The dreaded hangover…anybody who’s had one too many drinks knows how unpleasant the next morning can be. It leaves us groggy, often with a headache, and reluctant to ever drink again. How can something so pleasurable leave us so miserable in a matter of hours? Although the complete hangover mechanism is not entirely understood, there are several factors at play and a few things we can do to feel refreshed.
What is a Hangover?
Interestingly, a “hangover” is experienced when the alcohol content in the blood is back down to zero and technically considered “alcohol withdrawal .” What we’re experiencing is the after-effects of alcohol consumption along with the negative effects of an alcohol by-product, acetaldehyde. Alcohol can be hard on the body, causing dehydration, anxiousness, and exhaustion. Therefore, it’s important to take some preventative measures and make some preparations to avoid feeling hungover.
Alcohol and Dehydration
Alcohol is a diuretic, meaning that it increases the need to go to the bathroom regardless of how full the bladder is. Consequently, the more you drink, the more often you’ll need to go to the bathroom., Several trips to the bathroom cause dehydration and electrolyte imbalances, only made worse by vomiting.
It’s dehydration that makes us nauseous, weak, thirsty, and lightheaded due to the loss of electrolytes and water circulating in the body. Dehydration and electrolyte imbalances often go hand in hand, and can put strain on the kidneys and impair their function if not addressed. Therefore, it’s very important to also be drinking water when consuming alcohol. One study suggests properly rehydrating and relieving inflammation before bedtime to ease potential hangover symptoms.
Alcohol and Mood
The anxiousness and irritability experienced during a hangover is caused by imbalances of chemical signals, aka neurotransmitters, in the nervous system. Our inhibitory signals, responsible for making us feel calm, are being dampened by our excitatory signals, which induce stress responses. This happens whenever the body experiences stressors, in this case, the removal of alcohol from the body.
Studies in mice have shown that fear-based thinking, heightened pain perception, and a drop in mood can occur following alcohol consumption due to the decrease in inhibitory signaling and an increase in excitatory signaling. Inhibitory neurotransmitters GABA and serotonin seem to be the most affected by alcohol consumption and balancing them using their natural precursors may also help reduce effects of the hangover mechanism.
Alcohol and Sleep
Many find that it’s very difficult to feel fully awake after a night of heavy drinking. There are a few ways to explain that experience. The most obvious explanation is that if alcohol consumption takes place in the evening and into the night, lack of sleep is certainly contributing to the exhaustion felt during a hangover. In addition to lack of sleep, there are physiological disturbances taking place.
Although alcohol is considered a somnogen, a substance that makes us feel drowsy initially, it actually disrupts overall sleep. The first few hours after drinking may be restful, but disruption occurs once alcohol has been cleared from the bloodstream. This is when a hangover begins.
Alcohol affects sleep by disrupting our sleep-wake cycle, causing neurotransmitter imbalances, and decreasing the spent in REM sleep., There’s controversial evidence on using caffeine as a means of “curing” hangover grogginess; the scientific evidence is lacking but many find a strong cup of coffee helps them feel more alert. In any case, it’s certainly worth going to bed at a normal hour the night after in order to restore neurotransmitter balance, regain restfulness, and shutdown the hangover mechanism.
Therapies Targeting Hangover Mechanism
In summary, to reduce the chance or symptoms of a hangover:
- Stay hydrated.
- Replenish serotonin and GABA. Products such as Prolent™ and Lentra™ by Sanesco contain naturally occurring amino acid precursors to serotonin and GABA and are proven to help balance these neurotransmitters and induce feelings of calm and well-being.
- Relieve inflammation. Taking a curcumin supplement may also be a natural, effective way to treat headaches and inflammation associated with hangovers.,
- Pay attention to the types of alcohol consumed (purer alcohols, such as vodka and gin, cause fewer hangover effects than red wine or whiskey).
- Space drinks out.
- Avoid binge drinking.
Please drink responsibly!
If you are interested in products supporting serotonin and GABA, find or become a provider.
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