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The Cause of a Hangover?

May 6, 2008
A hangover comes after consuming excessive amounts of alcohol. The result of this overload of alcohol is that your body becomes depleted of essential nutrients and water and your body becomes dehydrated. Your body makes up for this dehydration by taking water from where it can, which basically is your brain. The brain then shrinks and the result is a really bad headache. Dehydration also gives you what is referred to as "cotton mouth". Many individuals experience nausea and vomiting as a result of all the alcohol and sugar that has now upset the stomach.

Symptoms of a hangover:

Signs of dehydration
Dry mouth
Difficulty concentrating
Light and sound sensitivity
Difficulty sleeping

Alcohol does not affect everyone the same way. What causes one to have a hangover and not the other?

There are a number of factors that play a role in why one person experiences a hangover after drinking alcohol and another individual won't. Other than the amount of alcohol consumed and the type of alcohol ingested, how fast you drink it and how many you have in what time frame can also have a role in whether or not you become drunk. There is also the factor of how well your body metabolizes alcohol. Our bodies metabolize the things we drink and eat in different ways. Metabolism depends on what is being consumed and if it being consumed with other things like are we eating at the same time we are drinking alcohol? The body absorbs alcohol faster when we eat food at the same time.

Water has an effect on the impact of alcohol on our bodies too. When we drink lots of water before we start drinking alcohol, during the time we are drinking and after we are finished with our drinking event then the water that we drink can lessen the effect that alcohol has on our system and we become less dehydrated than what we would have become had we not had the water. Alcohol contains ethanol, which is what causes the dehydration.

Alcohol consumption causes chemical reactions within the body including the way the liver has to work to break down the ethanol contained in the alcohol. The reaction in the cells of the liver when it is trying to breakdown the ethanol impairs the liver's ability to supply glucose to the tissues within the body such as the brain tissue. Glucose in the brain is how the brain gets energy. When the brain does not receive the glucose, we experience fatigue, weakness, moodiness and sometimes it can affect our ability to concentrate.

Congeners are the chemical by-products of the process of alcohol fermentation. These congeners can exaggerate (make worse) the symptoms of a hangover. Dark alcoholic drinks contain more congeners, which is why those who drink dark alcoholic beverages have more intense hangovers than those who drink clear colored alcoholic beverages.

Cheaper alcoholic beverages have more impurities and are thus more likely to cause greater hangover symptoms.

Those who smoke while they drink exacerbate their symptoms because of the nicotine.
About the Author
Scott Meyers is a staff writer for Its Entirely Natural, a resource for helping you achieve a naturally healthy body, mind, and spirit. You may contact our writers through the web site. Follow this link for more information on Hangover Cures.
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