The festive season is just around the corner and that can bring fun late nights out, and maybe a few too many alcoholic drinks will be consumed. The downside to this is of course the unwelcome hangover the next day.
We’ve all experienced that special mixture of headache, dry mouth, and woozy regret, but is a hangover merely unpleasant or can they have more serious consequences? Here’s a look at how too much alcohol affects the body, the hidden dangers that you might not be aware of, and how the effects of a hangover can be mitigated.
What are the symptoms of a hangover?
Drinking too much can lead to a pounding headache, nausea, thirst, fatigue, and a more anxious and irritable mood than usual. The symptoms can vary from person to person, and can also be affected by the type of alcohol that has been consumed. Darker drinks such as bourbon and red wine tend to cause worse symptoms.
What causes a hangover?
A hangover is caused by a combination of dehydration, chemicals in the alcohol reacting with the body, and toxins in the alcohol such as tannins and propanone. Alcohol suppresses the release of a hormone called vasopressin, which plays a role in causing the kidneys to retain fluid.
This means that urination becomes more frequent and as the night of drinking wears on, you become increasingly more dehydrated as water is removed from your bloodstream. This can shrink the brain slightly, which pulls on the surrounding membrane and causes that persistent dull or throbbing headache the next morning.
It may be accompanied by other dehydration symptoms such as a dry mouth and tiredness.
Are there any serious consequences of a hangover?
A bad hangover can affect memory and decision making, so it’s best not to tackle any important tasks the day after a heavy night. They may increase the risk of accidents and can cause anxiety, irritability and low mood. This may be a concern for people who are prone to mental health problems.
Even after fluids have been replenished to some extent by drinking a couple of glasses of water, it is common to have an electrolyte imbalance. Electrolytes are the minerals that are absorbed in the body’s fluids, including calcium, sodium, magnesium, and they play an important role in maintaining optimal fluid balance in the body.
If the hangover is accompanied by nausea and vomiting, then the danger of both dehydration and an electrolyte balance is increased. Taking an electrolyte tablet dissolved in a glass of water can help to redress this imbalance, and it will also help the body to rehydrate more quickly than just taking in water alone.
Prevention is better than cure, so if you want to avoid a serious hangover in the future, try drinking a glass of water in between alcoholic drinks and avoid consuming alcohol on an empty stomach. Never be tempted to try the ‘hair of the dog’ method of drinking more alcohol to cure your hangover, as this will only prolong the pain.