Why does a hangover result in nausea, fatigue, poor concentration, and a bad headache? About 8-16 hours after consuming alcohol, symptoms of a hangover start to set in and can last up to 24 hours (1). Alcohol is actually toxic to our body. When our digestive system breaks down alcohol, it makes a toxic biproduct called acetaldehyde (2).
Our liver, which filters away the harmful chemicals we put into our bodies, goes into overload. Drinking excessively introduces too many toxins that it just can’t flush out fast enough. The body’s process of breaking down alcohol creates toxins even more harmful than the alcohol itself.
Congeners, produced during fermentation of alcohol, can make a hangover worse. Studies have shown that drinking beverages with higher toxic congener content result in a more severe hangover. These include: brandy, wine, tequila, whiskey and other dark liquors . Clear alcohols, like vodka, gin, and rum, have less congeners and tend to produce a less severe hangover (3).
Changes in the immune system function occur with alcohol consumption. Studies have shown that the concentration of cytokines significantly increases in the blood after drinking alcohol (4). This could then slow your body’s ability to produce more cytokines needed to battle disease caused by microbial invaders.
Drinking too much alcohol causes dehydration. Alcohol is considered a diuretic, and increases urination. This results in a loss of too much fluid that the body needs. Vomiting from drinking way too much alcohol can further increase fluid loss. Symptoms of dehydration include feeling thirsty, having a headache, having a dry mouth, and weakness. Taking an electrolyte hydration drink before and after consuming alcohol, plus plenty of water, can help reduce the effects.
While alcohol has a sedative effect that causes tiredness, it can actually reduce sleep quality. Studies have shown it hampers with the hormones that balance your circadian rhythm and help you sleep. This can give drinkers a “jet lag” effect the morning after. Sleep tests have shown that alcohol consumption decreases sleep efficiency and rapid eye movement and increases a feeling of weakness and sleepiness the next day (5).
By: Kathy Sadowski, MS in Aromatherapy, RA (ARC), Professional NAHA and AIA Member, LMT