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What’s That Queasy Feeling? Decoding The Science Behind Hangovers

Hangover science

You’ve had a great night, maybe a bit too great and now you’re paying the price. Those of us who like to drink have seen our fair share of morning-afters. But have you ever been intrigued by what actually happens inside our bodies during a hangover? Let’s dive into the science behind why you feel like you've been hit by a bus the morning after one too many.

Dehydration And The Party’s Aftermath

Alcohol is a diuretic, which means it makes you visit the bathroom more often. Each time you raise a toast and subsequently rush to the bathroom, your body loses not just water but also essential salts and potassium. This dehydration leads to the classic hangover symptoms: headache, dizziness and that feeling of your mouth being a desert. Every big party needs a proper clean-up afterwards, and hangovers are your body’s way of telling you that it’s time to get the mop out.

Hangover morning

Ethanol, The Unwanted Guest

Ethanol, the primary ingredient in your drinks, is a toxic chemical. Your body works overtime to break it down and get rid of it. This process produces a by-product called acetaldehyde, which is more toxic than the alcohol itself. It's like the obnoxious party guest who not only overstays their welcome but also leaves a mess in their wake. This toxin buildup contributes to the nausea and vomiting that often accompany a hangover.

The Immune System

When you drink, your immune system goes into hyperdrive, releasing molecules called cytokines. Normally, these play a role in fighting off infections, but in larger quantities, they can lead to inflammation, affecting your appetite, concentration, and memory. It’s as if your body’s security system mistook the alcohol for an outsider and reacted with a loud alarm.

Poor Sleep Quality

While a few drinks might help you doze off faster, the quality of sleep you get after drinking is poor. Alcohol disrupts your REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep, which is crucial for a good night’s rest. This disruption is why you wake up feeling groggy and tired, even if you slept for a full eight hours.

Hangover morning

Congeners: The Uninvited Toxins

Darker spirits like whisky and red wine contain congeners, chemical by-products of the fermentation process. These congeners can intensify hangovers, making you feel worse than if you had stuck to lighter-coloured drinks. They’re the uninvited toxins crashing your body’s after-party.

That Queasy Feeling

Alcohol increases stomach acid production and delays stomach emptying, leading to irritation. This can cause gastritis or inflammation of the stomach lining, which explains the queasy and unsettled feeling you get in the morning after a night of heavy drinking.

The Bottom Line

Hangovers are your body’s way of telling you it’s recovering from a mini-toxic onslaught. As fascinating as the science is, the remedy remains quite straightforward: moderation. And, if you do overindulge, remember to hydrate, get some rest, and normalise rainchecks. It’s always wise to listen to what your body is telling you, even when it’s groaning in discomfort the morning after.

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