink alcohol, your body actually requires more water than usual in order to perform this function efficiently. If water and fluids are not readily available to aid in this detoxification process, the body redistributes whatever water is available. All parts of the body are affected by this redistribution of fluid, even the brain. And you wonder why your head hurts!
The enzyme alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) is responsible for breaking down the alcohol in the liver. The tolerance that habitual drinkers build to alcohol is due to increased levels of ADH. Some research suggests that men tend to have more of this enzyme than women, and as a result can usually drink more than women of equal weight. For some reason, people of Asian descent reportedly produce less of the enzyme as wellall in all, a rather dubious distinction for the Caucasian male.
The Toxins Involved in a Hangover
Ethanol (ethyl alcohol)
Produced naturally during fermentation (the making of alcohol).
By-products of metabolism
When the liver breaks down alcohol, enzymes produce a by-product called acetaldehyde. This highly toxic substance enters the system and can make you feel very ill.
Congeners are toxic substances created during the alcohol fermentation process. When you drink alcohol, these toxins are dispersed through your system as your liver breaks down the alcohol. While congeners are not the sole cause of a hangover, they do seem to contribute in some manner to the “quality ” of the ensuing hangover.
Knowing something about the level of congeners in your chosen alcoholic beverage may help you determine how sick it can make you. In general, the fermentation and distillation processes determine the amount of congeners in the end product. Lower levels of congeners may mean a kinder, gentler hangover, if there is such a thing.
More expensive alcohol generally contains fewer congeners because it undergoes a more rigorous distillation process that filters out a higher percentage of the congeners. Darker colored drinks, such as whiskey, brandy and red wine have more congeners than lighter drinks such as vodka, gin and white wine.
|Drinks||Level of Congeners|
Your drinking habits are the main cause of your hangovers. If you drink too much or too fast, you”re very likely to have a hangover the next morning.