Category: Health & Fitness
Published on Tuesday, 19 August 2014 00:00
The term “hangover” used to mean “unfinished business” in the 19th Century, but people started using the term in the 20th Century to mean the really uneasy and sickly feeling you get the day after you consumed too much alcohol.
A hangover is a result of multiple factors, but the primary cause of it is simply dehydration. Alcohol has a dehydrating effect by inhibiting the release of vasopressin, which is an anti-diuretic hormone. So basically, alcohol inhibits vasopressin which causes you to urinate more than usual and therefore makes you dehydrated. Dehydration is a major contributor to the splitting headache, dry mouth, and general feeling of lethargy that is often experienced during a hangover.
Another leading factor to a hangover (which some people argue to be more significant than dehydration) is acetaldehyde. Acetaldehyde is produced when alcohol is converted within your body by the enzyme alcohol dehydrogenase to acetaldehyde. How does this negatively affect you then? Well… acetaldehyde is a carcinogen in humans and has been shown to cause damage to DNA, as well as abnormal muscle development when it binds to proteins, among other negative side effects.
Acetaldehyde eventually gets converted to acetic acid, which is a lot more safer for your body. However, some people have a genetic deficiency where their bodies fail to convert the harmful substance into the least harmful one very well or at all. These people are a lot more prone to severe hangovers. They are also ultimately more prone to developing Alzheimer's disease, organs problems, liver caner, and cancer of the upper gastrointestinal tract.
Certain East Asian ethnicities have a mutated genetic code that enables their bodies to convert alcohol to acetaldegyde much faster. Unfortunately, a large percentage of these people also have a genetic mutation that makes their bodies slow down the process of converting acetaldehyde to acetic acid. Thus, this group is very susceptible to hangovers that begin shortly after they start drinking and might last for a long period of time. Because of this, the people with these particular genetic mutations either do not drink at all or tend to be very light drinkers.
A similar type of effect can also be brought about with the drug Antabuse. This drug precents acetaldehyde from converting to acetic acid, so when the acetaldehyde stays in your system longer, you will generally experience a very severe hangover. Why would anyone want to take this drug then, you ask. Well this drug is good for helping alcoholics get over their addiction. If they take it every time they drink, they will get really bad hangovers and eventually they might wane from alcohol due to the terrible side effects.
People often think that alcohol kills brain cells which is why you get a headache during a hangover. This is not true. Even if you were to get your stomach pumped because you consumed too much alcohol, that amount of alcohol is still not enough to kill your brain cells. Also, forget about the million different types of hangover remedies out there consisting of various combination of food and drinks. The best way to get over a hangover is by drinking loads of water.
As you get older, your body also has less alcohol dehydrogenase available for converting acetaldehyde to acetic acid. Because of this, most people experience more severe hangovers later in life. So if you are still young now, what are you waiting for? YOLO! Drink up! No, I'm just joking, really. Practice safe alcohol consumption, kids.