Remember the days where you could drink however much you wanted, mix whatever alcohols you wanted, stay up all night and wake up the next morning feeling good enough to run a marathon? Well if you’re here, it’s likely those days are over for you as they are for many of us. Most people blame getting bad hangovers on age, but is that all there is to it? Let’s find out…
Blame Your Hangover on the “Congeners”
What the heck is a congener? Congeners are chemical byproducts of the alcohol fermentation process. They’re found more in darker liquor like red wine, bourbon, brandy, whiskey, and dark beers. Congeners are your worst hangover nightmare.
They enhance the taste and smell of the alcohol, but researchers believe congeners also lead to hangovers as they are essentially toxins to the body. This doesn’t mean that if you drink clear alcohol you won’t get hungover, as many know from experience. You can still get a hangover from drinking clear alcoholic beverages such as vodka, gin, white wine, and light-colored beers if you drink too much of them.
Let’s Get Even More Scientific
Biologically, hangovers come mostly down to dehydration. Alcohol is a diuretic. Essentially this means that it helps the body get rid of fluids. When you have a terrible hangover, you’re usually severely dehydrated, and the body can’t get rid of the byproducts of metabolizing alcohol, irritating the body further.
Additionally, drinking heavily irritates the stomach lining and relaxes the muscles of the lower esophagus (that’s why you’re hanging over the toilet right now). It also has a depressing effect on brain cells, increasing your lack of coordination and dizziness, while simultaneously lowering your blood sugar, leaving you feeling weak. Awesome!
What about that Friend who Never gets a Hangover…?
It comes down to people responding differently to alcohol. Metabolism has something to do with it, too. The speed at which alcohol and its byproducts are metabolized can affect how drunk you are and the severity of your hangover.
On the other hand, some people may be more genetically prone to get hangovers. These people break down a product of alcohol metabolism called acetaldehyde more slowly, resulting in flushing and nausea from drinking alcohol.
So let’s just blame it on genetics, accept it, and move on.
The Key to Why Your Hangovers are Getting Worse
Just like we had to accept that some of our friends (who we mostly like, but still resent) don’t get as hungover because of their metabolism, we’ve got to accept that our hangovers are probably only going to get worse with age for the same reason. As you age, your metabolism usually slows down, taking a lot longer to eliminate alcohol from your blood.
How Do You Prevent a Hangover?—Can anything help us?!
Now that you’ve experienced rolling around in your bed for half a day, proclaiming that you’re never drinking again, let’s maybe start taking some preventative measures.
Experts say chugging a glass of water between drinks helps to combat dehydration. Getting enough sleep after a long night out can also help you out, as well as eating something before you drink. In the morning you can also try drinking a lot of water and eating something that’s both high carb and high sugar to help boost your blood sugar. Some great anti-hangover foods include bananas, dates, eggs, pickles, watermelon, avocado and coconut water.
A few other things you can do:
- Grab a gatorade or Pedialyte and chug it the next morning
- Have a bowl of asparagus before you hit the bars. We’re not joking, it’s supposed to help… Mom always said, eat your greens!
- Go to the gym the next day and sweat it out! …we know that’s a lot to ask sometimes, but just getting up and moving can really help detoxify your body.
Good luck, and as always, please drink responsibly.